By Eric Lunger
Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs) knocked out Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-4-1, 37 KOs) last Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, and in doing so he may have positioned himself not only to unify the belts in the Cruiserweight division, but also to take part in a potential fight of the year in January against Cuban slugger Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs).
With a successful show in Newark, the cruiserweight division is taking up column space in boxing blogs, and rightly so. While cruiserweight is often seen by American fans as a stopping point on the way to heavyweight, the World Boxing Super Series tournament has highlighted the elite-level talent at the 200-pound limit. WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk has dazzling footwork, hand speed, and the mesmerizing angles of the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team – yes, the coach of that team was Anatoly Lomachenko, Vasyl’s father. Murat Gassiev gets better each fight, with a savvy coach in Abel Sanchez and a training partner named Gennady GGG Golovkin. Mairis Briedis is a tight, technical boxer out of the eastern European mold and currently holds the WBC belt. Yunier Dorticos brings the traditional slick boxing of the Cuban school, combined with fearsome KO potential lurking beneath every combination. And the winner of the tournament will unify the IBF, WBC, and WBO titles, as well as raise the newly inaugurated Muhammad Ali Trophy.
I had a chance to chat with some of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) production team after the bout, and they were ecstatic. Ecstatic about the knockout, ecstatic about the energy in the arena, and they were ecstatic about the prospect of Gassiev taking on Dorticos as the semi-final (not even the final!) of the tournament.
Abel Sanchez, Murat’s coach, characterized the upcoming bout this way: “Dorticos has proven that he is a heavy puncher, Murat is too. It is a fight, I think, between the best two punchers in the tournament. It’s the way it should be — the best fighting the best, and this tournament his given us that.”
There are many reasons to be excited about this fight. It has fight of the year (FOTY) potential, knock out power from both guys, Big Bear Lake via Russia, Miami via the Cuban system. And Gassiev vs. Dorticos is a genuine 50-50 fight. If your friend tells you that he knows who is going to win that fight, sorry – your friend is lying or a fool. “It is probably the best match up in the sport right now, pound for pound and punch for punch,” said Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer.
Venues and dates for the Semifinals have not yet been announced, but look to January of 2018 for more action in the cruiserweight division.