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.
WBSS Results: Gassiev Knocks Out Dorticos in Final Round of Slugfest
By: Ste Rowen
In Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev has knocked out WBA champion, Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos in the 12th round of an almost certain ‘Fight of the Year’, if not ‘Fight of the Decade’ contender.
The Cuban had the better start of the two fighters, making his reach advantage count. His 1-2’s keeping Gassiev at bay but for the spurts of counter combinations from ‘Iron’. It’s testament to Yunier’s chin that it took until the 5th round for ‘The KO Doctor’ to show any signs of weakness when Murat landed and Dorticos legs seemed to wobble ever so slightly.
He recovered well enough until the championships rounds when he really began to labour. The piston like jab and 1-2’s were gone and Gassiev began to overwhelm. In the 11th, the Russian landed cleanly again forcing Dorticos to clinch enough to bizarrely end up bending the IBF champ over the ropes.
Dorticos entered the final round in survival mode, but there was nowhere to hide. The first knockdown came from a wonderful left hook from the hip of Murat; the second from a more wild left hook, and the finisher came as the two fighters almost did a lap of the ring before Yunier backed up too far, took a huge right, then a left and found himself halfway through the ropes and looking up at the referee waving off the bout.
Post-fight the second unified cruiserweight champion in a week, Gassiev said,
‘I want to thank all Russian fans who come today to watch me. Thank you, all fans in the world who support me. Thank you Dorticos, he’s a really hard hitter. Good luck for his professional career. This is cruiserweight division and all around you, you have pressure … I don’t feel I finished him, he takes big punches and continued fighting.’
On the prospect of fighting Usyk, Murat kept it short and sweet,
‘First of all, congratulations. I hope in final we do good fight for all boxing fans.’
Usyk joined the winner in the ring and spoke via translator,
‘I want to congratulate Murat on his victory. I expect spectacular and beautiful fight.’
‘The KO Doctor’ didn’t speak in the ring afterwards but in the post-fight press conference he was consoled by his opponent as he began to cry. Via translator he said,
‘I’m sad … I feel like I’ve disappointed a lot of people; people in Miami, people in Cuba, a lot of people here today. I gave the best of me. He’s a strong fighter. I would like for him to give me a rematch.’
This week, the WBA upgraded Dorticos title from ‘Regular’ to ‘Super’ champion now meaning, for the first time, all four world titles will be on the line when IBF & newly crowned WBA champion, Murat Gassiev takes on WBO & WBC champion, Oleksandr Usyk in the final in May.
Briedis and Usyk brought the best out of each other, as did tonight’s semi-finalists. Surely there can be no doubt that Usyk v Gassiev will be yet another brutal but beautiful encounter.
On the undercard Fedor Chudinov notched up his third win in a row since being stopped by George Groves back in May last year. He forced a 7th round stoppage of Finnish, Timo Laine to move to 17-2 (12KOs).
The Finn seemed game enough from the start but Fedor was unmoved by his opponent’s occasional spurts of activity. The Russian dominated through the rounds, forcing 21-9 Laine onto the backfoot with bruising hooks to the body and head. Into round 7, Laine’s corner told him it was now or never. The Finn responded with a positive start to the round before Chudinov soaked it up and fired back with the accuracy he’d shown in the past six rounds. Just before the 8th, despite protest from their man, Laine’s corner pulled their fighter out and Fedor was claimed the victor. Tonight’s victory adds to a 2nd round stoppage of Jonathan Geronimo Barbadillo in July, and a routine 12-round decision win over then unbeaten, Ryan Ford in September.
Maksim Vlasov scored a 10th round TKO of Olanrewaju Durodola. He started on top and continued that way through the schedule 12-round fight. The man who conquered WBSS quarter finalist, Dmitry Kudryashov back in 2015 struggled to set himself and Vlasov’s pressure and combination punching proved to be too much as Durodola didn’t come out for the 11th round. Vlasov now moves to 42-2 (25KOs).
WBSS Preview: Murat Gassiev v Yunier Dorticos
By: Ste Rowen
As the dust settles in Riga, following the unification clash between Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis, which saw Usyk take control of both the WBO and WBC titles. The hype is just getting going in Sochi for the second cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series semi-final, as Murat ‘Iron’ Gassiev faces off against Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos.
