by: Eric Lunger
The Cruiserweight division of the World Boxing Super Series comes to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday night as two-time world titlist and IBF top-ranked challenger Krzysztof “Diablo” Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs) of Poland takes on hard-hitting IBF Champion Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs) of Russia.
Wlodarczyk, 36, fights out of Piaseczno, Poland (a suburb of Warsaw). At six-feet-one with an orthodox stance, Wlodarczyk is a straight-ahead pressure fighter, who likes to walk down his opponent with a strong jab. Wlodarczyk won the vacant IBF World Cruiserweight title in 2006, defeating American Steve Cunningham in a close split decision, but then lost the belt to Cunningham eight months later on another close set of cards. Both of those bouts took place in Poland. Wlodarczyk has fought twice in the US, both times in Chicago. At UIC Pavilion, Wlodarczyk defeated Giacobbe Fragomeni in 2013 to capture the WBC World Cruiserweight title. He surrendered that belt to Grigory Drozd in Moscow in a 12-round decision, in September of 2014.
Reached for comment while training in Poland, Wlodarczyk told boxinginsider.com (via translation by his manager) that he was excited to fight in Newark and the NYC metro area, “where I have many friends.” Wlodarczyk sees the age difference between him and Gassiev as a “coin with two sides. Murat is the youngest and I am the oldest, [but] I am the most experienced boxer in the tournament.” Asked how he planned to deal with Gassiev’s power and his high guard, Wlodarczyk was cagey, merely remarking that “my defense is usually quite good, and I hope this time will be the same.”
Having a chance, at this stage in his career, to fight in such an important tournament, with three belts and the Muhammad Ali trophy at stake, is a great honor for the Polish veteran. “It is a great pleasure, and big prestige. I am very excited.” Asked if he had a message for American boxing fans in Newark, Krzysztof replied: “I just hope they enjoy the show; I really have been training very hard last twelve weeks and I will do my best.”
The other three semi-finalists in the tournament are set, as Ukrainian WBO Champion Oleksandr Usyk stopped veteran Marco Huck in ten rounds, WBC Champion Mairis Briedis defeated Mike Perez of Cuba, and WBA Champion Yunier Dorticos knocked out Russian Dmitry Kudryashov. The winner of Wlodarczyk vs. Gassiev earns a showdown with Dorticos early next year.