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Gassiev is better suited than Usyk at heavyweight – Abel Sanchez

Aleksandr Usyk Murat Gassiev

By Kenneth Friedman: Trainer Abel Sanchez is predicting that his fighter former IBF/WBA cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev will be a better heavyweight than former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

The Russian Gassiev still hasn’t made his heavyweight debut yet, but Sanchez wants to match him against contenders Andy Ruiz Jr., Adam Kownacki, and Robert Helenius. But first, Sanchez will be looking to put Gassiev in a tune-up fight to get the rust out from his two years of inactivity.

Sanchez will need to make drastic improvements in Gassiev’s game for him to pan out at heavyweight, and it doesn’t look that’s going to happen.

Gassiev is going to need to stay healthy and active if he’s going to live up to the high expectations that his trainer Sanchez has of him.

The injury problems that Gassiev has dealt with in the past suggest that he’s not going to be active enough for him to have much success at heavyweight. Gassiev can’t stay healthy enough for him to fight anybody, and who knows when he’ll fight again.

The ongoing pandemic may sideline Gassiev even further. If he still hasn’t fought by 2021, that would make it three years since he last fought. There aren’t too many fighters that can come back from that kind of a layoff to have success.

Gassiev compared to Holyfield 

Sanchez compares Gassiev to boxing great Evander Holyfield in terms of his speed, and he feels that’ll be the difference. However, at 6’3″, Gassiev will be on the short side, and he’s never going to have the hand speed or the explosiveness of someone like Mike Tyson, for instance.

Gassiev also lacks a high punch output, which could further limit his success at heavyweight. That was his problem at cruiserweight. Gassiev was badly outworked in his most important fights against Yunier Dorticos, Usyk, and Denis Lebedev.

Those guys threw a lot of shots and easily outworked Gassiev. However, when Gassiev did let his hands go, he caused problems with those guys. Gassiev had Usyk hurt during one part of the fight, but he let him off the hook because of his dreadfully poor work rate.

When Gassiev explosives on his opponents with four-punch combinations, he looks excellent, and he’s dangerous. Unfortunately, Gassiev rarely throws punches and spends most of the time covering up and waiting.

Yunier Dorticos took advantage of this flaw in Gassiev’s game and hit him with everything but the kitchen sink for 11 rounds. If not for Dorticos’ stamina problems, he likely would have beaten Gassiev even worse than Usyk did.

Gassiev will be a better heavyweight than Usyk

The 26-year-old Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) lost to Usyk two years ago by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament on July 21 in Moscow, Russia. The powerful Gassiev hasn’t fought since due to injury problems.

“Gassiev is better-suited to the bigger division, Sanchez said to Sky Sports: “Absolutely. He was killing himself to make weight for cruiserweight. We look forward to meeting Usyk at heavyweight.”

“Will Usyk have the strength to handle heavyweights? He doesn’t have a big punch. In the heavyweight division, you need to have something that keeps people back,” said Sanchez.

Usyk showed how easy it is to beat Gassiev by throwing a constant jab at him. What Usyk and his trainer discovered is that if you throw frequent punches, Gassiev will wait and not let his hands go. In other words, Gassiev isn’t the type of fighter that punches in between the shots that his opponents throw.

He’s the type that waits until his opponents stop throwing before he finally throws shots. Usyk took advantage of that flaw in Gassiev’s game by flicking a weak jab repeatedly all night. It didn’t look like Usyk was even trying to land it much of the time.

Sanchez wants Gassiev to face Andy Ruiz Jr. or Kownacki

“He is as big a puncher as the best heavyweights,” said Sanchez about Gassiev. “I would like to fight Adam Kownacki, Robert Helenius, or Andy Ruiz Jr. But he hasn’t fought in two years, so I would like a tune-up fight first.”

Putting Gassiev in with Andy Ruiz Jr. would be a bad idea, and Sanchez may regret that move if he makes it. Ruiz is too fast and throws too many combinations for a slow plodder like Gassiev to do well against him. Gassiev would be better fighting a slower guy like Helenius. Adam Kownacki would be a terrible choice for Gassiev as well due to his high work rate.

The Polish heavyweight Kownacki is capable of throwing 1,000 punches in a 12 round fight. Gassiev, with his anemic work rate, would be riddled to pieces by a guy like Kownacki unless he somehow hurts him with a shot.

That’s doubtful, though, because Kownacki wouldn’t give Gassiev a chance to let his hands go. Kownacki throws so many punches per round, and it would be difficult for Gassiev to get his shots off due to his habit of waiting for his opponents to stop throwing before he initiates.

It’s difficult to project a positive outcome for Gassiev at heavyweight, given how bad his punch output is compared to other fighters. Gassiev took a lot of punishment in his fights against Dorticos and Lebedev, and he was lucky to win those matches.

Gassiev needs A LOT of work

Dorticos worked Gassiev over with power shots until he hurt him in the 11th round and then finished him off in the 12th.

It’s a good thing that Usyk exposed the problem early in Gassiev’s career, as he can now work on it and hopefully improve his game. But that’s doubtful, though, given that Gassiev appears to have a gas tank problem. That might be the root of his low work rate.

It was surprising that Sanchez hadn’t fixed this flaw in Gassiev’s game long before that, because sooner or later someone smart was going to take advantage of this.

Murat was throwing it in the air in front of him, knowing that Usyk would wait and not attack him. Gassiev never let his hands go because of him waiting for Usyk to stop throwing punches, and it was an embarrassing performance from the Russian fighter.


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