The March 1 edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights presented by Corona Extra will feature an IBF Title fight between Featherweight titlist Billy “The Kid” Dib (35-1, 1 NC, 21 KOs; The Ring Magazine’s No. 4, ESPN.com No.8 ranked Featherweight) and undefeated challenger Evgeny “The Mexican Russian” Gradovich (15-0, 8 KOs) in the 12-round main event. Friday’s show from the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., will air live at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2 HD.
Australia’s Dib won a 10-round unanimous decision in a non-title fight over Juan Rodriguez in his last fight. Prior to that, he defended his title for the second time with a sixth–round TKO win over Eduardo Escobedo.
“I am really excited to be headlining against the ‘Mexican Russian,’” Dib said. “It is going to be an all-out punch up. The fans can definitely expect to see a great fight on March 1st.”
Gradovich, a native of Russia, is trained by 2012 Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) “Trainer of the Year” Robert Garcia. Gradovich scored a seventh-round TKO win over William Villanueva in his last fight.
“Becoming a world champion has been a life-long dream of mine, and on March 1, I will finally have that chance,” Gradovich said. “This is going to be a very special night for me, as not only am I fighting for my first world title, but the entire country will have the opportunity to watch it. I am already in great shape and I am going to show the world what I am capable of come March 1.”
Friday’s 10-round co-feature will pit Junior Middleweight titlist Willie “The Great” Nelson (19-1-1, 11 KOs) against former Junior Middleweight titlist Michael Medina (26-3-2 19 KOs). Nelson is coming off a 10-round unanimous decision win over previously undefeated 2008 Olympian John Jackson, while Medina is looking to build momentum after an eight-round unanimous decision win over James Winchester.
Undefeated prospect Ryan “Polish Prince” Kielczweski (15-0, 3 KOs), fighting out of Quincy (MA), takes on Houston’s Gil “La Metrealleta” Garcia (5-3-1, 1 KO) in an eight-round junior lightweight bout.
Another unbeaten New Englander, New Haven super bantamweight Luis “KO King” Rosa Jr. (12-0, 6 KOs), is matched against New York City-veteran Jhovany Collado (4-5-2, 1 KO) in an eight-rounder.
World Boxing Association (WBA) No. 11-rated welterweight Charlie Ota (21-1, 15 KOs), fighting out of Japan by way of Harlem, has been added to the card in a six-round bout against hard-hitting Brandon “The Business” Baue (12-9, 10 KOs). Ota joined the US Navy in 2000 and was stationed in Japan. Reigning OPBF and Japanese champion Ota was slated to fight this past Thursday in New York City but the fight fell through. Baue, who lives in Troy, Missouri, lost a six-round decision in his last action to former world champion Yuri Foreman.
The fastest rising New England female boxer, New London’s (Conn.) undefeated junior featherweight Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent (7-0), who is trained by Peter Manfredo Sr. in Rhode Island, faces Mikayla Nebel (0-3) in a six-round fight.
Also fighting on the undercard in four-round bouts are former Southern Connecticut State College football player, New Haven junior middleweight Jimmy Williams (1-0, 1 KO), against Raynard Younger (0-1), from Georgia, and Arizona junior welterweight Luis Olivares makes his professional debut versus Houston’s Rafael Munoz (1-1), while Cincinnati lightweight Donte Strayhorn meets Cranston’s (RI) Joe Pingitore in a battle of pro-debut fighters.
50 Cent, who promotes Dib, will be at ESPN’s headquarters on Thursday, February 28, for an ESPN “Car Wash” to discuss Friday’s main event on ESPN TV and radio shows. On Friday, he will be at Foxwoods performing a walk out song prior to the main event. He will also be the sparring partner in Friday’s “Fight Plan” segment with Atlas, in which Atlas and a sparring partner outline what each fighter needs to do to win.