On paper, the eight round featherweight bout between Evgeny Gradovich (19-1-1, 9 KOs) and Brazilian journeyman Aldimar Silva (19-8, 10 KOs) was supposed to be a whitewash victory for the former IBF Featherweight champion. In the end, it was anything but, with a badly bruised Gradovich receiving the nod via a split decision victory (79-71, 75-77, 78-74) in a close fight that posed more questions than it answered.
From the first bell, Gradovich wasted no time employing the high-pressure strategy that awarded him the moniker “The Mexican Russian.” Initially, the fight seemed like the mismatch that many were expecting with Gradovich easily piercing Silva’s high guard with sharp jabs, and the Brazilian moving around the ring awkwardly, throwing wide left hooks that were magnificently off-target.
By the middle of the second round, however, Silva found his rhythm and a golden opportunity to keep it close against Gradovich, as he started landing three and four punch combinations on the Russian, who made little effort to evade the attacks.
Gradovich stayed very active in those early rounds, but Silva matched his success during the exchanges, often beating his opponent to the punch. He counterpunched beautifully and scored points by throwing when Gradovich was throwing and simply getting there first.
In the latter part of the fight, Silva controlled the distance with his jab and short counters, yet, Gradovich continued putting on the pressure and trying to find different angles to get to awkward Silva.
When it was all said and done, and as the scores were being read, no one in the arena seemed surprised that Silva, with 19-8 record, was announced as the winner on one of the scorecards. And, judging by the boos in the crowd when Gradovich was announced as the winner of the fight, few people were in agreement with the wide margins reflected in the cards that were in his favor.
A win is a win, and styles make fights, so let us not condemn Gradovich just yet, especially coming off of a difficult loss against the slick Lee Selby 5 months ago.
For his next match, he is expected to drop below the featherweight limit as he aims to re-position himself as a legitimate contender at 122 pounds. As he begins his campaign in the lower weight division we will be hoping to clarify perceptions arose again tonight in Omaha.
Even in a sport in which a momentary lapse in concentration can land you in the hospital, everyone is entitled to an off-night. Was this the case for Gradovich tonight or was this a sign that “The Mexican Russian” is now finally finding himself on the other side of his peak?