Carl Froch says Saudi Arabia showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev could define careers

Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev will meet in the cruiserweight final of the World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah next month. Carl Froch believes it will be career-defining fight. (Getty)
Updated 15 April 2018
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Carl Froch says Saudi Arabia showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev could define careers

  • Usyk and Gassiev to meet in Jeddah on May 11
  • Froch likens competition to the one that gave him chance to shine

LONDON: Carl Froch believes Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev can use the final of the World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah as a launchpad to stardom.
The retired super-middleweight entered a similar knockout competition in 2009 — one also overseen by Sauerland Promotions — as a fighter struggling for recognition and finished it having established himself as one of Britain’s greats.
And Froch is certain the same springboard effect could be felt by Usyk and Gassiev.
The pair fight for the IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC cruiserweight titles at King Abdullah Sports City on May 11 in what is being billed as one of the fights of the year. The winner will be $10 million richer, will unify the division and land the Ali Trophy. They could also take a step toward greatness.
“The Super Six was a real way to establish myself as one of the best super-middleweights ever,” Froch told Arab News. “Without that tournament, would I have fought Andre Ward and would I have fought Kessler and Abraham, under those circumstances? Probably not. It’s good for your legacy. After coming out of the Super Six, I was made a household name. I beat (Lucien) Bute, and then got the Kessler rematch, and then I got Groves I and Groves II. That was massive.
“In the Super Series the boys are getting paid really well, which is good. I don’t think the loser (of the final) is done any harm at all. They’ll check their bank balance after the final and think ‘That was worth doing.’ It’s a good format, a good structure, and it works.”
The World Boxer Super Series started at the quarterfinal stage and Usyk and Gassiev have both come through two tough fights to make it to the final in Saudi Arabia, particularly the semifinals when they faced unbeaten opponents. Usyk outpointed Mairis Briedis in a slugfest and then Gassiev produced one of the punches of his career to stop Yunier Dorticos. “You’ve got guaranteed fights against top-level fighters,” said Froch. “All the promotion, publicity and profile, the marketing that goes with it, the production, for the television. We did a Fight Camp 360, building up, a little series. To get the exposure on camera, and then on fight night going in there, it’s all really, really good experience for you. You’re fighting the best as well, the best in the division. It is good, mentality-wise. If you keep winning, you know the opportunity is there to get fights, to fight the best.”
The super-middleweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series caught the imagination of the British public because it involved two of their high-profile fighters in George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr. The cruiserweight version, on the other hand, has broader appeal and will serve up the year’s most significant fight.
“It’s one of those divisions that’s stuck in the middle, between light-heavyweight and heavyweight,” Froch said. “They’re not quite big enough to be heavyweight. When David Haye was at cruiserweight, the world champion, he soon realized ‘I’m not going to make any money here’. He tried to become a heavyweight, just to make money and get some kind of legacy. Evander Holyfield did the same.
“If you’re stuck in that weight division: [the WBSS] is good for their earnings and for them to have something to look back on. It’s good for those that are involved. There’s some good fighters in the cruiserweight division, and the ones that are in this tournament.”


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.