It’s a battle of the powerhouses with Russian, Gassiev’s record currently standing at 25-0 (18KOs), as opposed to his Cuban opposition’s 22-0 (21KOs).
Both fighters scored very different but equally as brutal knockouts in the quarter finals. Murat cut former world champion, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in half to win a 3rd round stoppage in Newark. Dominating the early rounds before landing a left-hand finisher to the body which kept Krzysztof down long after the 10-count was up.
Just less than a month earlier, Dorticos made light work of heavy hitting Russian, Dmitry Kudryashov. He knocked out the, 21-1 (21KOs) at-the-time fighter in the second round by making him miss, then making him pay; dodging a left hook before firing off a right hand that sent the Russian’s eyes rolling into Christmas.
Speaking at a joint press conference immediately after Gassiev’s win over Wlodarczyk back in October, Dorticos was in a very confident mood,
‘I don’t really see anything that necessarily stands out. He’s defeating competition that is older than him. He fought a guy who has terrific history but at the end of the day his opponent tonight was old. Now he’s gonna fight someone that is similar to him.
Take a good vacation but I’m gonna prepare the right dosage for you of ibuprofen and anaesthesia for the next fight so the pain is less.’
Murat left his trainer, Abel Sanchez to give an assessment on his next opponent,
‘I think both guys have to be confident going into this fight. 25 guys now have tried with Murat and 25 guys have failed so I don’t see anything in Dorticos that is gonna pose problems. Yes, he can punch but so can Murat, let’s see who can take them.’
The 12,000-seat capacity Bolshoy Ice Dome will be the venue on Saturday. It’s the first time the stadium will hold a boxing event since it opened back in 2012.
Warmer climates await however for the winner, as the final will take place in Saudi Arabia in around four months time. Date and venue yet to be confirmed.
WBSS: Semi-Final Locations Announced for Gassiev vs. Dorticos
By: Ste Rowen
The clash of the KO kings of the cruiserweight division will land in Sochi on February 3rd.
IBF champion, Murat Gassiev will face WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Yunier Dorticos for a place in the cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series final. A final signed to take place in Saudi Arabia around May next year.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series
It will be Murat’s first fight in Russia since he beat Denis Lebedev to win the IBF belt in December 2016 at Khodynka Ice Palace, Moscow. His one and only defence of the belt he won that night was his quarter final body-shot KO of Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in Newark two months ago.
Along with his fight of the year contender with Youri Kalenga in Paris, this will be Dorticos’ only second fight outside of the US. The Cuban impressively knocked out quarter final opponent, and Russian Dmitry Kudryashov in California to reach the semi-finals.
The two fighters have accumulated thirty-eight knockouts in forty-seven fights between them, as Gassiev’s record stands at 25-0-0 (18KOs) and Dorticos’ to date, 21-0-0 (20KOs).
After the announcement the Russian said,
‘The location for the semi-final was not important for me but the fact that it will be in Russia and the beautiful city of Sochi makes me very glad…Dorticos is a very good, dangerous fighter. It is going to be great test of my skills against an opponent like him.’
‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos said,
‘No matter where I fight I will work hard to take my opponent out… I can’t wait to show Gassiev and the fans in Russia what ‘The KO Doctor’ is about.
The second semi-final between WBO champion, Oleksandr Usyk and WBC champion Mairis Briedis will take place in Briedis’ home town and quarter-final location, Riga, Latvia on 28th January.
Briedis, 23-0-0 (18KOs) eased to a unanimous points decision victory, in a particularly-difficult-watch quarter-final against Cuban, Mike Perez.
13-0-0 (11KOs) Usyk dominated Marco Huck in his quarter-final before stopping the German in the tenth round. It will be Usyk’s fifth fight on the road since he stopped Pedro Rodriguez in the seventh round at the Palace of Sports, Kiev back in December 2015.
Gassiev Wins by Knockout over Wlodarczyk in Newark
By: Ken Hissner
At the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Sauerland Event and Ringstar Sports (Richard Schaefer) brought a world championship to the city Saturday night. This was part of the World Boxing Super Series.
In the Main Event IBF World Cruiserweight champion Murat “Iron” Gassiev, 25-0 (18), of Vladikavkaz, RUS/Big Bear, CA, knocked out former WBC & IBF champion Krzysztof “Diablo” Wlodarczyk, 53-4-1 (37), of Piaseczno, POL, at 1:57 of the third round.
In the opening round Gassiev came forward with a jab while Wlodarczyk rarely threw a punch. In the second round it was more of the same with Gassiev landing more punches. In the third round a pair of left hooks to the chin and then the body from Gassiev and down went Wlodarczyk as referee Earl Brown counted him out. The fans were not happy with the loser’s performance.
Super welterweight Maciej Sulecki, 26-0 (10), of Warsaw, POL, defeated former WBA World super welterweight champion ECU “Golden” Jack Culcay 22-3 (11), of Darmstadt, GER, over 10 close rounds in a WBC eliminator match. The fans were not happy with the decision.
In the first round the much taller Sulecki used his reach keeping Culcay at bay. In the second round it was Culcay forcing the action getting inside of the reach of Sulecki. An overhand right from Culcay to the chin of Sulecki drove him into the ropes just prior to the bell. In the third round both fighters took turns scoring well up until near the end of the round when a Culcay left hook rocked Sulecki.
In the fourth round both fighters mixed it up well with Culcay suffering a cut by his left eye from a chopping right hand. In the fifth round Sulecki controlled using his reach and an occasional right to the body of Culcay. Culcay centered in on body shots landing a solid right to the chin of Sulecki near the end of the round. In the sixth round it was all Sulecki using his jab and straight rights to the chin of Culcay who seemed to be taking the round off.
In the seventh round Culcay came storming out driving Sulecki across the ring into the ropes. This finally getting the fans into the fight. Culcay with hands to his side was trying to get Sulecki to open up which he did. In the eighth round Culcay kept coming forward while Sulecki countered him well to win the round.
In the ninth round Culcay forced the action but Sulecki controlled with his counter punching. In the middle of the round Culcay rallied getting inside of Sulecki’s reach. Near the end of the round Sulecki went down but referee Fields ruled it a slip. Culcay kept up the attack until the round ended. In the tenth and final round a lead right by Sulecki on the chin of Culcay drove him back several steps. Fields ruled Culcay forcing him down by the back of the head twice to the canvas but referee Culcay was looking to end it with a knockout and had Sulecki in trouble at the bell.
Judges Paige scored 98-92, Wallace 97-93 and Kenney 96-94. This writer had it 95-95.
Cruiserweight Mateusz Masternak, 40-4 (27), of Wroclaw, POL, won a lopsided stoppage over Stivens Bujaj, 16-2-1 (11), Albania/NY, at the end of the seventh round by the order of the ring physician.
In the first two rounds Masternak controlled what little action there was keeping the shorter Bujaj from getting inside. In the third round Masternak was trying his best to land chopping rights on the head of Bujaj who kept ducking low with little offense on his part. In the fourth round Masternak delivered a 3-punch combination to the head of Bujaj who seemed frustrated and not doing much of anything.
In the fifth and sixth rounds Masternak landed occasional chopping rights to the top of the ever ducking Bujaj throughout the round. In the seventh round a chopping right to the side of he head of Bujaj dropped him. He was up on unsteady legs and didn’t seem to be interested in continue up until the bell. The ring physician was brought in and stopped the match.
Welterweight Elmantas Stanionis, 4-0 (3), of Lithuania/Oxnard, CA,
Super welterweight Skender Halili, 15-2 (13), of Kosovo/Ft. Worth, TX, easily defeated Samuel Amoako, 23-16 (17) GH/Silver Spring, MD, over 6 rounds. Harvey Dock was the referee.
In the second round Halili was landing lead rights to the head of Amoako knocking him back several steps. Halili had Amoako pinned in a neutral corner when the round ended. In the third round Halili landed half a dozen unanswered punches. Amoako was completely on the defense.
