DI­VI­SION: Feath­er­weight RECORD: 19 wins, 9 knock­outs, 1 draw, 0 losses

BIRTH­PLACE: Igrim, Rus­sia

evgeny gradovich dreamed of play­ing pro soc­cer as a kid. “I didn’t like boxing,” he says. “I liked soc­cer. But when I went to the soc­cer gym, the coach said, ‘We have too many play­ers, so maybe you have to come back next year.’” He turned to the Sweet Science and be­came a top prospect in Igrim, his Siberian home­town. Gradovich, 28, was largely un­known un­til his first ESPN fight against Billy Dib in 2013. An un­der­dog, Gradovich earned just $20,000, but he snatched Dib’s IBF feath­er­weight crown by stalk­ing and bat­ter­ing him with the fe­roc­ity of a feral an­i­mal. Gradovich’s war­rior style earned him the en­vi­able nick­name “the Mex­i­can Rus­sian,” and he’s since been living in Ox­nard, Cal­i­for­nia, un­der the tute­lage of world-class trainer Robert Garcia. He has de­fended his ti­tle four times, be­com­ing a ris­ing feath­er­weight star known for his com­bi­na­tion of ag­gres­sion and pre­ci­sion. Like fel­low Siberian Rus­lan Provod­nikov, Gradovich’s high-pres­sure of­fense has made him an in­stant fan fa­vorite.

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