On Saturday, July 21st at the Olimpiysky Sports Complex in Moscow, Russia, the long-anticipated finale to the World Boxing Super Series’ high-quality cruiserweight tournament will see Ukrainian southpaw Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) paired with the Russian Federation’s own Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs).
In what odds-makers over at betMGM have as a damn near even (Usyk -105/Gassiev – 115) contest, it represents a rarity by not only being so nip-and-tuck on the betting lines, but also because the Cruiserweight Championship of the World will be up for grabs–the first time that’s happened since Tomasz Adamek pounded out his last defense against Bobby Gunn back in 2009, which he obtained via split decision over Steve Cunningham. It’s a truly historical and legacy-building match that will propel the winner to heavyweight contention as soon as they make the jump.
The Grueling Truth wanted to see if hardcore followers of the sport felt much like the folks setting the lines, so we polled fourteen of them.
John Einreinhofer – TGTN Staff Writer/Co-Host: Gassiev Decision
I picked Gassiev at the outset of the tournament and I’ll stay with him, especially because in the Dorticos fight he showed dimensions as a boxer no one knew he had before the tournament. He’s only 24, getting better, and will be a factor at heavyweight. Usyk appears to have leveled off a bit. He can hurt you but is proving not to be a banger for the big guys. Ironically, his victory over Michael Hunter is actually looking better as Hunter has looked good at heavyweight. I’ll take Gassiev by decision, but a stoppage isn’t out of the question. If Usyk performs well enough in defeat, I think he can also be a heavyweight contender. Anyone who has ever been a truly top cruiserweight can compete in the glamour division of heavyweight, which is why I think cruiserweight interest is not where some people think it should be.
P.S. Klowd TV is an embarrassment.
Paul Cupitt – TGTN Staff Writer: Usyk Decision
This is a real 50-50 fight. Usyk only has a slight reach advantage but I think he will control the range this fight is fought at with his feints and footwork and that will be the difference. Gassiev will be dangerous, especially with his switch left hook which could be very effective on the southpaw Usyk but I’m picking Usyk to win a close decision in a very competitive fight, probably with a few shaky moments in the second half of the fight.
Anthony Cocks – TGTN/Maxboxing Staff Writer: Gassiev MD
I’m going against the grain here and tipping Murat Gassiev to win. As good as Oleksandr Usyk is – and understand I think he is very, very good – I just think that Gassiev is being a little overlooked here by a lot of pundits. The Russian sets up his shots well, is a tremendous body puncher particularly with the left hook, has excellent power in both hands that he carries late into fights and is a fantastic finisher to boot. Just as importantly, he has some real mongrel in him, a proper mean streak, and fighting in front of his home crowd is only going to lift him further. Give me Gassiev by MD in a thriller.
Roy Bennett – Independent Writer: Usyk SD
The WBSS cruiserweight final between Usyk and Gassiev is a positively mouthwatering pick ‘em fight. While Gassiev carries thunder in both fists Usyk brings Olympian athleticism to the clash backed by advantages in height and reach. Gassiev is patient and economical and knows how to reduce the size of a ring to with the best of them. Usyk will have to be at his very best to avoid getting trapped. He will have remain bouyant, using his movement and jab to keep Gassiev off balance and at distance. Usyk’s fast hands and combination punching can help him build a good lead on the cards after 6 frames. The danger for Usyk lies in the second half of the contest. As Gassiev begins to come on and ramp up the pressure Usyk will have to remain disciplined, maintain a tight defence and not get drawn into exchanges at medium range where Gassiev excels at delivering powerful counterpunches. I think Usyk can navigate his cruiserweight ship home, albeit through rough seas in the championship rounds, to bag a close split decision win on the scorecards.
