Pacquiao vs. Rios Undercard: Evgeny Gradovich vs. Billy Dib Preview, Prediction
Evgeny Gradovich vs. Billy Dib will be the main support bout on the Manny Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios undercard, and it'll be for the IBF Featherweight Championship.
Gradovich earned that title with a split-decision victory over Dib earlier this year at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut. He will be attempting to make his second successful defense, and in doing so, turn back the challenge of the man he beat for the title.
Dib, who entered his first fight as the favorite against the current champion, was shocked that the verdict did not go his way. The Russian had been a late replacement and took the fight on about a month's notice, but he had enough to upset the champion, who will now enter as the underdog.
Consider yourself armed for the week and the fight ahead. This is your complete preview and prediction for Gradovich vs. Dib for the IBF Featherweight Championship.
Tale of the Tape
It's remarkable how close these two fighters are in terms of their physical attributes. Dib enjoys ever so slight advantages in both height and reach, but neither proved decisive in their first bout and are unlikely to in the rematch.
Gradovich is much newer to the fight game than his opponent. He's only been fighting since 2010 (Dib began his pro career in 2004), and he has far less experience in the ring. Dib has spent more than double the amount of time in the ring.
With plenty of time to prepare this time around, both guys should have no excuses for the fight not going their way on Saturday night.
17-0, 8 KO
36-2, 21 KO
|Weight||125.75 (last fight)||127 (last fight)|
|Hometown||Igrim, Russia||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
Gradovich received the opportunity of a lifetime when Cuban Olympian Luis Franco pulled out of his world title challenge. The Russian took the fight on one month's notice, and he cashed in to capture his first world championship. This will be his second defense of the title after defeating Mauricio Munoz in Macau over the summer.
The Russian will take nobody by surprise this time around, but he definitely proved the first time that he's legit. With super-trainer Robert Garcia in his corner, it's far more likely that he'll be improved than take a step back.
One thing that will be interesting is to see how he handles the increased pressure. This isn't Friday Night Fights, and he's no longer an unknown challenging for a world title with nothing to lose. He's a champion, making a defense on a major pay-per-view, and that's a different world.
Dib is not even the best known member of his entourage. He's promoted by Curtis Jackson—better known as the rapper 50 Cent—who provided him with a flashy entrance to the ring on the night he was upset by Gradovich.
He rebounded from that defeat by taking a majority decision from a game Mike Oliver in July. That fight appeared much closer on the scorecards than it actually was, and that was almost entirely because Dib lost two points early in the fight for low blows.
Dib will have a full training camp this time around with which to prepare for Gradovich, and that should add another layer of storylines to this bout.
Gradovich is a very good boxer who likes to come forward behind a stiff jab. He's very defensively aware and keeps himself secure behind a high guard.
That high guard is especially important, because Gradovich is a pressure fighter. He's always coming forward, and even if he's not letting his hands go, he places a lot of mental pressure on his opponent and doesn't give them a lot of time to set themselves offensively.
His footwork is pretty good, and he mixes up his punches and targets well. His ability to slip punches is one of his best attributes.
Dib is extremely athletic, although his style has been described by many as dull and not aesthetically pleasing. That doesn't matter much to him, as long as he wins the fight, and he's won a lot more than he's lost.
His style is pretty awkward, but he's a quick fighter who likes to dart in and out of range to land shots and frustrate his opponent.
Dib is an excellent body puncher, though he has a bad tendency to stray low, and that has cost him points in previous fights.
Gradovich is not the most difficult fighter in the world to figure out. He likes to come forward, and that's meant literally. He comes straight at you, and if you can figure out his timing, you can counter him all night long.
That was pretty clearly on display in his first contest with Dib, who still struggled to punch through his high guard. But being able to catch punches and avoid them in that way is not something you can rely on every time out unless you are truly elite defensively.
Dib has had a full training camp this time around, and he'll know what to expect.
Dib, as mentioned earlier, is a good body puncher who has a bad tendency to allow his punches to stray low. He lost two points in his fight with Mike Oliver earlier this year, and it resulted in a majority decision rather than a deserved wide unanimous verdict.
He also has a habit of leading with his head, and while he isn't facing a southpaw, which would increase the risks, he has struggled with bad cuts in the past.
Dib needs to not underestimate his foe this time around and not leave his punches out there to be countered. If he's not decisive, he could easily find himself on the wrong side of a verdict once again.
Evgeny Gradovich Will Win If...
Gradovich has had a full training camp this time around with which to prepare, and he has one of—if not the—very best in his corner in the form of trainer Robert Garcia.
In their first bout, Gradovich was pretty easily outworked in the first few rounds before finding his offensive rhythm. When he did, in the middle rounds, he began to put a constant and increasing stream of pressure on Dib, which allowed him to rip big hooks and make his power and inside strength the decisive factor in the fight.
If the Russian hopes to retain his belt this time around, he'll need to start earlier and maintain a steady stream of pressure.
Dib's best moments in the first fight came when he was able to box effectively from the outside and dart in to land shots and get out to avoid being hit.
When Gradovich got on the inside, and made the bout into a brawl rather than a boxing match, he clearly had the advantage. Look for him to do that again, and if he does, he'll win the fight.
Billy Dib Will Win If...
Dib said it himself: He fought the wrong fight against Gradovich, and it cost him.
In the first few rounds, Dib was able to box effectively and dig Gradovich to the body. He easily carried those rounds, and he seemed on his way to defeating his late-replacement foe.
But then something happened in the third. Gradovich began imposing his will, placing a ton of pressure on Dib and forcing him out of his comfort zone and into a fight rather than a boxing match.
If the former champion wants to avoid a repeat of that night, he'll need to box better, use his jab decisively in order to keep the Russian on the outside and go to the body as often as possible in order to slow him down.
Dib's best bet, and possibly his only bet, is to make this into a boxing match and not allow his foe to impose his will again. And that will require a lot of discipline, and more than a few things going right.
And the Winner Will Be...
Conventional wisdom, when it comes to rematches, is that the fighter who won the first bout will do so more decisively in the second bout.
That theory seems to operate just fine in this instance.
Gradovich showed a great deal of boxing skill and an ability to impose his will on an opponent in lifting the IBF Featherweight Championship in March. He's the physically stronger of the two, and he should be able to force his way on the inside once again.
Once he's there, Dib will have little choice but to once again brawl, and that's a strategy that plays right into the hands of the champion.
Look for Gradovich to once again capture a decision, but by a slightly more convincing margin this time around.
Prediction: Gradovich UD 12 Dib (116-112)