By: Ste Rowen
The final Cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series Quarterfinal between current IBF Champion, Murat Gassiev and former IBF & WBC World titlist, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk takes place this Saturday at the Prudential Center, New Jersey.
Despite the draft gala, whereby seeded fighters can choose their opponent, this bout was pre-determined as Wlodarczyk is the mandatory for Gassiev’s IBF belt.
The newly crowned IBF Champion, Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev (24-0-0 17KOs) has had a sharp rise since his first fight in the US back in January 2015. He began working with renowned trainer Abel Sanchez in 2014, and he was kept busy as the Russian notched up three straight victories including, a scrappy but dominant affair with journeyman Terrance Smith, where Smith forced the referee into stopping the bout due to excessive holding. Then Gassiev scored stoppages over former fringe contender Felix Cora Jr in the ninth, and a second-round dismantling of Rodney Moore. His most notable fight of 2015 though came in a matchup with the then unbeaten, Isiah Thomas, when at the end of the third, Gassiev fired off two big right hands, one after the bell, and Thomas was deemed by the doctor unable to continue and the fight was called a No Contest.
Murat bounced back in devastating fashion almost five months later when he really lived up to his alias, landing an unbelievable left from the waist onto the chin of 21-0-0 at the time, Jordan Shimmell. It set up Gassiev’s biggest, and toughest fight of his career so far against fellow Russian, WBA & IBF Champion, Denis Lebedev. A combination of Lebedev’s chin and Gassiev’s power meant this bout was unlikely to disappoint. A close back and forth shootout throughout but a fifth-round knockdown via a perfect left hook body shot from Gassiev, as well as constant pressure from ‘Iron’ made the different as Murat was crowned the Cruiserweight Champion.
For some strange, incomprehensible reason that only the WBA could conjure up, Lebedev was allowed to keep hold of his WBA belt but of course, Gassiev didn’t leave empty handed from such a gruelling win. And so, the IBF strap will be on the line this weekend.
Krzysztof ‘Diablo’ Wlodarczyk (53-3-1 37Kos) is no stranger to the IBF belt now held by his Russian foe. The veteran Pole won it back in 2006 when he defeated, then unbeaten, Steve Cunningham via a debated Split Decision. He lost it however in the immediate rematch six months later. This time ‘Diablo’ was comprehensively beaten. Not for the want of trying by judge Robert Gibson though who, despite Wlodarczyk taking a ten count in round four and the other two scorecards being 112-116, 112-115, Gibson scored it a draw.
He bounced back quickly though. In the space of almost six months Wlodarczyk scored four straight wins, earning a shot at then WBC Cruiserweight World Champion, Giacobbe Fragomeni. The bout ended in a draw despite Krzysztof scoring a knockdown in the ninth, but the Pole got a second chance almost a year to the day later. ‘Diablo’ left no doubt in the rematch as he scored a TKO in round eight and became a two-time World Champion. His reign lasted for over four years and six defences until he came up against another Russian, in the form of Grigory ‘Pretty Boy’ Drozd. He was soundly beaten and down heavily on all scorecards, in a fight that included Wlodarczyk taking a knee in the eighth. Since then he’s fought and won four times against fringe contenders and earnt his path into the tournament and the chance to become a three-time World Champion.
It seems almost lazy to compare Gassiev with his gym mate, Gennady Golovkin but there are clear similarities between the two, and not just that they both train at Big Bear. He’s got a come forward, seek and destroy attitude added with his ability to cut off the ring expertly.
There’s fearsome power and accuracy in his left hand, and proved in the Lebedev fight that his chin isn’t in doubt.
For Wlodarczyk, this will be his 58th fight and 11th world title fight. He too has shown great power throughout his accomplished career. Though an over reliance in his left hand has allowed his chin to come into question more than a few times. None of the unseeded fighters in either the Cruiserweight or the Super Middleweight draw have won so far, it’s a bad omen for Krzysztof.
The winner will meet Yunier Dorticos in the semi-final of a tournament that continues to deliver.