Alan Kindred – Independent Writer: Gassiev MD/Late Stoppage
I see Usyk Vs Gassiev as a tough fight to call, one that could go either way. I think Usyk has slowed down just a bit and no longer uses his legs as often, or as well as he once did. Years ago, I would have picked Usyk by decision on footwork alone. Now I think the fight will be a war of attrition. I tend to go with youth in that scenario, and that is Gassiev. I expect Usyk to get out to an early lead, but as the fight wears on I think Gassiev narrows the gap and wins the late rounds and takes a close decision or possibly late stoppage. If Usyk shows he has more legs left than I think he does, he may prove me wrong, but my pick is Gassiev.
Gassiev MD or late round stoppage.
Erich Edmonds – TGTN Staff Writer: Usyk by SD
This is as close to a 50-50 fight as you can get. Both have similar height and reach, Usyk has great movement for his size, decent power, high ring IQ, counters and controls the pace of the fight very well but sometimes takes a few rounds to set his pace. Gassiev is a great pressure fighter, cuts the ring off well, serious power in both hands and is dangerous with the double left hook, and as we saw in his last fight isn’t afraid to be patient and break down his opponent. While I can see Gassiev potentially hurting Usyk, I ultimately see Usyk’s movement being the deciding factor in controlling the pace of the fight carrying him to a split decision win over Gassiev.
Usyk by SD.
Bob Day – TGTN/Ringnews24 Staff Writer: Gassiev Decision
This is the matchup of the year. A more than worthy final of the WBSS. I’ve been captivated by the fights leading us to this point.
Going into the tournament I tipped Usyk but now I’m slightly favouring the Russian. Gassiev is continually improving under Abel Sanchez, he’s become more than a power puncher.
Usyk is the more athletic and skillful but I see him getting caught later on. Gassiev needs to set traps and make Usyk engage. If Usyk elects to keep distance, he can outbox his foe. It’s a fascinating contest and I’m picking Gassiev to bring home the win.
Johnny Nguyen – TGTN Contributor/Blogger and Video Creator for ExpertBoxing: Usyk KO8
I feel Usyk is at the right time in his career for peak skills and man-strength. I remember seeing Gassiev live in 2015 and feeling he was solid/strong but kinda basic 1-2 fighter, he’s still young although I like how he dealt with a confident Dorticos. I prefer Usyk’s looser arms and active aggression and pick him to win dominantly. I wanna say by 8th round KO.
Zakwaan Shaukat Ali – TGTN Contributor: Usyk UD
It’s an excellent 50/50 fight.
If I had to break it down in terms of strengths and weaknesses (not many of them so far), it would be as the following.
Murat Gassiev’s strengths:
Tight defence, powerful left hook to the body and left uppercuts (as shown vs Wlodarczyk) through the guard, great counterpunching ability (shown Vs Dorticos) and a jab.
Weaknesses: not many to choose from but from what I think Usyk can exploit, is Gassiev’s lack of lateral movement and head movement and is there to be hit.
Oleksandr Usyk’s strengths:
Excellent all-round boxing fundamentals, brilliant footwork/movement and angles, and excellent workrate, pretty much moves like a welterweight.
Weaknesses: lack of power as shown in the Hunter and Mchunu fights, and is easy to hit and dragged into a war.
Prediction: It’ll be close fight that will go for 12 rounds with Usyk’s super boxing ability edging it on points.
Mike Goodpaster – TGTN Owner: Usyk UD
I like Usyk in this fight. I think he has more dimensions to his game than Gassiev. Gassiev looked good against Dorticos because he allowed Gassiev to control the pace. I think Usyk can win this fight in more than one way and I look for him to control this fight from distance, but to also go in and mix it up when he wants to. I like Usyk with a comfortable decision.
Christopher Carlson – TGTN Staff Writer/Host for Rope-A-Dope Radio: Usyk MD
Two points stand out in terms of outcome for Usyk/Gassiev. One is Gassiev’s heavy hands make him dangerous for all 12-rounds. The second point is what mentality will Usyk step in to the ring with? If Usyk wants to bang as he did versus Michael Hunter it could be a brutal fight. If Usyk is content to score points using skill it will turn in to a one-sided affair. 9-3 or 8-4 sounds about right but this event is in Russia and if a few of those 8 rounds Usyk wins are competitive we could get some controversy.
