Gradovich Draws With Velez In HBO TV Opener

Neither man was armed with a rocket launcher, so they traded small arms fire in the TV opener on HBO, on Saturday night, from the Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The quicker draw belonged to Evgeny Gradovich, who imposed his will and superior energy reservoir on foe Jayson Velez, and liked his chances when we went to the cards.

After twelve rounds of high volume hitting, the arbiters didn’t do as I expected, and like Gradovich, who listened to his corner and made sure to be first more often than Velez: the scores were 117-111 for Grado, 115-113 for Velez, and 114-114, a split draw.

Grado went 310-875, to 278-1032 for Velez.

The Siberia native Gradovich aka “The Mexican Russian” entered with a 126 pound crown. He kept it with the draw. Top Rank served as promoter of the card.

The 26-year-old Gradovich, trying to defend his belt for the fourth time, was 126 (trained by Robert Garcia; 19-0 entering; 140 Sat) on Friday, while the Puerto Rican Velez was (22-0 entering; age 28; 126, 137).

In the first, the Miguel Cotto-promoted Velez looked to keep Grado off with a jab. Grado pressed forward, snuck in a right hand, and the PR man backed up and mixed counters and leading.

In the second, Velez was good ‘n busy. He landed right leads, and a shotr jab, and was quite aggressive given that he was often backing up. He was averaging 100 punches a round.

In the third, Grado came out looking to press even more. Velez’ volume kept him from getting started a whole bunch, though. He was first, and often last, as well.

In the fourth, Velez snuck in a right to the body, and mixed it up, with right hooks, a frequent jab, and solid D. But, I wondered, was he tiring some?

In the fifth, Velez’ reflexes looked a bit slower. But he kept on hurling, though he ate a left hook and that made him stumble the slightest bit. Grado I think won the round.

In the sixth, a hard right landed by Grado, as Velez backed up, too slowly, and without moving his head.

In the seventh, Velez ate a sharp right, got backed up, but then answered, with rights to the body, and the persistent jab. Tight round…Both trainers told their guys they were down after the round.

In the eighth, Grado kept on being the bull. In the ninth, Velez listened to his corner and got busy. Grado landed 42 to 30 for the Puerto Rican. In round ten, Grado was the bully, was again busier. His tighter shots got there quicker and harder than did the Velez tosses. In round 11, Grado was the busier man, and his energy told the judges he wanted it more. Same for round 12; Velez was there, hanging tough, zero quit in him, but it looked like he needs a bit more seasoning on what to do down the stretch. He did land a power punch which buzzed the crowd late. But, we went to the cards…

Photo Credit: Chris Farina