It was an exciting night of boxing action at Foxwoods with the Friday Night Fights card which was headlined by Billy Dib making an IBF Featherweight title defense against undefeated Evgeny Gradovich, a late replacement. You know how that story goes, right? Gradovich pulled off the upset, winning a Split Decision, while Willie Nelson captured attention in the co-feature, registering a 1st round TKO victory over overmatched Michael Medina.
Nelson got things going with his 1st round TKO victory over Medina, really before the fight had a chance to settle in. Medina was trying to force his way inside and go to the body. Nelson let himself go back to the ropes, and then launched a vicious counter right hand straight down the pike, sending Medina down.
He got up, and was immediately sent down by another right, at which point the fight was called off at 2:00 of Round 1. Nelson improves to 20-1-1 with 12 KOs, and looks ready for tougher opposition and bigger fights.
"This is the performance that we were looking for," Nelson said after the fight. "Since joining with Jack (Loew) and moving to 154-pounds, I feel like a completely different beast. This performance was a testament to all the hard work we've put in. I'm ecstatic. I feel like I'm ready for any of the top fighters in the 154-pound division."
"Willie Nelson is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world," noted DiBella, who co-promotes Nelson with Steve Smith (Rumble Time). "He is beast. Keith Thurman would go out on his ass. Compare who Willie and Thurman have fought. They passed on a fight with Willie. Willie's ready for any of the top 154-pounders in the world, including Canelo Alvarez."
In the main event, Billy Dib started off using his superior boxing skill and experience to control the action. However, it wasn't long before Gradovich warmed up and got into his groove.
He proved to be a bull. He was going to get in your face, throw hard shots, and land enough of them to do serious damage. There are certainly holes in his game, he's wide open and comes in fairly squared up, winging shots, but he's a powerful and aggressive fighter.
By the final third of the fight, it seemed clear that Gradovich had assumed control, with a bloodied Dib resorting to more movement as Gradovich did good work and landed solid shots.
The official scorecards read 114-112 Dib, 114-112 Gradovich and 114-112 Gradovich, who captures a world title strap in his 16th professional fight. For Gradovich, it's of course a huge boon. He also happens to be in Robert Garcia's camp, home to Featherweight champ Mikey Garcia, and soon to be 126-lber, Nonito Donaire. Some intriguing possibilities.
The loss for Dib was a blow to 50 Cent, who had a role in the promotion, performed the live ring walk for Dib, and anxiously watched from ringside like a horse owner at the track seeing if his investment pays off.
Gradovich improved to 16-0 with 8 KOs with the victory; Dib's four and a half year winning streak was stopped, as he falls to 35-2, 21 KOs.
"I feel good," Gradovich commented. "I expected a very tough fight. Billy wasn't going to give up his championship easily. My game plan was to use my aggression - pressure, pressure, pressure! For right now, I just want to rest and then I'll be able to face the champions, contenders or top fighters in my division."
"First and foremost," Dib offered, "I want to congratulate Gradovich. He's tough and fought a good fight. I'd love a rematch; I gave him his shot, hopefully, he'll give me mine. I fought the wrong fight. I brawled too much. Again, he was the better fighter tonight."
Flashy junior lightweight Ryan "Polish Prince" Kielczweski (16-0, 3 KOs), fighting out of Quincy (Mass.), kept his perfect record intact, winning a unanimous eight-round decision over Gil Garcia (5-4-1, 1 KOs), of Houston. Kielczweski's impressive performance positioned him for a major step-up, a potential showdown against blue-chip prospect and 2008 Puerto Rico Olympian, Jose "Sniper" Pedraza.
New Haven (CT) featherweight Luis "KO King" Rosa Jr. (13-0, 6 KOs) remained unbeaten, taking an eight-round decision from New York City's Jhovany "The Underground King" Collado (4-7-2, 1 KO). The bell at the end of round one saved Collado, who was dropped by Rosa's crisp combinations, ending with a solid left hook that he used effectively throughout the bout. Rosa won every round in a dominant fashion.
Arizona junior welterweight Luis Olivares, promoted by 50 Cent, made an explosive professional debut, decking Rafael Munoz (1-2) twice in the opening round before referee Johnny Callas halted the action at 1:30. Olivares jumped all over Munoz after the first knockdown, unloading a battery of devastating punches.
Popular junior featherweight Shelly "Shelito's Way" Vincent improved her record to 8-0 with a four-round decision over Mikayla Nebel (0-4). New Haven welterweight Jimmy Williams (2-0, 1 KO) won a four-round decision versus Raynard Younger (0-2).
(winners listed first)
NABF Super Welterweight Championship
Willie Nelson (19-1-1, 11 KOs), Cleveland, OH
Michael Medina (26-3-2, 19 KOs), Los Angeles, CA
(Nelson retained the NABF Super Welterweight Title)
Jimmy Williams (2-0, 1 KO), New Haven, CT
WDEC4 (40-36, 40-36, 40-36)
Raynard Younger (0-2), Alpharetta, GA
Luis Olivares (1-0, 1 KO), Glendale, AZ
Rafael Munoz (1-2), Houston, TX
Ryan Kielczweski (16-0, 3 KOs), Quincy, MA
WDEC8 (80-72, 80-72, 79-73)
Gil Garcia (5-4-1, 1 KO), Houston, TX
Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8 KOs), Igrim, Russia
WDEC12 (114-112, 114-112, 112-114)
Billy Dib (35-2-0-1NC, 21 KOs), Sydney, Australia
(Gradovich won the IBF Featherweight Title)
Luis Rosa Jr. (13-0, 6 KOs), New Haven, CT.
WDEC8 (80-71, 80-71, 80-71)
Jhovany Collado (4-7-2, 1 KO), Jamaica, NY
Female Junior Featherweights
Shelly Vincent (8-0), Providence, RI
WDEC4 (40-36, 40-36, 40-36)
Mikayla Nevel (0-4), Columbus, OH