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Murat Gassiev to make heavyweight debut on February 29

Jessie Vargas Mikey Garcia

By Dean Berman: Former cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev will finally be returning to the ring this month in his heavyweight debut on February 29 on DAZN and Sky Sports at The Star in Frisco, Texas. Gassiev is coming back against little known Jerry Forrest (26-3, 20 KOs). Gassiev-Forrest will be on the Mikey Garcia vs. Jessie Vargas card.


With this beating Gassiev’s debut at heavyweight, his promoters at Matchroom Boxing USA aren’t putting him in with an upper echelon contender.

Gassiev, 26, was last seen losing to Oleksandr Usyk on July 21, 2018 in the final of the WBSS tournament in Moscow, Russia. Usyk out-boxed Gassiev by jabbing, moving and holding for 12 rounds.

Given all the build up to the fight, it was a disappointment due to the lack of action. Usyk exploited Gassiev’s low work rate, and got the better of him with jabs. Gassiev did stagger Usyk at one point in the fight, but he failed to follow up to finish him.

Gassiev signed recently with Matchroom Boxing USA. They’re going to look to get Gassiev a title shot, which could be possible in the 1 to 2 years, as long as he’s kept busy and gets back on the winning track again.

Gassiev’s problems at cruiserweight will likely follow him into the heavyweight ranks, and potentially his chances of advancing far. His low workrate has been a problem since he turned pro in 2011, and it seems to be something that is resistant to change. Gassiev’s punching power is top notch, but his work rate is horrible.


There are a lot of heavyweights in the division that could potentially give Gassiev problems just by being busy the way Usyk was. Usyk didn’t do anything special in beating Gassiev. He just threw jabs, and used a small amount of movement. that was enough to easily outpoint Gassiev.

Last summer, Gassiev was scheduled to return against journeyman Joey Dawejko (20-7-4, 11 KOs), but his shoulder was injured and couldn’t fight. It’s debatable whether Forrest is a better heavyweight than Dawejko. If Gassiev can’t let his hands go, he’ll be at risk of losing to the 31-year-old Forrest.

Unlike Gassiev, Forrest has been fighting frequently in the last two years. Since 2018, Forrest has fought an incredible 9 times, losing only once to unbeaten Jermaine Franklin by a narrow 10 round decision. Forrest could be a real problem for Gassiev if he’s not able to get him out of there. This is a fight that that Gassiev needs to try and throw as many punches as possible, because he might not be able to count on winning by knockout.

If Gassiev loses this fight, he’ll need to make a big decision whether to stay in the heavyweight division or move back down to cruiserweight. He’s got to beat fighters like Forrest if he’s going to amount to anything at heavyweight.

Gassiev’s best wins:

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

“When I box in Frisco it will have been nearly 600 days since I’ve fought and a lot has happened in the Heavyweight division over that time,” said Gassiev. “I know that I can be a World champion at Heavyweight but I need to show to the rest of the division that I am a serious threat, and that starts on February 29.”

Even if Gassiev never wins a world title at heavyweight, he can make a lot of money if he gets a crack at IBF/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua.

Also on the card, unbeaten 154lb contender Israil Madrimov (4-0, 4 KOs) fights former welterweight contender Charlie Navarro (29-9, 22 KOs) in a World Boxing Association 154-lb title eliminator.

The 24-year-old Madrimov is ranked #3 WBA, and Navarro #9. It’s unclear why Madrimov isn’t fighting #1 WBA Jarrett Hurd or #2 WBA Erickson Lubin. Those would obviously be far better choices for a title eliminator for Madrimov rather than facing 40-year-old Navarro, who has losses to Carlos Ocampo, Omar Chavez, and David Avanesyan not long ago.

The winner of the Madrimov vs. Navarro fight will be the mandatory challenger to WBA junior middleweight champion Jeison Rosario.


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