- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich and former titleholder Billy Dib will meet in a rematch in one of the chief supporting bouts on the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios undercard, Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.com.
Gradovich-Dib II will take place Nov. 23 (HBO PPV) at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel in Macau, China.
Taking their first meeting on less than a month's notice when original opponent Luis Franco pulled out, Gradovich challenged Dib on March 1 and won a split decision in a grueling fight to claim the 126-pound belt.
Dib had a rematch clause, although both fighters took interim bouts. Dib rebounded from the defeat to outpoint Mike Oliver via majority decision over 10 rounds in a tough fight on July 5. Dib needed six stitches to close a cut over his left eye after the bout. Gradovich, nicknamed "The Mexican Russian," cruised to a wide unanimous decision against mandatory challenger Mauricio Munoz of Argentina on July 27 in Macau.
With the rematch in the cards, duBoef, Gradovich's promoter, finalized a deal with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, the rap star whose SMS Promotions handles Dib.
"Gradovich got rid of his mandatory in his last fight, he's exciting to watch and we felt it was important to live up to the commitment to Dib for a rematch since he gave Gradovich the opportunity," duBoef said. "It was an excellent fight on ESPN2, so why not put this one on the Pacquiao-Rios show and then the winner can look at bigger matches in 2014."
Gradovich (17-0, 8 KOs), 27, of Russia, said he believes he will fight better in the rematch now that he can have a full training camp to prepare. He is due to arrive in Oxnard, Calif., where he will train with Robert Garcia, from Russia on Sept. 29.
"I'm excited to return to Macau to fight on the Pacquiao versus Rios card and I know I will fight even better this time," Gradovich said. "I had very little time to train before fighting Dib the first time. I think it was just 29 days before the fight when we got the call. This time I have much more time to focus and technically be better in my performance against Dib."
Dib (36-2, 21 KOs), 28, of Australia, won the vacant title in July 2011 by outpointing Jorge Lacierva and successfully defended it three times, each time in Australia, before losing to Gradovich in Mashantucket, Conn.
"I'm extremely excited that the rematch has been made," Dib said. "Our first battle was a good one. I feel I have developed into a more fan friendly fighter. Gradovich is a good fighter and I expect another all-out war with him. I look forward to recapturing the IBF championship and setting up a trilogy with Gradovich.
"The fact that the fight is on such a big stage is so exciting. Finally I feel that I have the chance to show the world that I can mix it with the best of them. I truly believe in my heart I'm winning this championship back."
In another fight on the Pacquiao-Rios pay-per-view undercard, flyweight Zou Shiming (2-0, 0 KOs), the Freddie Roach-trained two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist and national hero, will move into an eight-round fight against an opponent to be determined. Zou turned pro in a four-round bout April and moved into a six-round fight in July.
Top Rank has not yet determined the fourth fight for the telecast.