Photo by Ed Diller for DiBella Entertainment
by Gautham Nagesh
After a shaky start to the season, ESPN’s Friday Night Fights has hit a nice run recently, mixing some entertaining knockouts with unusually meaningful matchups. Friday night continued that run with a card at Foxwoods Casino promoted by DiBella Entertainment and SMS Promotions, a venture helmed by rapper and entrepreneur Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent.
Unfortunately for 50, his foray into boxing didn’t start out nearly as well as his entry into the flavored water business. Jackson’s first signing, Australian featherweight Billy Dib (right), was supposed to roll over unproven Russian Evgeny Gradovich (left) in the main event. But Gradovich is trained by Robert Garcia, who doesn’t have time to waste on fighters without real futures. Despite having less than a month’s notice for the fight, Gradovich managed to pull the upset by split decision. The one card in favor of Dib was borderline criminal.
Dib held his own early, but “The Russian Mexican” lived up to his nickname, marching forward from start to finish. Gradovich’s attack was basic, but also constant; Dib found himself consistently caught with the final punch of his combinations, often a straight right hand or left hook. Several times Gradovich appeared to wobble Dib late, but to his credit, the Australian never went down. While he may have lost his meaningless IBF trinket, the loss felt more a testament to Gradovich’s quality than Dib’s weakness.
It goes without saying that this was not a wise first fight for Dib under his new promotional banner, and that 50 Cent’s inexperience as a promoter was likely a factor in it going forward. Perhaps ESPN had demanded some sort of credible opposition to preserve the TV date, but surely they could have found someone that wasn’t trained by the hottest mind in the business. Garcia is too sharp to put his prospect in with someone he couldn’t beat; just ask Anthony Peterson. The trainer from Oxnard took the rapper from New York to school on this one, plain and simple.
First-round knockouts highlighted the early bouts, as junior middleweight Willie Nelson came off the ropes to drop Michael Medina with at thundering counter-right hand in the co-feature. Medina rose, only to topple over quickly after a right-left combination from Nelson. Medina appeared to hurt his ankle in the process, which earned him sympathy from this hobbled correspondent.
Junior welterweight prospect Luis Olivares opened the show with a left hook-powered demolition of Rafael Munoz in his professional debut. Olivares had little trouble with Munoz, but showed good power and form during his brief debut. Also signed with SMS, Olivares will bear watching in the future.
New Haven junior middleweight prospect Jimmy Williams filled some dead air by out-boxing Raynard Younger for his second professional win in the swing bout. Williams controlled Younger easily over four rounds to sweep the three scorecards.