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.
A beautiful moment as Gassiev comforts an emotional Dorticos. Two warriors! #GassievDorticos #AliTrophy pic.twitter.com/hqI8whwFKH
— World Boxing Super Series (@WBSuperSeries) February 3, 2018
“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.”