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Murat Gassiev meets Yunier Dorticos in WBSS semifinals

Krzysztof Wlodarczyk

By Jim Dower: IBF World cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs) took care of his first opponent in the World Boxing Super Series last Saturday night in his 3rd round knockout win over Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-4-1, 37 KOs), and he’s now heading towards a unification fight against WBA World cruiserweight belt holder Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs) in his next fight in early 2018.

Gassiev and Dorticos will be meeting in the semifinals of the WBSS tournament. Both guys are title holders, and both unbeaten KO artists.

We don’t know how good Gassiev’s chin is, because he’s never faced a big puncher yet. If Gassiev has a problem taking big shots, we’re going to find out awfully quick against Dorticos, because the Cuban fighter can punch and he’ll be looking to end the fight quickly. Most of Gassiev and Dorticos’ knockouts come early. It’s hard to imagine this fight stretching out into the later rounds with the power of these two guys.

Dorticos was not impressed with what he saw from Gassiev last Saturday night in his stoppage win over the 36-year-old Wlodarczyk. Dorticos attributes Gassiev’s win due to Wlodarczyk being an older fighter. He feels that Gassiev, 24, got the former 2-time cruiserweight world champion at the right time in his career with him being older.

“I don’t see anything that necessarily stands out,” said Dorticos about Gassiev. “He’s defeating competition that’s older than him. He fought a guy that had a terrific history, and he’s done a lot, but the opponent he fought was old. He’s going to fight someone now who is similar to him. This is the fight that the fans and the world wants to see. I’m going to train very hard. I’m going to train with the intent on putting on an explosive performance. All my opponents are difficult. I’m going to work really hard to take him out,” said Dorticos.

With Gassiev’s punching power, if he lands anything clean, to the head or the body, Dorticos will be done for the night. Dorticos’ punch resistance is probably not even as good as Wlodarczyk, and he looked shaken each time Gassiev landed anything in the fight. Wlodarczyk was not handling Gassiev’s power well at all. It had nothing to do with Wlodarczyk’s age. It had more to do with Gassiev hitting so hard.

Dorticos, 31, looked great in destroying his quarterfinals opponent in the World Boxing Super Series tournament in stopping Dmitry Kudryashov in the 2nd round on September 23. That fight was supposed to be competitive, but Dorticos nailed Kudryashov with a big shot to get the knockout. Gassiev hasn’t shown issues with his punch resistance as of yet, so it might take more 2 rounds and 1 punch for Dorticos to knock him out.

Dorticos was a good amateur back when he was on the Cuban national team, but he had problems every now and then when matched against guys with power. Dorticos was stopped by Dmitry Chudinov of Russia, Artur Beterbiev and Yerdos Dzhanabergenov. However, those losses took place a long time again. Never the less, Dorticos did have problems when taking hard shots. Since fighters to have the same punch resistance problems early on as they do when they’re established professionals, it’s quite possible that Dorticos could be vulnerable to the punching power of Gassiev. Beterbiev knocked Dorticos out in the 1st round in the 2006 World Cup. That was a long time ago, but Dorticos was still knocked quickly by a known big puncher in Beterbiev.

“It’s a great fight. I think Dorticos has proven he’s a heavy puncher,” said trainer Abel Sanchez. “Murat is also. I think it’s a fight between the 2 best punchers in the tournament, and the 2 best fighters in the tournament. We’re looking forward to it. We’re going to prepare differently for Dorticos than we did Wlodarczyk. He’s the fight that’s next, and I think Dorticos is looking forward to it too. That’s the way it should be. This is the best fighting the best. We’ll see in January,” said Sanchez when told that Dorticos is predicting a win over Gassiev. “This is going to be a great fight. I know Dorticos is prepared for it, and so is Murat. They’re going to give us the kind of fight we expect,” said Sanchez.

I don’t know if Dorticos is that much bigger puncher than Oleksandr Usyk and Wlodarczyk. I think all 3 of them are pretty close in the power department. Dorticos look like a huge puncher against Kudryaashov or Kalenga. It took Dorticos 10 rounds to knockout Kalenga. The shot that stopped Kudrayashov was a perfect punch.

“The adjustment for me was to have him close the distance, and close quicker,” said Sanchez about Gassiev’s fight with Wlodarczyk. “We wouldn’t throw a punch, thinking things were going to happen instead of making things happen. So I wanted him to deliver a shot, wherever he was and just close the distance to create an opportunity, and he followed the instructions to a tee. When you move your hands, you have a chance to land a shot,” said Sanchez.

In rounds 1 and 2, Gassiev looked like he was expecting to be countered by one of Wlodarczyk’s big power shots each time he was in punching range. Gassiev wasn’t unloading on Wlodarczyk with full power until the 3rd round. In that round, Gassiev landed 2 punches with full force, and those were the shots that knocked Wlodarczyk out.

”I thought Wlodarczyk was going to give up a little more work,” said Sanchez about the Gassiev fight. ”The problem I have with Murat is he only had 25 amateur fights, and this is his 25th professional fight. Wlodarczyk had more professional fights than he had fights. So it was a matter of accelerating the progress and accelerating his development, but I think he’s coming along just like I thought he would. A year and a half ago, I said he’d be the next Golovkin coming out of my gym. I thought he would be special one day. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re going to get there. I think he has to be confident going into this fight,” said Sanchez about Dorticos. “But 25 guys have tried with Murat, and 25 have failed. I don’t see anything in Dorticos that’s going to pose a problem. Dorticos can punch, but so can Murat. Let’s see what he can do,” said Sanchez.

That would be amazing if Gassiev does turn out to be another Golovkin. Sanchez would have a guy that will be around for a long time to come at 24. Golovkin is 35 now, and it’s unclear how much time he has left in his career. Gassiev is talking about wanting to move up to heavyweight if he wins the World Boxing Super Series. At 6’3”, Gassiev is kind of short to be a heavyweight, but then again, Dillian Whyte is only 6’3”, and he shook up Anthony Joshua in the 2nd round of their fight a couple of years ago in 2015. It’s going to be hard for Gassiev to continue to make weight at cruiserweight as he gets older, so he might not have any other choice but to move up to heavyweight sooner or later. But if Gassiev unified the cruiserweight division, it would be hard to see him give up on the division and move up to heavyweight.

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