Oleksander Usyk by Majority Decision
Chris “Bone” Henderson – TGTN Staff Writer/Staff Writer for Fight Zone News/Host for Raise the Flag and The Counter Punch: Usyk SD
After much debate on the when and where’s it’s finally here. Usyk vs Gassiev is arguably as good a fight as could be made in the sport of boxing right now. A first glance, it’s a classic matchup of boxer vs puncher. When one digs a little deeper though he can see the boxer has good power and the puncher has solid boxing skills. Gassiev has enough pop that he’s capable of ending this fight at any time. One fault I see however in the Russian is his inability to punch between his opponents punches at times. In a fight I think could very well come down to who controls the pace Gassiev’s tendency to be a little too patient at times hinders him here. If Usyk can maintain proper distance and not smother himself he should be able to have a significantly higher output. I believe Usyk wins a 116-112 type of decision here with possibly one judge going the other way. Usyk SD.
Michael Atkins – TGTN Staff Writer: Usyk UD
Oleksander Usyk vs Murat Gassiev, a true cruiserweight “Brawl for it All,” is definitely the most tantalizing match-up in the 200 lb. division since a guy named Evander Holyfield confirmed his prodigious, pugilistic, preeminence against Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1986.
Both men are unbeaten, talented and very, very good. Additionally they represent the classic boxer/slugger clash of styles, one of the ingredients from which great fights, and rivalries, are often made. Retro-heavyweight is fast becoming one of my favorite divisions because, when the fighters are good, they pack the “anything can happen at any time” power of the full heavyweights, but with greater speed, skill and athleticism. It’s exactly like watching heavyweight boxing from a bygone era. Usyk vs Gassiev might be as close as we could ever get to a dream match between Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano.
While Gassiev will be the “slugger” and Usyk the “boxer,” this contest isn’t that simple. Gassiev has shown the ability to be a patient predator and Usyk, a willingness to mix it up and punch with power. As to how it plays out, I feel that Usyk’s style will give Gassiev difficulty early. The Ukrainian is quick on his feet, moves very well, and is also a very busy fighter. I see him starting quickly and establishing a solid lead over the first half of the fight. Gassiev won’t be looking to win on points and will give up early rounds to cause the kind of damage designed to accrue interest for a later withdrawal. During the middle rounds Gassiev will, at least partially, solve the Usyk puzzle and start to come on. The question is whether or not Gassiev can punish Usyk enough to catch up to him before the final bell. My hunch is that he won’t. Murat Gassiev will create drama, push Oleksander Usyk to the limit, maybe almost get him, but I see the older, more mature Usyk able to make it to the final bell and win a close but clear decision in the kind of battle that makes old school fans wax sentimental for the days of fifteen round fights. I also expect it to be the kind of affair that will make us all want to see a sequel, maybe at heavyweight.
Prediction: Oleksander Usyk, W-12, 7 to 5 in rounds.
Jeremiah Preisser – TGTN Editor/Writer/Co-Host: Usyk UD
So the question is: Which one of these 200-pound warriors of finely-calibrated blood, bone, and sinew gets to trot his warhorse through the awaiting gates of his hometown to be hailed as a conqueror of the ages? Who gets the chisel and hammer to etch his name in the Halls of Forever?
Tough question, but I believe the answer to be Oleksandr Usyk.
The gap-toothed smirk of this blue and golden yellow-wearing traveling man belies his raging desire to overcome. He has a champion’s spirit, a resoluteness of the will. It’s why he has given up home-field advantage in his last six fights, only to plant his flag in four different countries and two continents. It’s why he gets the job done how he has to, even if it’s not always pretty. When he’s pushed, he pushes harder. And this innate stinginess has been sharpened to a thin cutting edge by top-level craftsmanship and experience.
How do you take a moment like this away from him? I don’t think you do.
Oleksandr Usyk – 10/Murat Gassiev – 4