Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Who wins Evgeny Gradovich-Jayson Velez?


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Russian IBF featherweight beltholder Evgeny Gradovich is trained by Robert Garcia and Puerto Rican challenger Jayson Velez by Abel Sanchez.

That might make for an intriguing match-up of strategic proportions were it not for the combatants’ come-forward styles.

Gradovich (19-0, 9 knockouts) was last in action for a unanimous decision over Alexander Miskirtchian in May that followed his ninth-round stoppage of former titleholder Billy Dib in November. Gradovich, 28, won his belt by split decision over Dib in March 2013 and made his first defense with a unanimous decision over Mauricio Javier Munoz in July 2013.

Velez (22-0, 16 KOs) is coming off a second-round knockout of Miguel Soto in April, representing his third stoppage in his past four fights. Velez, 26, debuted on American soil in his ninth fight in June 2009, scoring a third-round stoppage of Jesus Bayron. In December 2012, Velez dropped Salvador Sanchez twice en route to a third-round knockout.

The results of the poll taken from 12 insiders regarding Gradovich-Velez are as follows.


Jake Donovan,

Jayson Velez W 12 Evgeny Gradovich: This fight comes down to whether or not Jayson Velez can handle Evgeny Gradovich’s pressure and outbox him. My guess is yes and that he can.

Record: 26-7 [Last pick: Manny Pacquiao UD 12 Chris Algieri]


Norm Frauenheim, THE RING magazine,

Evgeny Gradovich TKO 10 Jayson Velez: Whirlwinds collide. Neither Evgeny Gradovich nor Jayson Velez possesses fight-stopping power. Yet both move forward fearlessly.

Gradovich has been there against better, more dangerous opponents than Velez. That experience gives him an intangible edge in what figures to be a fast-paced and punishing fight.

Record: 27-9 [Last pick: Pacquiao TKO 10 Algieri]


Tom Gray,

Jayson Velez TKO 4 Evgeny Grodovich: Despite Evgeny Grodovich being a huge favorite, I sense an upset. The challenger can crack and Gradovich is far from invincible.

Jayson Velez hasn’t mixed in this class but I can see him catching Gradovich on the way in with a huge right hand and hurting him badly. It’s been a while since I made a pick with this much risk and I’ll be prepared for the egg on my face if I’m a million miles away from reality.

Record: 27-9 [Last pick: Pacquiao TKO 8 Algieri]


Keith Idec, The Record/

Jayson Velez KO 9 Evgeny Gradovich: Jayson Velez has power in both hands and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to hurt Evgeny Gradovich.

Gradovich is a fighter who rarely stops moving forward, often at the expense of defense, yet is better than any opponent Velez has faced in his first 22 professional fights. But the Miguel Cotto-promoted contender will handle the step up in class and HBO’s bright lights just fine.

Record: 14-6 [Last pick: Pacquiao KO 9 Algieri]


Diego Morilla, XN Sports

Evgeny Gradovich W 12 Jayson Velez: I am sure I’ll regret not predicting a stoppage on this one but I’ll settle for a progressive, punishing beatdown by “The Mexican Russian” here.

Jayson Velez is young and fast and throws a ton of punches but he misses a lot and Evgeny Gradovich lands with enough persistence and more than enough power to make me think that there is no way he’ll be denied in this fight.

Record: 13-9 [Last pick: Pacquiao W 12 Algieri]


John J. Raspanti, Monthly Magazine

Evgeny Gradovich W 12 Jayson Velez: Both Evgeny Gradovich and Jayson Velez are undefeated. Velez appears to pack more power but Gradovich is defending his IBF featherweight title for the fourth time.

Gradovich has faced the superior competition and I think that gives him the edge here. In an all-action fight, I’m picking Gradovich to defeat Velez by a close decision.

Record: 25-11 [Last pick: Pacquiao W 12 Algieri]


Cliff Rold,

Jayson Velez W 12 Evgeny Gradovich: Jayson Velez is ready for his arrival. Evgeny Gradovich is tough but limited and Velez should take advantage of that.

Record: 23-12 [Last pick: Wladimir Klitschko W 12 Kubrat Pulev]


Francisco Salazar,

Evgeny Gradovich UD 12 Jayson Velez: Evgeny Gradovich keeps getting better with each fight since working with Robert Garcia a couple of years ago. Gradovich has a lot of upside and can box or brawl.

Jayson Velez is trained by Abel Sanchez but I think Gradovich is the better overall boxer. I would not be surprised if Gradovich stops Velez or knocks him down but I will say that Gradovich wins a unanimous decision.

Record: 8-3 [Last pick: Pacquiao UD 12 Algieri]


Bradley Starks, guest/fan, Novato, Calif.

Evgeny Gradovich UD 12 Jayson Velez: Jayson Velez appears to have a good skills and he can bang. But he’s faced very nondescript opposition thus far in his career and something tells me he might be taking this fight a little too early in his development.

Evgeny Gradovich can bang too and he loves being in the trenches. Conventional wisdom says the more experienced fighter at this level should prevail here. I’ll take the “Mexican Russian” by unanimous decision in a fun slugfest.

Record: 14-3 [Last pick: Pacquiao KO 4 Algieri]


Dominic Verdin,

Jayson Velez W 12 Evgeny Gradovich: Evgeny Gradovich is a trainer’s dream as far as hard work and determination goes but he’s not the most talented featherweight in the world. Jayson Velez, in terms of talent, has the goods and he should take the title in an exciting 12-round war.

Record: 24-8 [Last pick: Pacquiao TKO 11 Algieri]


Charles Villa, guest/fan, Portland, Ore.

Evgeny Gradovich W 12 Jayson Velez: The featherweight division has once again resurfaced as must-see-TV with the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Nicholas Walters, Abner Mares, Johnny Gonzalez and, of course, Evgeny Gradovich.

Gradovich, the “Mexican Russian,” has provided more than few entertaining moments in the ring, using his high activity rate and “chin-first” type of defense in spots.

Perhaps the only knock against Gradovich is that he lacks genuine KO power, often overwhelming his opponents with volume, conditioning and toughness.

Jayson Velez is a good fighter with an undefeated record. There’s a nice snapping jab in the bag, pretty good lateral footwork and what appears to be respectable power.

The only problem with Velez’s package is that it looks he can be discouraged with a swarming offense, leaving him open while he backs out, which is where Gradovich can go to work.

This should be a very entertaining fight with both fighters preferring to go headhunting, creating plenty of drama over 12 rounds. But I believe Gradovich’s work rate should impress the judges, leaving the “Mexican Russian” with his hands raised after 12.

Record: 17-10 [Last pick: Pacquiao TKO 8 Algieri]


Anson Wainwright,

Evgeny Gradovich W 12 Jayson Velez: Evgeny Gradovich has improved steadily since winning the IBF world title in March 2013 while Jayson Velez has struggled for activity of late.

Velez was scheduled to fight Daniel Ponce De Leon when the Mexican was WBC world champion, only for that fight to fall out. Gradovich brings pressure and will continue to press Velez, breaking up the Puerto Rican’s rhythm. I see Gradovich winning a good fight on points.

Record: 23-9 [Last pick: Pacquiao TKO 9 Algieri]


The insiders give Evgeny Gradovich the ever-so-slim edge, 7-5, over Jayson Velez in defense of his IBF featherweight belt.


Video by Dominic Verdin


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