THE story of Billy Dib is one of remarkable longevity and unrivaled determination.
Ten years ago, an undefeated Dib unsuccessfully challenged Steve Luevano for his version of a featherweight world championship at the famed Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins’ signature win over undefeated and lineal middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.
On that particular evening, the fresh-faced Australian was unanimously outscored in what many experts believed was his first and only shot at the big stage.
But true to his word, Dib worked his way back into title contention, reinventing himself under regarded tactician Billy Hussein, forging a successful seven-year relationship.
Eight world title fights later, including a fruitful three-year reign as the IBF featherweight ruler, a now 32-year-old Dib has worked his way back to the summit, but in slightly different circumstances.
This time around, the narrative surrounding his title run may be unique, but the importance of his assumed final attempt at world level honours remains the same as Dib faces the heavily-favoured American Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KOs) on Friday night at Redfern’s Technology Park.
“I didn’t know if I could ever get back to a world title fight,” said Dib in an interview with Aus-Boxing.
“To be quite honest, after the loss to Takashi Miura and when Sara (Dib’s former wife) passed away, there was so much going on in my life. I just felt the need to just back into the ring.”
“I realised then that if I could remain undefeated and work hard, I might just work my way back into a world title shot. Before you know it, I was ranked number five in the world and the next thing you know, Gervonta Davis loses the title on the scale,”
“There were some openings and then I realised I was back in a good position.”
Now under the guidance of the greatest ever talent produced on these shores, Jeff Fenech, Dib (43-4, 24 KOs) believes that the stars have aligned ahead of his return to the big stage.
“I feel good right now; I’ve been working extremely hard with Jeff,” he added.
“I’m in a really happy place in my life at the moment, I’m blessed to be back in this position. To be fighting my tenth world title fight is really quite a blessing,”
“I’m just looking forward to going out there now and show the world what I’ve been working so hard to do. I feel I have remained under the radar and purposely stayed out of the limelight and tried to stay focused on what I’m doing.”
“Jeff Fenech has been massive for me. Not just for my boxing but in my personal life as well.”
The pair spent several weeks abroad, favouring a low-key training camp alongside undefeated prospect Brock Jarvis in the familiar surroundings of Thailand, where Fenech regularly travels with his 20-year-old protege, often merging preparation and a fight into one trip.
As Dib admits, the partnership the two have formed has him primed to shock the world, again.
“Since I’ve linked up with Jeff back in November, we have just worked really hard,” he explained.
“We’ve been to Thailand four times now, I’ve have had some really good sparring over there. I’m in fantastic shape; mentally I’m in a really good place. I have some special people in my life,”
“With the help of Jeff Fenech, I really believe I will be able to go out there and put on a performance that nobody thought I could. I want people to understand, no matter how hard you get hit or how hard you fall down. You have got to get back up,”
“I hope this serves as a great lesson for family and the fans and more importantly for my family. I want my nieces and nephews to know – that nothing in life comes easy – and that they know that their uncle preserved and worked really hard to get to this point.”
With his promotional team working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the world title fight eventuated in Sydney, Dib made a point to remind the unaware of his perfect record on home soil.
“It’s massive that it’s happening in here in Australia,” he concluded.
“What people don’t realise is that I’m undefeated at home. I’ve only ever lost on the road. To win on the road is hard, it’s not easy. That’s the thing that Farmer is facing, he’s had a long and tiring flight,”
“I’m blessed this fight is here in Australia and it’s a great thing for the Australian fans.”
“People think I’m finished, but I know within my heart I’m not. I have been sparring some really world-class fighters and been able to hold my own. I feel Tevin Farmer is taking me a little too lightly, but that’s okay,”
“I can say that if he doesn’t turn up one hundred percent ready – and he makes one mistake – I’m going to capitalize on it and I’m going to make sure of it.”