Former IBF featherweight titleholder Billy “The Kid” Dib announced his retirement in the ring on Friday night following a unanimous decision loss to Tevin Farmer in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. It was Dib’s third attempt to win back a world title following his shock loss to the then unheralded Evgeny Gradovich in 2013 and ends a controversial, historic but successful 14-year career for the Australian.
Dib turned professional in 2004 after a stint training in Sheffield with Prince Naseed Hamed. Dib, who won the 2003 Australian amateur championships at the age of 18, reportedly travelled to train with Hamed after an injury suffered in a motor cycle accident stopped his chances of competing for a birth at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and he would make his debut on the undercard of the world title eliminator between Paul Briggs and Stipe Drews.
After winning his first thirteen professional contests, Dib was signed by Golden Boy and fought his next five bouts in the United States, including an untelevised appearance on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather vs Oscar De La Hoya superfight. A decision win on the Shane Mosley-Miguel Cotto undercard over tough Tanzanian Rogers Mtagwa, who was involved in a fight of the year contender with Juan Manuel Lopez in 2009, moved Dib up the world rankings towards WBO featherweight titleholder Steve Luevano.
Instead Dib first went after the lightly regarded IBO world title, winning a highly controversial decision over South African Zolani Marali. Dib was knocked down in the third round and the Australian crowd booed the unanimous decision in his favour at the end of the contest. The IBO reviewed the scoring of the contest and ordered a rematch. Dib instead vacated the title and then took on WBO champion Luevano. The bout took place on the televised undercard of the Bernard Hopkins vs Kelly Pavlik bout and despite some early success, Dib was outworked and outpointed by the Californian.
Dib bounced back with a hard-fought decision over Davey Browne Jnr the following year. Dib’s next fight against undefeated Japanese boxer Kenichi Yamaguchi headlined a card from Sydney’s Luna Park that would be the first card televised on free to air television in Australia since the 1980s. The bout ended controversially as Dib, who was knocked down early in the fight, struck Yamaguchi after he had slipped. The contest was stopped and scenes in the ring looked like they would turn ugly after a shoving match between first Yamaguchi and referee Les Fear started, and then Dib and Yamaguchi before both men’s corners briefly became involved. The fight was ruled a no contest.
Despite a run of controversial results Dib returned to his winning ways, scoring nine-straight wins, eight by knockout, which moved up to the top of the IBF world featherweight rankings. After Yuriorkis Gamboa was stripped of his IBF featherweight title for skipping a mandatory second weigh-in, Dib would fight long time contender Jorge Lacierva for the vacant title, winning the title a wide unanimous decision.
The new champion made two successful defences in Australia, a first-round knockout over undefeated Italian fighter Alberto Servidei and a sixth-round stoppage over Mexico’s Eduardo Escobedo, which was part of a rare world title double header in Australia with Daniel Geale also making the second defence of his IBF middleweight title that night. During his title reign Dib also signed a promotional contract with rapper 50 Cent, who would walk Dib out to the ring for his next title defence against Gradovich. Gradovich, who took the fight on less than two weeks notice, shocked the Australian with his relentless aggression and seized the title with a split decision victory. He also won the rematch in Macao eight months later by ninth-round technical knockout.
Dib returned in 2014, moving to the junior lightweight division where he scored three wins, earning him a shot against the hard-punching WBA titleholder Takashi Miura. The bout was broadcast on free to air television, the first time a world title fight was broadcast live in Australia in 25 years. Despite starting the contest well, circling the heavy-handed southpaw and scoring with his faster hands in the first two rounds before being caught in the neutral corner midway through the third round and dropped by a pulverising left hand. Dib beat the count but was on unsteady legs when the contest was waved off.
Following the passing of his wife Sara to leukaemia four months later, Dib would remain out of the ring until 2016. He scored three wins in smaller shows throughout 2016 before returning to the USA where an unfortunate accidental head clash ended his contest with Yardley Cruz early and it was ruled a no contest. Dib began training with Australia’s three-time world champion Jeff Fenech for a final run at a world title. His last victory prior to Friday night’s fight was over Phum Kunmat on a smaller show in Sydney’s inner west.
When Philadelphia’s Tevin Farmer controversially came up short against Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa in December, he was reinstated the number one contender after Ogawa failed a post-fight drug test. The IBF ordered a purse bid for a fight between Farmer and Dib for their vacant title, however an agreement was reached allowing Dib to fight for a world title in his hometown against the skilled American setting up a fairy tale ending for Dib’s career.
Apart from the overturned loss to Ogawa, Farmer was undefeated since the days of Dib’s IBF featherweight title reign, scoring 18 wins since an eighth-round stoppage loss to Jose Pedraza. With a grudge fight looming against WBA titlist and former IBF champion Gervonta Davis, Farmer was here for the title and he boxed brilliantly. Dib was game and tried to rough Farmer up but ultimately had no answer for Farmer’s speed and defence. A ninth-round knockdown sealed the deal and despite a rally in the later rounds from Dib, Farmer would return to Philadelphia with the IBF title and big fights looming.
While falling short in his final bout Dib has had a remarkable career for an Australian boxer. While he didn’t unify world titles like Kostya Tszyu, Daniel Geale or Vic Darchinyan or compete in matches that captured the Australian public’s imagination like Anthony Mundine or Danny Green or score famous victories like Jeff Horn’s victory over Manny Pacquiao, there aren’t any Australian boxers who have fought for world titles in four different countries, headlined two fights that were televised live on free to air television in Australia and fought bouts on a number of the biggest fight cards in the world.