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Murat Gassiev possible for Garcia vs. Vargas card on Feb.29

Jessie Vargas Mikey Garcia

By Kenneth Friedman: Murat Gassiev could finally be back inside the ring on February 29 in his heavyweight debut on the Mikey Garcia vs. Jessie Vargas card on DAZN, according to @StevESPNKim.

Gassiev’s opponent for February 29 is expected to be a lesser guy. His Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn isn’t going to throw Gassiev to the wolves in his first fight in the heavyweight division, given his long layoff.

If Gassiev does land on the Garcia-Vargas card, his fight will likely be well below the main event. Hearn is looking to load up the February 29 card, and Gassiev’s opponent won’t be good enough for him to be near the top.

This will be what Hearn refers to as a ‘tickover’ fight to get him ready for a big second half of 2020 or 2021.  Gassiev has got the youth going for him, so Hearn doesn’t need to rush him the way he would with an older fighter like Joe Joyce.

The former IBF/WBA cruiserweight campion Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) has been out of action for the last 18 months since his lopsided 12 round unanimous decision defeat to Oleksandr Usyk on July 21, 2018. Gassiev, 26, has had injury problems that have kept him on the sidelines, but he may finally be able to return to the ring.

Gassiev possesses heavyweight power

Unlike Usyk, Gassiev has the punching power to compete at the highest levels of the heavyweight division. Usyk can’t punch, and he’s going to have a hard time when he starts facing quality opposition. That might be one reason why Matchroom is rushing him into a title shot against WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

Gassiev will need to add some weight to his 6’3″ frame for him to handle the bigger guys at heavyweight.  He looked like he was in the 215-lb range when he would rehydrate for his cruiserweight fights, but he’s going to need more size at heavyweight.

Gassiev isn’t fast on his feet like Deontay Wilder, and his hand speed isn’t the greatest. He’s going to need to walk the bigger heavyweights down, and look to land his shots.  A fighter like Anthony Joshua, with his new Klitschko-esque style of fighting, would give Gassiev problems Gassiev will need to work on his foot speed to deal with the movement from guys like Joshua or else he won’t do well.

Gassiev’s best career wins have come against these fighters:

  • Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
  • Yuniel Dorticos
  • Denis Lebedev
  • Jordan Shimmell
  • Isiah Thomas
  • Felix Cora Jr.

Gassiev was exposed by Usyk in WBSS tourney

Gassiev looked completely befuddled against Usyk, who basically used a repetitive jab to confuse, and keep him from getting set to throw shots. The two fought in the final of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament in July of 2018, and it turned out to be a mismatch. Usyk exposed Gassiev’s weaknesses in that fight.

The main problem that Usyk exposed was Gassiev’s inability to punch when his opponent’s are punching. He had a bad habit of waiting for his opposition to stop throwing before he finally lets his hands go. That’s a style that doesn’t work at the higher levels of the sport.

The heavy-handed Gassiev is still trained by former Gennadiy Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez, and he’s going to need to raise his game for him to be able to compete on a high level at heavyweight.

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