Billy Dib to defend featherweight title

Featherweight titlist Billy Dib of Australia will make his mandatory defense against Luis Franco on March 1 in the main event of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights," promoters Lou DiBella and rapper 50 Cent announced on Tuesday.

The fight, Dib's third title defense, will take place at the MGM Grand at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.

This will be the second promotion that newly licensed promoter 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, will be involved in. His SMS Promotions handles Dib, as well as Yuriorkis Gamboa, who won an interim junior lightweight belt on the Dec. 8 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV pay-per-view undercard in Las Vegas. Jackson made a deal with Top Rank to put Gamboa on that card.

DiBella and Jackson made a deal to work together on this card. DiBella said Jackson will be much more involved in this promotion than he was in the December card handled by Top Rank.

"He has his people and his staff working with my staff on the event. He is clearly co-promoting this event," DiBella told ESPN.com on Tuesday night. "Fifty is going to be a big part of the story and the promotion. His ring entrance for Gamboa (when he dropped from the arena rafters while singing one of his new songs) was nothing short of sensational. He'll lead Dib into the ring. He's been involved in doing this deal from the beginning. We've had numerous conversations and he is involved in all aspects of the show."

DiBella will put on the co-feature, which will pit junior middleweights Willie Nelson (19-1-1, 11 KOs) and Michael Medina (26-3-2, 19 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout.

Dib (35-1, 21 KOs), 27, of Australia, was supposed to face mandatory challenger Mauricio Munoz of Argentina. Munoz won a controversial split decision against Franco (11-1, 7 KOs) in an October final elimination bout to get the title shot.

However, Munoz (26-3, 12 KOs) withdrew from the bout with Dib claiming an injury. At that point, the IBF, which is sanctioning the fight, ordered Dib to face Franco, the next leading available contender.

Franco, 31, was a 2004 Cuban Olympian who is now based in Miami after defecting and turning pro in 2009.

"Dib hasn't always been in crowd-pleasing fights, but his recent fights have been," DiBella said. "And Franco was a great amateur in Cuba. He is supremely talented. It should be a competitive fight and I think my fight, with Nelson and Medina, that is going to be a fun fight."