By: Bryant Romero
The stage is set for the Crusierweight final of the Word Boxing Super Series. Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) of Ukraine will take on Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) of Russia for all the marbles of the cruiserweight division in an unusual location for a prize fight in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 11. Perhaps a change in location could be in the cards since its being reported that Russia is pushing hard to land the cruiserweight final. Though it would be fair to both finalists to fight on neutral soil, especially since Usyk has already had to fight on hostile territory on two occasions in this tournament.
The 31-year-old Usyk has opened as high as a 3-1 favorite to defeat Gassiev , according to the 5dimes sportsbook. Usyk is coming off a hard fought battle against Latavia’s Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18 KOs) in a good scrap between two undefeated champions. Usyk was legitimately tested for the first time in his so far brief pro career. The Ukrainian however, was able to separate himself though as the rounds progressed, showing a superior workrate, and consistently outboxing Briedis while coming forward. It was the most competitive fight of Usyk’s pro career, but he was the rightful and clear winner earning a majority decision on the scorecards.
It’s only early February but Gassiev on the other hand was already in a fight of the year candidate with Yunier Dorticos (22-1, 21 KOs) of Cuba. In an anticipated matchup between explosive punchers, it sure lived up to the hype as Gassiev and Dorticos produced a dramatic battle at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Alder, Russia. Dorticos started fast giving Gassiev problems with his range, long jab, and workrate. The 24-year-old Gassiev however, was able to turn the fight around after a slow start and slowly but surely started to pick apart the shaky defense of the 31-year-old Cuban. Gassiev would score 3 knockdowns in the 12th and final round forcing a stoppage and sealing the victory, while unifying the IBF and WBA titles in the process.
Gassiev seems very mature beyond his 24 years of age but he will have an uphill battle with Usyk who brings in a very extensive amateur background, pedigree, and a much different boxing style compared to Gassiev’s last two opponents. Usyk’s boxing style has given him the comparisons of being a cruiserweight Lomachenko and he should be the favorite coming into this bout. However, the confidence Gassiev will bring into the fight after unifying two titles and under the guidance of his coach Abel Sanchez who also trains Gennady Golovkin, we could be in for a dramatic battle of this cruiserweight final. May the best man win.