Five keys for Evgeny Gradovich
Plotting a path to victory against 126-pound titlist Billy Dib on 'Friday Night Fights'
When he least expected it, Russia's Evgeny Gradovich (15-0, 8 KOs) was presented with the opportunity that every fighter dreams of: to fight for a world title. In the main event of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" in Mashantucket, Conn. (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2), Gradovich will challenge featherweight titlist Billy Dib (35-1, 21 KOs) of Australia.
Gradovich, who turned pro in 2010 and is being trained by the highly regarded Robert Garcia, is nicknamed "The Mexican Russian" due to his resilience, aggressive style and continuous exchange of punches. Dib represents the most difficult challenge in clearly the most important fight of Gradovich's career.
Here are five keys to victory for Gradovich:
|Dib's style is very similar to that of his mentor, Naseem Hamed, though Dib adds even better footwork to it. It won't be easy to beat him, but Steven Luevano did it in 2008 with plenty of counterpunching and ring control. Gradovich should try to use that same strategy by taking control of the center of the ring, managing the distance, waiting to counterpunch and then jumping on the attack in the final rounds. Gradovich should look to land his overhand right, as well.|
|The second option for Gradovich, and probably the one he'll choose for the beginning of the fight, will be the continuous pressure. The Russian fighter is an aggressor by nature, he likes to smother his opponents and does not shy away from confrontation. Against Dib, he should not make any exceptions. The Australian is a man who fights on his legs, almost tiptoeing, with a style that gets complicated when he is cornered against the ropes. Dib trusts his waist movement a lot, and he rarely keeps his chin tucked when he jabs. Any punch with the right sense of timing can hurt him.|
|Gradovich will have Garcia, one of the best trainers in the world, in his corner. Garcia is used to having more than one battle plan and he will be an active part of the action from the corner. It is common to hear his screams of instruction throughout the fight. But there's something else: Garcia knows his fighter's opponent very well because he was in the corner when Luevano defeated Dib in 2008. That is why for this battle, and in spite of his short preparation, Gradovich will have more than one fight plan after having studied Dib very closely.|
Watch the left and don't back up
|There are two mortal sins that Gradovich should not commit against Dib. The first one is backing up under any circumstance. It would be suicidal against Dib, as Eduardo Escobedo found out in March 2012. He gave Dib total control, and the champ steamrolled him, finishing him out in the seventh round. The second sin is neglecting the Aussie's left hand. Dib is a two-fisted puncher and has a hammer of a right hand -- but usually ends up winning his fights with the left. He surprises his opponents with it, both upstairs and downstairs, when he throws hooks or straight hands to catch his opponents by surprise.|
KO the opportunity
|Gradvich arrived at this opportunity after two leading opponents for Dib (Mauricio Munoz and Luis Franco) bailed out of the fight for different reasons. There are notable examples of virtually unknown fighters scoring amazing upsets in great fights throughout history like a young Cassius Clay against Sonny Liston, Kirkland Laing against Roberto Duran and James "Buster" Douglas against Mike Tyson. It is the law of opportunity, which has been used by many to achieve great victories. Gradovich should take advantage of it and give everything to becoming a champion before even he thought would be possible.|
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