By Kieran Mulvaney
In the co-main event, Evgeny Gradovich retained a featherweight belt with a ninth-round TKO victory against the man from whom he first took the title, Australia's Billy Dib. Gradovich, who bills himself as "The Russian Mexican," steadily ground Dib down with his relentless, suffocating offense, knocking him down in the sixth round. Dib was game and did his best to return fire, but by the end he appeared to be wilting from every punch that landed.
After eight rounds, as Dib struggled to respond to commands, his trainer said to him in the corner, "Billy, I love you, but one more punch and it's over." It took only 1 minute and 10 seconds of the following frame for him to fulfill his promise, stopping the contest as Gradovich landed another combination.
In heavyweight action, Tor Hamer began relatively brightly against undefeated Andy Ruiz, probably taking the first two rounds behind a crisp jab, as the two big men exchanged hard punches that echoed with an entirely different and deeper thud to those of the flyweights who had preceded them. In the third round, however, Ruiz began to assert control; even so, it was a shock when Hamer quit on his stool at the end of the round, citing two hard body shots. Then again, maybe shock isn't the right word: it's the second time now that Hamer has done just that. It's fine for a man to look out for his health --commendable, even -- but one wonders if an alternative, less dangerous, profession might be a wise choice for Mr. Hamer. Still, Ruiz moves on; he may not be a body beautiful, but as former trainer Freddie Roach told reporters this week, "That fat kid can fucking fight."
After the fight, Hamer's disappointed promoter Lou DiBella took to Twitter to vent his frustration with his fighter. "This is an embarrassment. Sorry to the fans" he tweeted. "By the way, Tor, you are released."
Earlier in the week, Zou Shiming's trainer Freddie Roach sounded less than enthusiastic[link to yesterdays post] in his assessment of his fighter's progress since turning professional. He's likely to be a lot more satisfied by Zou's third paid bout, in which the local hero came close to stopping Mexican Juan Toscano, especially in a dominant third round, before settling for a wide, unanimous decision to move to 3-0. Zou bounced on his toes, straightened up his punches, and darted in and out as he raked Toscano with right hands that opened up a nasty gash on his opponent's cheek, much to the delight of the CotaiArena crowd.
"I'm getting better all the time," said Zou. "I went to Manny's camp, and worked on my lower body strength from my hips on down, so I was able to sit on my punches better. I really think I'm getting better."
In the opening bout of the telecast, hot lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo remained unbeaten with a unanimous six-round decision against Thailand's Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan. The Thai fighter was no match for Verdejo's blistering hand speed and combinations, and twice came close to being floored by Verdejo right uppercuts. But Duanaaymukdahan was game and kept coming until the end, earning the appreciation of the crowd and of his opponent.
"I'm glad he came to fight," said Verdejo, who improves to 9-0 with 6 KOs. "He challenged me. He took a lot of punishment. I got a lot of good punches in. I got a lot of good quality rounds."
HBO PPV: Nov 23, 2013 at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT
Evgeny Gradovich vs. Billy Dib
Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Tor Hamer
Zou Shiming vs. Juan Toscano
Felix Verdejo vs. Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan