Gradovich and Velez Battle to Hard-Fought Draw

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

If featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich had been hoping to force himself into a conversation presently dominated by divisional kingpins Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas Walters, he may have to shout a little louder after being held to a draw by challenger Jayson Velez in the co-main event.

Velez – the proverbial matador to the self-styled Mexican Russian’s relentlessly forward-chugging bull –banked the opening few rounds by landing left hooks and jabs from a distance, showing angles, and taking away Gradovich’s signature body attack by being the one who was first to dig to the trunk. Slowly, barley perceptibly, Gradovich began to find his range, landing a steadily increasing diet of progressively heavier punches, and forcing Velez on to the back foot. Even as his early form began to deteriorate, however, Velez still refused to wilt. One judge saw the contest 117-111 for Gradovich, one thought Velez sneaked enough rounds to give him a 115-113 edge, and the third called it right down the middle with a 114-114 card. Gradovich moves to 19-0-1 with 9 Kos; Velez is now 22-0-1 with 16 stoppages.