Lee Selby became Wales’ 12th world champion with a classy technical decision win over IBF featherweight holder Evgeny Gradovich in London.
Selby’s outboxed Gradovich before the fight was halted in the eighth due to a bad cut near the champion’s eye. Because the cut was caused by a clash of heads, the verdict went to the scorecard, where Selby was a clear victor with scores of 79-73, 80-72 and 79-73.
Selby, 28, suffered defeat to unknown Samir Mouneimne in his fifth paid bout but rebuilt to amass a record of 20-1, with eight stoppages, going into this contest.
Gradovich was by no means the most feared man in the featherweight division but commanded justifiable respect, having won the IBF crown from Billy Dib two years ago and defended it four times. One of those defences was a draw, however, in his most recent fight against Jayson Velez.
That result will have fuelled Selby’s belief heading into his first fight since October.
The English crowd were overwhelmingly partisan towards Selby, who easily took the opening round with sharp jabs as ‘The Mexican Russian’ Gradovich, who had a 19-0-1(9KOs) record going in, marched forward aggressively.
There was nothing dynamic about his aggression, though, as Selby mixed things up in the second with a lovely variety to his shots.
Gradovich had slightly more success in the third, landing occasional power shots, but they were few and far between.
Gradovich was forcing his way into the fight with his relentless come-forward style but was given reason to think twice when another beautiful counter shot by Selby finally had him hurt.
A head clash caused a cut near Gradovich’s right eye.
Another counter left hook - and consistent jabs - opened it up further and when referee Deon Dwarte consulted the ringside doctor due to the bad bleeding, the fight was off. The decision therefore went to the scorecards, where and Selby won comfortably to be crowned Wales’ 12th world champion.