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Azad Championship Report - Gradovich Makes First Defense in Macao

(L-R) Gradovich / Munoz (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(L-R) Gradovich / Munoz (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)

Evgeny Gradovich makes the first defense of his IBF featherweight title versus Mauricio Munoz today in Macao from the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort. Back on March 1st, as a late replacement on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights,” Gradovich upset Billy Dib in a hard-fought affair to win the crown.
From obscurity to Macao.
That’s the story of the “Mexican Russian” who used his hard-charging, take-no-prisoners style to simply outwork and outfight Dib on that fateful night.

“It was a very good fight for me,” he said a few weeks ago at a media day at the Wild Card Boxing Club to promote this card. “I feel good. I deserved this victory.”
When he was asked if his life has changed at all since becoming a beltholder, he answered simply, “Yes, I’m a world champion we have to work more,” which is something that is echoed by his trainer, Robert Garcia, “The main thing with [Gradovich] is his dedication, his training, his focus now that he’s a world champion focusing on defending his title. It’s not really about how much he has learned or how much better he’s getting. It’s just dedication and, of course, trying to teach him new things. The main thing with him is his dedication he has to the sport.”
Garcia adds, “He enjoys what he’s doing. He’s focused. He’s dedicated to the food he eats, everything he’s doing to his body. So that’s probably the main thing with him being where he’s at right now.”
Gradovich is a classic grinder. You won’t have any problems finding him or even hitting him but good luck in getting him off you. He is persistent in the ring as the IRS during an audit.
“He’s one of those fighters who comes in and wont back up and keeps throwing over a hundred punches a round and whoever the opponent is, [Gradovich is] in his face for 12 rounds. No matter how good you are, if you have somebody like that in front of you, you’re going to have a hard time,” said Garcia.
With his style, he’s bound to be in good fights for years to come. “He’s terrific, very crowd-pleasing fighter. He’s not in a dull fight,” said Bob Arum, whose company, Top Rank, promotes him. “We have big things in store for him. Y’ know, one thing with these Russian guys, they’re not afraid. They’ll fight anybody - anybody. So it’s a pleasure to promote guys like that. You don’t have to have a debate for three months whether they should fight a guy or not fight a guy. Whoever you line up for them, they’ll fight.”
In fact, it was this boldness that led to Gradovich facing Dib on just a few weeks’ notice. When he got the call, he didn’t hesitate.
“I knew that he was from Australia. It’s not a big country in boxing like Russia, so I agreed to the fight before in four weeks and I won it. I’m very happy,” said Gradovich, who before all this was just another fighter looking to make his mark in the business. Now, he’s part of this card in Macao with perhaps even bigger and better things ahead.
But the soft-spoken Russian says, “It’s a very important fight for me [against Munoz]. Right now, my focus is just on one fight, July 27th. Then we’ll see what we do next.”
What had long been speculated was made official on Friday. Top Rank had inked two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko to a promotional pact. This talented Ukrainian will be put on the fast track as a professional. How fast? Think the Autobahn. He will make his pro debut October 12th on Top Rank’s pay-per-view card in a 10-rounder (yes, you read that correctly) and the goal is to try and win a major world title as soon as possible.
“Actually, if you go back to the way Olympians were moved back even to ’96 and certainly in ’84 and ’76, it’s right along those same paths. So when you get somebody as accomplished as him, it’s OK to move him that fast,” said Carl Moretti, VP of Boxing Operations for Top Rank.
It was Lomachenko’s wish to be moved quickly up the ranks.
Moretti says, “It was his inclination to be moved fast, not to fight fours, sixes and eights, the way most Olympians and amateurs are moved now. He wanted to basically start off with a 10-round elimination fight against a solid, world-ranked contender and then go from there. So that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
There is talk that he could be matched against the winner of the bout between Orlando Salido and Orlando Cruz (who also fight on that October 12th card), who are battling for the vacant WBO featherweight title. Could that fight or another title bout be next for Lomachenko?
“I don’t know if it’s right after that but I think you see it within a calendar year,” said Moretti.
For all intents and purposes, it looked like the scrap for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title between Vanes Martirosyan and Demetrius Andrade was headed to the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios undercard in Macao on November 23rd but on Thursday, HBO changed course and decided to pick that fight up as the opener to its September 7th broadcast featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I think when you look at everything and you look at things like what else is possible and you really look at a fight deep down inside and you see two U.S. Olympians, both undefeated with a lot on the line fighting for a legitimate world title, that you examine it and y’ know what? You’re going to end up with something with the winner,” said Moretti.
This is Martirosyan’s third HBO appearance. His first two came against southpaws, Joe Greene and Erislandy Lara. Yeah, notice the trend here?
With Martirosyan-Andrade landing on September 7th, now look for Luis Abregu to move possibly to the October 12th pay-per-view undercard...Word is HBO and Andre Ward’s side aren’t seeing eye-to-eye in terms of how he returns against and for how much...On October 26th, Kell Brook will take on Vyacheslav Senchenko...So are Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun no longer BFFs?...The NFL pre-season can’t start soon enough for me. Yeah, I’m a sicko...I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.

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