Aleksandr Usyk did what most fans expected him to do in defeating Murat Gassiev on Saturday night in a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision in a master class performance in the World Boxing Super Series final in Moscow, Russia.
After winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy, Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) turned his sights to heavyweight contender Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs). Usyk wants that fight. Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn doesn’t want to let him fight Usyk, so that’s the end of story. Usyk will need to call out someone else for his next fight because Bellew won’t face him. Since Usyk is moving up to heavyweight, he should perhaps go after the likes of Luis Ortiz or Dillian Whyte. Those are doable fights for Usyk.
Gassiev landed some nice shots in the fight, but they were single shots and not enough to do real damage the way he needed to. Gassiev was too slow to follow up with shots each time he would land a nice punch. Gassiev had his best success in the fight in landing body shots. He was able to connect to the body effectively, but he didn’t land enough of them to do damage.
Usyk had too much foot speed for the slow-footed Gassiev, and this allowed him to control the fight from the first round. When Gassiev would cut off the ring on Usyk, he would force jabs into his face and nail him with right-left combinations that made it impossible for him to land. Usyk changes directions frequently in moving around the ring, and he had Usyk looking totally befuddled. From the 10th, Usyk started putting his punches together in hitting Usyk wih flurries.
Usyk came out on top by the scores 120-108, 119-109 and 119-109 at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow, Russia. The fight was embarrassingly one-sided in favor of Usyk. Gassiev had no chance due to his lack of hand speed and his unwillingness to go after Usyk full throttle like a warrior. The organizers for the World Boxing Super Series tournament likely weren’t too happy with the lack of excitement for tonight’s finals match, as it was not great television. Gassiev didn’t want to fight, and all Usyk was interested in doing was boxing. Exciting this was not. The right guy go the decision, but there was no drama, making the fight was hard to sit through.
Usyk, 31, says he’ll fight him at cruiserweight or at heavyweight if he doesn’t want to move down in weight. Usyk had fought beating Gassiev tonight in showing the fans that he had nowhere near enough skills to compete with him. Gassiev looked like he didn’t belong inside the same ring with Usyk. It makes you wonder if Gassiev’s trainer Abel Sanchez had seen the same things from him, because he had to have spotted his weaknesses in his sparring sessions. Gassiev looked so flawed tonight that it reflected badly on Sanchez for sending out there such a flawed fighter.
In fairness to Sanchez, Gassiev fought like he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. There’s only so much a trainer can do for a fighter. When a guy doesn’t have any common sense or heart for going to war, then it doesn’t matter who the trainer is. The fighter is going to lose. Gassiev looked like he didn’t have the heart to go after Usyk the way that he needed to for him to have a chance of winning the contest. Gassiev fought like he wasn’t willing to try and fight in the way that he needed to for him to win the fight. In other words, Gassiev looked like he wasn’t willing to go out on his shield if need be by pressing Usyk to the very edge. Gassiev fought instead in a way that helped him minimize punishment. This allowed Gassiev to keep from getting knocked out, but the cost was him losing the fight.
Usyk did a real number against the limited looking Gassiev, defeating him in a dominating fashion to win the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and Ring titles. Usyk had it so easy by the 12th round, he chose to taunt the beleaguered Gassiev by doing the Ali shuffle in letting him and the boxing fans know that he was about to win the Muhammad Ali trophy to capture the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. Gassiev was so far behind in the fight by that point that he had no chance of winning aside from getting a knockout. That wasn’t going to happen because Gassiev was too slow and discouraged by that point in the fight.
“I will sit with my team and make the decision,” said Usyk after the fight. “I hear that Tony Bellew is looking for a fight against the winner of the Muhammad Ali trophy. I hope he can see me talking. Hey Tony Bellew, are you ready? And if he doesn’t want to go down (to cruiserweight), I will go up to (heavyweight).”
