By: Mateo Banegas
This week’s ESPN Friday Night Fights was an opportunity to highlight some of the fighters in Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s boxing stable, under his SMS Promotions company.
Among the fights, two were promoted by SMS.
In the first fight, Luis “Magic Man” Olivares (0-0) made quick work of his opponent, Rafael Munoz (1-1), winning by TKO in the first round of his pro debut at 140 lbs (Junior Welterweight). The Magic Man’s first knockdown of Munoz came from a sharp left hook that was lightning fast. Minutes later, with Munoz still trying to recover, Olivares caught him with a combination of punches, including another left hook, sending Munoz to the ground for the second time in the first round. That’s all it took for the referee to call the bout, resulting in Magic Man’s first win as professional boxer.
Despite this being Olivares’ first pro bout, the young boxer’s left hand looked impressive as he connected with accuracy and speed. His instinct and ability to pressure Munoz after the initial knockdown showed signs of promise. Hopefully, Olivares will continue to improve after starting off his professional boxing career with a bang.
The main event showcased Aussie Billy Dib (35-1), promoted by SMS, defending his IBF featherweight title against Evgeny Gradovich (15-0), referred to as the “Mexican Russian” by world-renowned trainer from Oxnard, Robert Garcia. Interestingly, Garcia had previously trained Dib in his only career loss.
Dib, known for running around in the ring, began the first two rounds with hints that he may have changed his ways. Dib looked to be agile, moving nicely in the ring and connecting with his opponent.
Gradovich was the constant aggressor, moving steadily forward with good punching and timing. He seemed to find Dib in between punches, catching him with calculated hits and building both confidence and momentum as the middle rounds neared. By the end of the fourth, Dib’s left eye began to swell, due to Gradovich’s right hand and persistent barrages to the head.
Dib held steady in the middle rounds, doing nice work inside as he started to increase his movement around the ring more. Gradovich, making effort to cut the ring off, was able to catch Dib a few times, but not able to engage long enough for steady exchanges.
With the fight becoming more of a holding match, the referee deducted a point from both fighters in the 8th round, attempting to discourage the fighters from tangling up.
The end of the fight came down to a duel on the inside. Both fighters were winded from the consistent shifts between short exchanges and hold-ups, spending a lot of energy trying to land punches, while breaking away from the other fighter. Both combatants knew the bout would go to who was the most active in the final round, though Gradovich seemed to land a few more heavy punches. As the bell rang, Dib’s face was swollen and cut, with Grad having a nice knot over his left eye.
By split decision, “The Mexican Russian” became the new IBF featherweight champ in only his 16th professional bout.
Overall, SMS Promotions’ night ended by showing off a potential future star on the one hand and losing a belt on the other. Yet, boxing fans can surely look forward to the coming bouts by SMS Promotions, with the company boasting some notable fighters which include Yuriorkis Gamboa, Celestino Caballero and Andre Dirrell.