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Lebedev exposed Murat Gassiev’s flaws says Sanchez

Denis Lebedev

By Eric Baldwin: Trainer Abel Sanchez is thankful that IBF cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev (29-3, 22 KOs) exposed flaws in the game of his unbeaten fighter Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs) last Saturday night in their fight at the Khodnyka Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia. Lebedev lost the fight to the 23-year-old Gassiev, but he gave a lot of problems with his high work rate, head movement, southpaw stance and his mobility.

The only reason Lebedev lost the fight was because he got tired in the last half of the fight, and he also got knocked down in the 5th.The 37-year-old Lebedev did a much better job of making adjustments in the fight than Gassiev did.

Part of the reason for that was because he had an excellent trainer Freddie Roach giving him good instructions in the corner. Sanchez was trying his best to get Gassiev to adapt, but he wasn’t doing nearly as good a job in following the advice that was given to him by Sanchez. He kept telling Gassiev to be busier with his punches, but he wasn’t doing exactly what was asked of him.

Gassiev kept waiting for the perfect opening before he’d throw his punches, and this allowed Lebedev to outwork him by throwing a lot of shots. The idea behind Lebedev throwing a lot of punches wasn’t that he was going to land all of them. It was to prevent Gassiev from throwing his own punches, and also to impress the judges to show that Lebedev was the one pushing the fight.

Gassiev was lucky to win by the scores 116-112, 116-111 for Gassiev, and 114-113 for Lebedev. The way that Gassiev fought, he just as easily could have lost the fight.

“Denis made Murat a better fighter by exposing some of the flaws we’re going to work on, but he’s 23-years-old,” said Sanchez to RT. “We know there is inexperience. There is stuff to work on. The ramifications are he’s still a champion of one of the belts.”

Right now, Gassiev would likely be no match for guys like Oleksandr Usyk, Krzystof Glowacki, Marco Huck, Beibut Shumenov and Mairis Briedis. Gassiev is too slow on his feet, he doesn’t jab nearly enough, and he doesn’t throw enough punches. Gassiev’s slow feet and inability to cut off the ring would doom him against guys like Usyk and Shumenov. Those are highly mobile fighters.

Even someone like Tony Bellew would be a headache for Gassiev, because he would adapt and focus on boxing him. Sanchez has his work cut for him in trying to fix all the flaws in Gassiev’s game. He needs to speed up his foot movement in a major way. It’s unfortunate that Gassiev is going to need to make speedy improvements to his game right away.

With him being the IBF cruiserweight champion, he’ll need to face better opposition than the guys that he’d been fighting before he became champion. It’s not good news for Gassiev if he has to immediately face a top contender, because he doesn’t look ready.

Unless Gassiev can pay attention and actually apply the things that his trainer Sanchez is trying to teach him, he could very well lose his IBF belt soon. Marco Huck is rated No.4 with the IBF. His promoters would likely jump at the chance of having him fight Gassiev right now before he makes improvements in his career if’s capable.

You can’t say that Lebedev made Gassiev a better fighter inside the ring, because there wasn’t any real adapting done by Gassiev. The only thing that happened was Lebedev got tired in the last five rounds of the fight. Part of the reason Lebedev might have gotten tired is his age. He’s 37 now, and not the young fighter he’d been 10 years ago.

Another reason Lebedev might have faded was because he hasn’t fought a 12 round fight since April of 2015, when he struggled to defeat Youri Kayembre Kalenga by a 12 round decision. Before that, Lebedev hadn’t fought a long distance fight since his 11th round knockout loss to Guillermo Jones in 2013.

“He [Murat] was the fresher guy tonight,” said Sanchez. “I hope he fights in the first quarter of next year. It’s a matter of the promoters and managers setting something up so that he can fight again. He’s 23-years-old. I want him back in the gym as soon as possible.”

As long as Gassiev is able to fight a fringe contender in his next fight, he should be OK under those circumstances. If he has to fight Noel Gevor, Huck or Krzystof Wlodarczyk in his next fight, I Gassiev will lose the fight to all of those guys. Gassiev would do well against someone like Dmytro Kucher, Victor Ramirez or Rakhim Chakhkiev in his first defense of his IBF title.

Those guys are all beatable. Unfortunately, they’re all coming off of defeats, so they might not be best options. A rematch between Gassiev and Lebedev would probably be a bad idea right now, considering that Lebedev seems to be the guy that would improve more for a rematch. He follows instructions well.

If his trainer Roach comes up with an even better game plan than last time, then Lebedev beats Gassiev, as long as he doesn’t fade like he did last Saturday. Gassiev should only focus on fighting Lebedev again after Sanchez is 100% certain that he’s improved on the flaws that he has in his game. It wouldn’t be smart for Gassiev to fight Lebedev right now until he has one or two tune-ups to work on the flaws that he has.

Here are Gassiev’s flaws that were readily apparent in the Lebedev fight:

– No head movement

– Slow feet

– Low work rate

– No jab

– Slow hands

– Inability to cut off the ring

– Not able to punch while his opponent is throwing shots

– Waiting too long before letting his hands go

– Loading up too much on each shot

– Not doing a good job of pressuring

Gassiev would do well try and pick the brain of middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. He trains out of the same gym as Gassiev, and he does things the right way when it comes to his technique. The only thing that Golovkin isn’t great at is moving his head. He tends to come forward without moving his head.


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