Last week, Cuban Olympian Luis Franco, unexpectedly pulled out of his scheduled March 1 World Championship bout against IBF Featherweight Champion Billy Dib. The bout will be Dib’s second stateside appearance and will be aired live on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights from Foxwoods Resort Casino’s MGM Grand Theater, promoted by DiBella Entertainment and 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions.
Dib is now scheduled to defend his belt against the IBF #11 rated, undefeated Evgeny Gradovich (15-0, 8KO’s). While the sudden withdrawal by Franco was unfortunate, boxing insiders actually view the 26-year-old Gradovich as a much more appealing opponent for the world championship matchup.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity,” said Gradovich. “Becoming a world champion has been a life-long dream of mine and on March 1st I will finally have that chance. This is going to be a very special night for me, as not only am I fighting for my first world title, but it will be shown on ESPN so 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.”
“Unfortunately Franco pulled out, but now I have just as tough, if not a tougher test in front of me in Gradovich,” said Dib. “I am really excited to be headlining on ESPN against the ‘Mexican Russian’. It is going to be an all out punch up. The fans can definitely expect to see a great fight on March 1st.”
“Anytime a fight falls out, after already being announced, it is an unfortunate situation,” said Lou DiBella. “Fortunately though, we have been able to find an opponent who isn’t just any replacement, but rather a terrific, undefeated fighter who is going to make for an exciting main event on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.”
The Russian-native Gradovich had a stellar amateur career, putting together an impressive 126-24 record as well as competing for the Russian National Boxing team. Looking to make his mark on the professional boxing world, Gradovich moved to the United States and turned pro on March 19, 2010. Trained by the 2012 “Trainer of the Year” Robert Garcia, Gradovich went a perfect 4-0 last year, working his way into the IBF world ratings in the process.
The ESPN Friday Night Fights card is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions and will be aired live at 9 p.m. ET. In the televised co-feature, Willie Nelson (19-1-1, 11KO’s) looks to defend his NABF middleweight title against Michael Medina (26-3-2, 19KO’s) in a 10-round middleweight match-up. The Nelson-Medina bout is promoted in association with Rumble Time Promotions.
Tickets priced at $200, $100, $75 and $40 may be purchased online at foxwoods.com, by calling the Foxwoods’ box office at 800-200-2882, or in person at the Foxwoods’ box office.