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.”


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 23 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.