In the fourth and fifth rounds Halili continued to pound to the body and head with Amoako looking to go the distance. In the sixth and final round Halili kept up the pressure but Amoako had a good chin.
All 3 judges Barnes, Layton and Taylor and this writer had it 60-54.
Super welterweight Money Powell IV, 5-0 (3), of GER/Ft. Mitchell, AL, came off the canvas in the first round to dominate southpaw Brandon Adams, 4-5-1 (2), Oakland, CA, the rest of the way winning in 6 rounds.
In the first round Adams dropped Powell with a straight left to the chin. Powell got up and took it to Adams with straight rights to the mid-section and head. In the second and third rounds Powell kept a steady jab and right to the head of Adams.
In the fourth round Powell landed a solid right to the chin of Adams spinning him completely around the landed a flurry of punches until Adams clinched. In the fifth round Adams came out throwing punches making Powell back up. Halfway through the round Powell once again took over landing straight rights to the chin of Adams. In the sixth and final round Powell countered Adams with lead rights to the chin right up until the round ended. Alan Huggins was the referee.
Judges scores were Barnes 59-55, Layton 59-56 and Taylor 58-55. This writer had it 58-55.
Heavyweight Efe Ajagba, 2-0 (2), of NIG/Houston, TX, stopped Luke Lyons, 5-1 (2), of Ashland, KY, at 2:19 of the first round.
In the first round the much taller Ajagba pounded on Lyons for half a round, before a left hook to the body dropped Lyons. Ajagba jumped on Lyons as he arose and pounded him with a flurry of punches until he went down a second time. Upon rising referee Dock wisely halted the match.
WBSS Preview: Murat Gassiev v Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
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.
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk Looks to Upset Murat Gassiev in Newark as WBSS Cruiserweight Tournament Hits the Prudential Center
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.
The World Boxing Super Series Begins
The World Boxing Super Series Begins
By: Matthew N. Becher
Over the past weekend, the newly created World Boxing Super Series held its very first draft, for its very first tournament. The premise of the new tournament is an open competition for any professional boxer that is ranked in the top 15 of the major sanctioning bodies systems.
In theory the best fighters would face off against one another, until the last man was standing, thus making him the #1 boxer in that weight class. Simple. That is the easy part, the hard part is getting the best fighters to all participate in such a tournament, with everyone having different promoters and so forth. Fortunately, it seems to have worked out for the initial Cruiserweight Tournament.
The seeding of the tournament went as follows. The top 4 fighters were ranked 1-4 by the WBSS, with the four belt holders getting the top rankings.
1: Oleksander Usyk (WBO)
2: Murat Gassiev (IBF)
3: Mairis Briedis (WBC)
4: Yunier Dorticos (WBA)
Then from 1-4, the fighter was allowed to pick or draft his opponent from a group of 4 boxers, for their first round fight. (An exception was made for Gassiev, who had a mandatory against Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. That fight was picked for him)
The first round of the tournament looks like this.
Oleksander Usyk (12-0 10KO) v. Marco Huck (40-4-1 27KO)
Murat Gassiev (24-0 17KO) v. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1 37KO)
Mairis Briedis (22-0 18KO) v. Mike Perez (22-2-1 14KO)
Yunier Dorticos (21-0 20KO) v. Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1 21KO)
Literally the best of the best in the Cruiserweight division will be competing against each other, until one is standing with all the belts, the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy and possibly a $1 million dollar bonus for advancing though semifinals and the championship round.
The tournament is slated to begin in early September and rap up by Mary of next year. The location of the fights have yet to be determined and will be placed in locations that match up well for each fight.
“To unify a division and spotlight a division that has clearly been underappreciated, even though the fights in the ring are always among the most exciting in the sport, irrespective of the division, that those four champions, if you look at the record – they are all undefeated. Most of their wins, the vast majority have come by knockout. So these are all big punchers, undefeated. I’m really excited,” said Richard Schaefer, the Chairman of the Americas for Comosa, who helped put this field together alongside fellow promoter Kalle Sauerland (the Chief Boxing Officer for Comosa).
