Jeddah set to stage huge fight between Murat Gassiev and Oleksandr Usyk

Alexander Usyk will meet Murat Gassiev in Jeddah on May 11.
Updated 05 February 2018
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Jeddah set to stage huge fight between Murat Gassiev and Oleksandr Usyk

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is bracing itself for one of the most eagerly anticipated fights in recent history after Murat Gassiev set up a showdown with Oleksandr Usyk.

Gassiev, the Russian, beat previously unbeaten Yunier Dorticos in a unification bout in Russia’s resort city Sochi on Saturday to retain his IBF cruiserweight belt, grab the WBA title and book a date in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final against Usyk in Jeddah in May.

The winner of that will receive $10 million, pick up the Muhammad Ali Trophy and be crowned the cruiserweight division’s first undisputed champion. The opportunity to hold all four of the 200lb world titles is not something even the great Evander Holyfield achieved.

Usyk will be the favorite but Gassiev, 24, the youngest member of the cruiserweight field of the WBSS improved his record to 27-0 with 19 KOs following the semifinal win in Sochi’s Bolshoy Ice Dome. The 31-year-old previously unbeaten Dorticos — nicknamed “The KO Doctor” — has now dropped to 22-1 with 21 knockouts.
“I’d like to thank everybody who supported me tonight,” said Gassiev. “It’s a very important win for me in the very important unification bout. Dorticos is a great fighter, great champion, true hard-hitter and the real warrior. He never gives up. It’s a cruiserweight division and I was under tough pressure throughout the bout. I was never sure I’m winning the bout before the very last moment.” Dorticos started confidently trying to control the pace of the fight from the start. He performed some good jab work, while Gassiev also landed effective punches in the opening round.

The Cuban continued to push the pace with hard punches in the second but Gassiev replied positively, landing some more solid shots of his own to his opponent’s body. Later on Dorticos continued peppering his rival with shots but his unvaried attacks made little headway as Gassiev defended stoutly, responding with rare but hard and precise punches. After the eighth round Dorticos’ work rate noticeably slowed down and Gassiev stepped up the pressure, beginning to take control and show off his superior hand speed and precision. In the final round Gassiev looked in complete command, sending Dorticos to the canvas twice before the referee stopped the bout with just 18 seconds remaining.

Dorticos would like to get a rematch.

“Murat is a strong fighter, we would like to have a rematch with him,” he said. “I want to thank Sochi for the wonderful reception. It was a great fight. This is a heavy defeat, but I will return. It was a very emotional fight. It’s very difficult to lose these types of fights, yet I wanted to congratulate the whole team, they deserve it.”


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS