The first time Evgeny Gradovich of Russia faced Australia's Billy Dib, Gradovich took the fight on a little less than a month's notice and won grueling split decision, pulling the upset to take a featherweight world title from Dib in March.
For the rematch, Gradovich had ample time to prepare and looked even better, hammering Dib en route to a one-sided ninth-round knockout on Saturday night at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China, in the co-feature on the card headlined by the return of Manny Pacquiao against Brandon Rios in the welterweight main event.
Dib tried to box against the 27-year-old Gradovich -- known as "The Mexican Russian" for his aggressive style -- early, but it wasn't working, and by the fourth round he was wading in and trying to slug with him. But Gradovich, happy to take two punches to deliver one, was there to meet him with hard shots and a sturdy chin. And Gradovich also was outboxing Dib, which was surprising. It was that kind of night for Dib, whose face began to show the damage from the shots by the fifth round.
The 28-year-old Dib (36-3, 21 KOs) lost his mouthpiece multiple times, leading referee Allan Huggins to warn him about it and tell him in the fifth round that if he lost it again it would cost him a point.
In the sixth round, Gradovich (18-0, 9 KOs), landed a right hand that dropped Dib near the ropes in an increasingly one-sided fight, prompting Dib's corner to talk about a possible stoppage after the round.
In the ninth round, with Gradovich landing almost at will, Dib trainer Billy Hussein jumped in the ring and Huggins called off the fight at 1 minute, 10 seconds.
The fight was a contractually obligated rematch of Gradovich's split-decision title win in March in Connecticut. Both fighters won interim bouts in July to set up the rematch. Gradovich outpointed mandatory challenger Mauricio Munoz, also in Macao, and Dib won a majority 10-round decision against Mike Oliver in Oliver's hometown of Hartford, Conn.
With the victory, Gradovich figures prominently in a series of fights that his promoter, Top Rank, hope to make involving fighters such as Nonito Donaire, Vasyl Lomachenko, titleholder Nicholas Walters and unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Ruiz makes Hamer quit
Heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz (21-0, 15 KOs) got off to a slow start but turned it on in the third round and made Tor Hamer (21-3, 14 KOs) quit after it ended.
Ruiz, a fast-handed 24-year-old from Mexcio, scored his second consecutive victory in Macau. He also appeared on Top Rank's July 27 card there, drilling previously undefeated prospect Joe Hanks in the fourth round.
Hamer got off to a big start and landed a number of solid right hands in the first two rounds, something that hadn't happened to Ruiz in previous fights. But in the third round, Ruiz began to let his hands go. He landed body shots and also worked upstairs, and Hamer looked wobbly as the round went on.
After the round, Hamer plopped down on the stool, his head down and then quit. For showing no effort, Hamer's purse was withheld for the time being, according to Top Rank. This wasn't the first time he had shown no heart.
Hamer, 30, of New York, came into the fight having scored early knockouts against two low-level opponents this year following a knockout loss to 2008 Ukrainian Olympic bronze medalist Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov last December in a fight in which Hamer did the same thing as he did against Ruiz -- got off to a good start and then simply quit after the fourth round.
• Flyweight Zou Shiming (3-0, 0 KOs), 32, the Chinese national hero and three-time Olympic medalist who made big-time boxing in Macau possible because of his popularity, hammered Juan Toscano (4-1, 1 KO), 21, of Mexico, en route to a shutout decision, winning the six-rounder 60-54, 60-54 and 60-52.
Zou, who is trained by Freddie Roach and prepared for the fight in Pacquiao's camp in the Philippines, even sparring with the former pound-for-pound king, looked extremely amateurish in his first two pro fights. But the much quicker Zou looked a lot more professionally polished against Toscano, whose nose was bloodied in the second round. He battered Toscano in the third round, opening a gash under his left eye in a fight that amounted to target practice. Zou battered Toscano for most of the fight but referee Genaro Rodriguez showed no interest in stopping it.
Although Roach trains Zou, he was not in the corner on fight night because he was getting Pacquiao ready for the main event. Instead, Roach assistant Marvin Somodio headed the corner.
Zou, who claimed Olympic bronze in 2004 followed by gold medals in 2008 (in Beijing) and 2012, is slated for his fourth professional fight on Feb. 22 in Macau, where all of his pro fights have taken place. He'll fight on the Top Rank's "Ring of Gold" card that will feature a pair of yet-to-be-announced world title fights as well as appearances by three of the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winners the company signed -- Zou, Russian heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev (who fights professionally at light heavyweight) and Japanese middleweight Ryota Murata.
• Lightweight Felix Verdejo (9-0, 6 KOs), the 20-year-old 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian and one of the most promising prospects in boxing, easily outboxed sturdy Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan (8-2, 1 KO) of Thailand, who took numerous hard shots but managed to stay on his feet. But it was a one-sided fight, which Verdejo won 60-53 on all three scorecards.
Verdejo, despite being in only his ninth fight, was added to the pay-per-view card because he already has an enthusiastic following in Puerto Rico, and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum figured his inclusion on the card would spike pay-per-view buys on the island. Those who did buy the card saw Verdejo unload punches from all angles and with both hands. He rocked Duanaaymukdahan with a right hand in the third round but Duanaaymukdahan continued to march forward, play to the crowd and stick out his tongue.
Verdejo hurt Duanaaymukdahan with a hard uppercut in the fifth round, but was also warned for a low blow. In the sixth round, Duanaaymukdahan was docked a point for another low by referee Danrex Tapdasan.
It was as one-sided as the CompuBox statistics made it look, as Verdejo landed 123 of 370 punches (33 percent) while Duanaaymukdahan connected on just 37 of 187 blows (20 percent).
Many believe that when Miguel Cotto retires, it will be Verdejo who replaces him as Puerto Rico's biggest boxing star. Verdejo is scheduled to return to action in Puerto Rico on Dec. 14.