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Gradovich vs Selby, Anthony Joshua, undercard: Fight preview and analysis

Evgeny Gradovich faces Lee Selby, Anthony Joshua takes on Kevin Johnson, and more on tomorrow's Matchroom undercard.

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With Kell Brook, Kevin Mitchell and Anthony Joshua grabbing most of the headlines this week, Lee Selby's world title challenge at the O2 has gone under the radar somewhat. He faces unbeaten Evgeny Gradovich in what will be the champions fifth defence of his IBF featherweight title.

Not being the centre of attention will suit Selby, whose career has largely been fought under the radar. It wasn't until he knocked out Stephen Smith in 2011 that he started to receive a bit of press coverage. Even since then he hasn't been making headlines, that's partly due to him not being the most entertaining fighter around and partly due to him not facing any major names.

Whilst Gradovich isn't well known outside of the hardcore fans, he is a very good fighter, one that has no obvious weaknesses. It could be said that he doesn't do anything particularly exceptionally either, he's just a very solid all-rounder. He's a well-schooled pressure fighter that boxes behind a high guard and likes to throw short and quick hooks, especially when he's on the inside. His chin looks to be solid and whilst he's far from being a knockout artist, he does carry respectable power.

It should be a nice clash of styles, with Selby being a flashy, hands down stylist that likes to counter-punch. The fight could come down to who can impose their style on the other the best. It will be interesting to see whether or not Gradovich will be able to catch Selby clean enough and often enough to cause significant damage.

The bookmakers make Selby a big favourite, surprisingly so given Gradovich's experience advantage at world level. Selby looks to have the edges in speed, punch power and natural ability but his propensity for cruising in fights could cost him dear here as Gradovich is the type of fighter who can fight at a good pace for twelve rounds.
Selby should start the quicker but must dominate enough in the first half of the fight to help slow down Gradovich for the second half. Selby is an underrated body puncher and must use those to his advantage to fatigue the champion. Also, keep an eye out for the uppercut, a punch that looks made to come up though Gradovich's high guard.

It doesn't take a genius to work out Gradovich's best chance of winning this fight, he needs to use educated pressure to try and take Selby out of his comfort zone and disrupt his rhythm. Selby's slickness makes him hard to catch cleanly so Gradovich will have to throw his punches in threes and fours to make an impact.

The fight looks most likely to go the distance and could be razor thin on the cards. Selby should be able to build an early lead but will have to weather a late Gradovich surge if he's to take the title. I feel underneath the flashy exterior lies a grittiness that Selby hasn't shown yet. He'll need that grittiness and I feel he will produce it in the last couple of rounds to edge a thrilling encounter around the 115-113 mark.

Anthony Joshua is the main attraction on the undercard. He takes on the experienced and durable Kevin Johnson over twelve rounds.

The fight has been touted as the first major test of Joshua's career. Whilst it is a good step-up in level from what Joshua's faced thus far in his short career, it can't be called a major test. Johnson is a decent fighter, one who should've perhaps done better than he has but let's not get silly, he's never been a threat to any fighter that's been the favourite to win and has been nothing more than a durable journeyman for the past three years.

Johnson's a likeable bloke and knows how to sell a fight, the trouble is that he doesn't try to win any fight where he's up against an opponent that's better than him or carries power, he just goes into survival mode, which he is very good at. He's done it against Vitali Klitschko, Tyson Fury, Dereck Chisora, Christian Hammer and even last time out against an average Manuel Charr. Don't expect anything different against Joshua.

In an ideal world Johnson will try to throw a few bombs early to see what Joshua's untested chin is made of. The other good thing for Joshua's development would be for him to be taken into the later rounds to test his stamina, I'm not sure either will happen though.

Johnson's craftiness and experience should be enough to take Joshua further into a fight than he's been before but at some point Joshua will start to land cleanly and that will soon bring an end to proceedings.

Joshua's got brutal power and has a real nastiness to his work when he feel his opponent is there for the taking. The Johnson that took Vitali the distance could have potentially done the same to Joshua, this older version will do well to get to the eighth round. It'll be interesting to see whether Joshua can score a clean knockout, although it looks most likely that the fight will get stopped with Johnson on his feet but on the end of a one-sided battering.

There are also three good domestic match-ups on the undercard. The pick of them sees John Ryder and Nick Blackwell clash for the British title. Ryder hasn't looked the same fighter since losing to Billy Joe Saunders in 2013 and has effectively been treading water for past eighteen months.

Blackwell has improved steadily over the course of his career but has yet to beat a championship level operator. He has shown glimpses of class at times but will need to produce a career best performance if he's to beat Ryder, who should be suitably fired up with a British title up for grabs.

It should be a good fight but Ryder looks to be the pick to get his career back on track with a hard fought but clear points decision.

The other two are Dave Ryan making the first defence of his Commonwealth title against old foe John Wayne Hibbert and Scott Cardle facing Craig Evans for the vacant British title.

Ryan edged Hibbert by a couple of points in their first meeting and both have squabbled over the decision ever since. In truth it was a very close fight that went back and forth and either could've won by a couple of points, there was certainly no robbery. Ryan has gone 2-1 since then, whereas Hibbert has gone 5-0, although Ryan has faced the much better standard of opposition. There's very little to separate the two and another close encounter looks likely.

Cardle and Evans should be another close bout, both are decent operators but Cardle has fought at a somewhat better level and looks to have a narrow edge in all departments. Neither man is a puncher so Cardle on points looks to be the pick.

Rounding of the card are Lucien Reid and Nathan Cleverly. Reid makes his début against Elemir Rafael and Cleverly fights a man, no really, Tomas Man.

There's been a lot of hype about how talented Reid is, he's being talked about as one of the most talented fighters to have come out of West Ham ABC in recent years, and that really is something to live up to considering the class of boxer that legendary club produces.

Cleverly is clearly just trying to shed the rust having been out of the ring for six months since his lacklustre effort against Tony Bellew. He's dropped back down to light-heavy, which is a sensible idea, but it remains to be seen what he can achieve in the future. No-one is expecting much from Man, who has a 13-8-1 record, mainly through fighting someone called Roman Vanicky every other month.