Saturday, June 10, 2023  |



Gradovich returns, but not necessarily with Donaire in mind

Fighters Network
Evgeny Gradovich (L) vs. Alexander Miskirtchian in 2014. Photo by Anthony Wallace - AFP/Getty Images.

Evgeny Gradovich (L) vs. Alexander Miskirtchian in 2014. Photo by Anthony Wallace – AFP/Getty Images.

MANILA, Philippines – Instead of a Christmas tree, Evgeny Gradovich had a punching bag. Instead of mistletoe hanging overhead, there was a speedbag.

The former IBF featherweight titleholder is spending the holidays training at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California, training for a 10-round bout against Mexico’s Jesus Galicia at Centro Deportivo Boxing Unitres in Picanya, Spain, on Jan. 9.

“My Christmas is later in January,” said Gradovich (20-1-1, 9 knockouts) in a chat message.

The fight against Galicia (13-8-1, 8 KOs) will be Gradovich’s second since a headbutt-shortened technical-decision loss to Lee Selby this past May, and will be fought at a catchweight of 128 pounds.

Still, recent reports – most notably from veteran reporter Ronnie Nathanielsz – have pointed to him fighting at 122 in the near future against WBO junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire, a former gym mate of Gradovich’s.

“I heard about that but nothing for sure, maybe later but right now nothing,” admitted the Russian boxer, who is rated No. 7 by THE RING at 126 pounds.

Both Gradovich and Donaire are promoted by Top Rank. Michael Aldeguer, president of Philippine-based ALA Promotions, confirmed to THE RING that he had discussed the possibility of co-promoting Donaire’s next fight in his country of birth – the Philippines – with April 16 and 23 being considered as dates.

“We haven’t signed anything yet, nothing has been really on the dot yet, but most likely that’s 99 percent sure,” Aldeguer said last week, without discussing potential opponents.

An email to Gradovich’s manager, Egis Klimas, was not returned, while a source at Top Rank confirmed that a conversation took place with ALA but added there was “nothing to report” about a possible Donaire-Gradovich fight.

Gradovich has never fought at 122 pounds in his career, and admits he would like to find out how he feels at the weight before taking an important bout.

“I want [to] try first time how I will feel in 122 but they want make me fight against Donaire and nobody wants [to] give me [a tune-up] fight [at] 122,” Gradovich said. “That’s why I don’t know.”

Donaire (36-3, 23 KOs), who picked up the vacant WBO title earlier this month in a unanimous decision win over Cesar Juarez, is a fighter Gradovich is familiar with. The two sparred on a few occasions at RGBA, which the 29-year-old Gradovich says taught him much as a fighter.

“I learned a lot, he was like my teacher,” said Gradovich. “He is good guy and person.”

For now, Gradovich’s attention is on his training and the fight in front of him, and the holiday celebrations he has had to delay for a career sacrifice.

“I’m ready to fight anybody, I’m a fighter. It’s my passion and I’m ready for anybody.”

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanSongalia.