Usyk Opens as 3-1 Favorite to Defeat Murat Gassiev in WBSS Final
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.
Conor McGregor May Play Possum against Floyd Mayweather; So What?
Conor McGregor May Play Possum against Floyd Mayweather; So What?
By Ivan G. Goldman
When he accepted a fight against the UFC’s Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather in one brilliant stroke secured a magic 50-0 record, revitalized his celebrity status, and concluded a deal that will earn him lots and lots of millions, maybe even more millions than when he vanquished one-armed out-slicked Manny Pacquiao two years ago in the largest grossing boxing match ever. And he accomplishes all this with little risk to his health or reputation.
Given these facts, Floyd is a man who clearly doesn’t need much in the way of advice. Still, if I were advising Floyd I’d emphasize one simple idea: don’t fall for any tricks. Because as the referee will instruct you, you must protect yourself at all times.
Playing possum would be a corny move on McGregor’s part, but let’s face it, this is a corny spectacle. A guy with no chance boxing a boxing genius. No octagon, no kicking, no limb-bending, and no wrestling beyond what transpires in a boxing clinch. This will be like a human trying to outrun a racehorse.
Yet plenty of folks will root for and talk themselves into expecting a Rocky kind of ending, where, damn the odds, the no-chance underdog comes from behind with a massive punch to trample odds into dust. Some of them have already put their money on it, which explains why the line, the last I checked, was only -650 Mayweather, +425 McGregor. McGregor bettors are risking $100 against a profit of only $425, which is like putting $100 on a hunch that the Earth is flat. It ought to pay better.
But so far at least, MMA zealots are keeping the line respectable by moving money to the crazy side of the gamble. Although it’s also true a 40-year-old who hasn’t competed in more than two years will be facing an active 29-year-old.
Expect to see a flustered Irishman being peppered minute by minute by a master and unable to do a thing about it. Notice I say peppered, not hammered. Floyd doesn’t, as a rule, hammer opponents. But he usually destroys them. He accomplishes this with speed and boxing science and above all, defense. Really good boxers have trouble landing clean shots against Floyd, and a non-boxer will find it impossible.
I know there’s an element of boxing in MMA, but the fighters employ it under such different circumstances that it’s not boxing. It only looks that way. This, by the way, is not intended to disparage mixed martial arts fighters. They’re tough guys in a tough sport, and if Mayweather-McGregor transpired under MMA rules Floyd would have only the barest of chances.
If in the course of time McGregor looks like a wobbly beaten fighter who can’t take one more punch, Floyd should assume he’s faking and proceed with caution. But of course he’s been doing that for most of his career. When’s the last time you saw him go in for the kill? For that matter, when’s the last time you felt after watching one of his bouts, “Man, that was some fight!”?
He’s created his great career by patiently taking his opponents apart and then continuing to take them apart in a round-after-round beat-down that morphs into an unspoken deal between the two fighters: They both get to finish on their feet as long as no one tries to get cute.
Fans apparently flock to Mayweather fights hoping someone will shut his big mouth, but the fact is, he’s great at what he does and also is in fact tough. We’ve seen him hurt from time to time, and he doesn’t panic, doesn’t go down. He fights back and prevails.
There have already been several matches between fighters from different sections of the combat spectrum. They tend to be either boring, not memorable or both.
In 1976 Muhammad Ali took on Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, who practiced an early variant of mixed martial arts. For most of the fight, conducted under a smorgasbord of rules, Inoki lay on his back like an upside down water bug, kicking at Ali’s legs. A draw after fifteen tedious rounds. Fans threw trash into the ring, and everyone who paid to see it got screwed.
Seven years ago aging master boxer James Toney, in need of a paycheck, took on MMA fighter Randy Couture in a cage. Toney was taken to the ground early and tapped out after 3 minutes, 19 seconds. Everyone who paid to see it got screwed.
Hardcore boxing fans know what to expect August 26 at the MGM Grand, a relatively small venue favored by Floyd. They foresee a huge buildup bursting with pizzazz followed by not much of a fight. But they may well be outnumbered by MMA fans and casual onlookers who don’t know much about either sport.
A boxing trainer friend of mine, Anthony Huizar, who operates out of Carson, California, is plugged into the ticket maze and expects to come up with a seat. He’s “going for the spectacle,” he told me.
Most tickets will likely be scalped through middlemen by the two fight camps and whatever prices are printed on them will be only a fraction of what fans actually pay, unless they’re super-high rollers, who don’t generally have to pay for anything in Las Vegas.
The sportsbooks’ over/under line is telling. It’s set at nine and ½ rounds, and the under is favored by -180. Bettors expect someone to get stopped, which would have to be precipitated by serious action. Hope springs eternal.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available from Permanent Press and wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.