IBF featherweight champion Evgeny "The Mexican Russian" Gradovich (18-0, 9 KO) is slowly but surely creeping into the consciousness of more boxing fans.
After winning the title from Billy Dib in March 2013 and successfully defending the crown against Mauricio Javier Munoz in July 2013, Gradovich mowed down Dib in the rematch in Nov. 2013.
Gradovich is now ready for his next challenge, and that would be the rugged Belgian Alexander Miskirtchian (24-2-1, 9 KO).
The two will wage war in Macao at the Cotai Arena.
Miskirtchian hasn't faced well-known competition, but he's never been stopped, and he fights a crowd-pleasing, come-forward style.
That's also Gradovich's M.O. This should be an interesting fight. It is the undercard feature for Nonito Donaire vs. Simpiwe Vetyeka for the latter's WBA crown and interim champion Nicholas Walters' bout with Vic Darchinyan.
There are some really good fight possibilities alive on HBO in the featherweight division. Alex McClintock of The Queensberry Rules writes:
One suspects the idea is to set Walters up with Donaire down the line, but Darchinyan’s weird crab stance and left-handedness have a way of freaking people out. Walters seems pretty unflappable, though.
Gradovich should also be in the mix there as well.
These bouts are simply the precursors.
When: Saturday, May 31 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Macao, China at Cotai Arena
TV: HBO 2 (Tape Delay)
The Book on Gradovich
If you haven't already heard, Gradovich's nickname came from his fighting style. His slugging and aggressive approach is almost a carbon copy of many of the traditional Mexican sluggers.
It makes for a cool moniker and an exciting brand of fighting.
Gradovich's footwork suggests he could mix in a Scottish reference to his alias. He reminds me a bit of Ricky Hatton the way he uses his foot speed to close distance and apply pressure.
Like Hatton, Gradovich's background is in soccer, and those skills led him to the sweet science. In an interview with Anson Wainwright of The Ring Magazine, Gradovich said:
Actually I liked soccer but in the village where I lived I couldn’t play soccer because there’s never been a soccer field there. I started boxing as a warmup for soccer … then I began liking boxing and now it’s my passion.
A few of his opponents wish he had stuck to action on the pitch.
Gradovich is 27 years old, so he hit the title scene a bit late, but his level of activity is making up for any lost time.
He already has two successful title defenses under his belt. In order to get into some of the unification bouts in his weight class, he must beat Miskirtchian.
The Book on Miskirtchian
Miskirtchian hasn't lost a fight in nearly six years. Then again, he hasn't fought anyone you've probably ever heard of.
In watching the fights that are available online, Miskirtchian looks to be a sound body puncher with a good chin.
To say he's taking a major step up in class is an understatement.
Despite Gradovich's limited professional experience, he's quite possibly the best fighter Miskirtchian will have ever faced.
Who wins Gradovich-Miskirtchian, and how?
Hand and foot speed don't appear to be Miskirtchian's best attributes. His punches are long and take a bit too long to find a home. Against a limber and lively body like Gradovich, that will spell doom.
It's especially a bad sign when you consider Miskirtchian has just nine KO wins against subpar competition coming in.
He doesn't possess the equalizer that can negate a speed advantage.
Miskirtchian will get some love for his toughness, but Gradovich is going to beat him all night. Whether his corner or the referee stops the bout is probably the only question.
Because Gradovich isn't a heavy puncher himself, let's say Miskirtchian finishes but loses a lopsided unanimous decision.
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