Usyk can forget about getting a fight against Bellew, as his promoter Eddie Hearn has already said that he has the final say in the opponent that he faces next, and he doesn’t like the idea of him facing the winner of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Hearn says there’s no money in Bellew fighting the likes of Usyk, and he sees the fight as a dangerous one. Hearn is more interested in trying to lure Andre ‘SOG’ Ward out of retirement to face Bellew, or facing WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson or else waiting for former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to eventually fight him.
Bellew would be wasting what’s left of his career if he sits on the shelf until 2019 or 2020 for Fury to give him a fight. It’s clear that Fury isn’t going to fight Bellew in 2018. This is a get back year for Fury, and he’s not going to be taking on any good fighters. Usyk needs to move on and consider more realistic targets. Bellew is not going to take that fight with him. Bellew likely only mentioned wanting to fight the winner of the World Boxing Super Series tournament last week so he could get some cheap attention by keeping himself relevant by saying he wants to fight the winner of the tournament. You can argue that’s an old trick of what fighters do to steal the thunder of the fighters and get yourself mentioned in the same light as them.
“My team made me look like I looked in the ring tonight,” said Usyk after the fight. “Thank you very much to all – this is our victory.”
It wasn’t so much Usyk’s team that got him the victory tonight. It was the fact that Gassiev was just so awful. It was there to see by all the boxing fans in Gassiev’s previous fight in the World Boxing Super Series tournament against Yunier Dorticos. He looked awful in that fight, and only pulled out the win when Dorticos faded in the 11th. If not for that, Gassiev would have lost the fight. It’s plain and simple.
Usyk did a good job of moving, and using his jab to keep Gassiev at bay. Gassiev’s trainer Abel Sanchez pleaded with him in the second half of the fight to step up the attack against Usyk, but it was no use. Gassiev was too slow and he wasn’t willing to go to the lengths that he needed to for him to follow Sanchez’s directives. You could see Sanchez’s frustration in between rounds. He didn’t know what to say to get Gassiev to up the pace of his attacks. Sanchez also trains middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who has no problems motivating to pressure his opponents. But there’s a huge difference in talent and pedigree between GGG and Gassiev. No matter what Sanchez could say to Gassiev, he’ll never have the talent that Golovkin possesses. All Sanchez would have to say to Golovkin is ‘go out and attack’ his opponent and he would follow his instructions to the letter. In the case of Gassiev, no matter what Sanchez told him, he wasn’t going to try as hard as he could to pressure Usyk. He simply wasn’t willing to go to the lengths that he needed to for him to win the fight, and we saw the results of that.
Usyk’s mobility, hand speed, jab, work rate and length gave Gassiev huge problems tonight. Usyk had too many things going for him for Gassiev to win the fight. Gassiev had the punching power and the youth, but he lacked the heart to make up for all his deficits. In the second half of the fight, Usyk began to flurry on Gassiev, and one got the sense that he could have knocked him out if he had wanted to. But there was no reason for Usyk to take any risks in shooting for a knockout because he was doing such a magnificent jab of clowning Gassiev.
”I had the best opponent in my professional career,” said Gassiev in saying the obvious about Usyk. ”I did my best, but today it was Aleksandr’s day. Aleksandr was the favorite, and he proved it. This was a very good experience for me.”
It’s an interesting spin that Gassiev put on his loss to Usyk. I don’t think too many boxing fans will agree with him in his view that this loss was a good experience for him. It wasn’t. Losing in that fashion can’t be a good thing no matter what Gassiev says. It was a bad thing for him, especially now that the other top fighters in the cruiserweight division have seen how to beat him. The loss was so bad that you have to believe that it’s going to be hard for Gassiev to come back from the defeat to be the fighter that he was before the fight. At this point, Gassiev will likely lose to Mairis Briedis if he faces him next. That would be a bad idea for Gassiev to go in that direction with his career. He needs to start over and look to slowly get back to where he was before. Right now it would be a mistake if Gassiev fought someone talented in the cruiserweight division.