This is a very exciting tournament for boxing and especially for the roll out of the new World Boxing Super Series. With formats like this, expect many division to start falling in line and possibly getting to see the best match up against the best in the near future.
Gassiev Outpoints Lebedev to Win IBF Cruiserweight Belt
Gassiev Outpoints Lebedev to Win IBF Cruiserweight Belt
By: Eric Lunger
Last night at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, Denis Lebedev (29-2, 22 KO’s) faced fellow Russian Murat Gassiev (23-0, 17 KO’s) with Lebedev’s IBF World Title at stake.
Lebedev, currently trained by Freddie Roach, picked up the IBF belt by defeating Victor Ramirez (22-3-1, 17 KO’s) in May of this year by second round TKO. Lebedev, 37, came into the fight with two losses on his record, one to Marco Huck in 2010, a split decision loss in Germany, and one to Guillermo Jones in May of 2013, a TKO in which Lebedev took a brutal amount of punishment to his right eye. Gassiev, 23, is another on the seemingly inexhaustible list of Eastern European/Russian fighters gravitating to Big Bear, CA, and Abel Sanchez’s Summit Gym. In May of this year, on PBC, Gassiev scored a scary first round knockout against Jordan Shimmell (20-2, 16 KO’s). While Abel Sanchez has compared Gassiev to training partner and friend Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, the Lebedev fight was new territory for the young prospect. It was both a homecoming to Russia and a big stage against an experienced and dangerous southpaw, who has been in the trenches a long time. It also presented an interesting stylistic clash, with the 6’ 3” Gassiev employing a classical orthodox style and working behind a straight jab. Lebedev, on the other hand, is a 5’ 11” southpaw who will throw a lead left while circling to his left. His defensive fundamentals are solid, and he is very comfortable countering off the back foot.
Given the power of both fighters, no one expected a reckless brawl, and indeed, the bout proved to be twelve rounds of tactical boxing. Both fighters stuck closely to their game plan: for Lebedev, to let the taller Gassiev come forward into the left hand counter; for Gassiev, to walk Lebedev down while using his jab to set up the power straight right. I saw the early rounds as fairly even and difficult to score. Gassiev holds a high guard, which accentuated the height advantage. Lebedev was surprisingly versatile: he could jab effectively to disrupt Gassiev as he came in, and he also effectively countered Gassiev, often beating him to the punch with a shockingly fast lead left. Lebedev’s movement was also remarkable. Ducking and slipping under Gassiev’s right, Lebedev was smooth and poised on his feet, even elegant at times.
Nonetheless, the challenger’s activity and varied attack, especially in the fourth, put him ahead, in my view, but the rounds were very close. Gassiev was always coming forward and always jabbing, while Lebedev was countering and fighting off the back foot. It is natural, in such a fight, to assume that the walking-forward fighter is winning the round. I think we saw this phenomenon in the Kovalev-Ward fight as well. That said, I had Gassiev up three rounds to one, after the fourth. In the fifth, the challenger caught Lebedev with a stunning, flush left hook to the liver, scoring an immediate knock down. The champion recovered quickly and thereafter kept his elbows close to his body, not wanting Gassiev to score there again.
Despite his continued aggressiveness, Gassiev was not able to break down Lebedev’s defense in any meaningful way during the middle rounds of the fight, but neither did Lebedev ever put Gassiev in much trouble. I felt the later rounds of the fight, however, should have gone to the champion. The young challenger started to lose steam, with Lebedev deciding to walk through a lot of shots to score his own combinations. Abel Sanchez could be heard in the corner after round ten, essentially telling Gassiev to move after throwing and not let Lebedev score so easily. In the eleventh and twelfth, Gassiev still came forward but could not cut off the ring, allowing Lebedev to score against a target that was consistently right in front of him.
At the final bell, Gassiev did not have the expression or body language of a fighter who thought he had won. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the score cards, but the challenger squeaked out the win by split decision (113-114, 116-112, 116-111). A very tough fight to score, and I can see two of those cards as reasonable, but the five-point spread was too wide. In a bout this close, that one liver shot in the fifth was probably the difference. Denis Lebedev fought a brave, smart and gutsy twelve rounds, but he lost his belt on one defensive lapse.