There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the boxing talent of Ukrainian star Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs). He’s now the new undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world after going to Russia and easily dispatching the dangerous Murat Gassiev (26-1-1 NC, 19 KOs) on his way to capturing the World Boxing Super Series tournament final. Usyk was also presented the Muhammad Ali Trophy by Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali.
This was billed as a 50-50 fight, pitting Usyk’s boxing skill against Gassiev’s own skill set and his punching power, but it was barely a contest. The jabbing of Usyk was the story in the early rounds, as he kept a consistent workrate and made it difficult for Gassiev to get inside and bullrush with big punches. Round 4 was really the only good round for the Abel Sanchez-trained fighter, as he clocked Usyk with a strong right hand just before the bell sounded, and Usyk definitely felt that vaunted power. As the fight progressed, Usyk turned up the heat and just repeatedly owned Gassiev around the ring with crisp combination punching, a tireless workrate, and superb footwork. Gassiev could only work in single power shots and an emphasis on attacking the body.
Towards the second-half of the fight, Usyk really left no doubt who was the better man between the world’s two best cruiserweights. Gassiev was often stopped in his tracks by Usyk’s speed, precision, and timing, flustered by Usyk’s movement, and short on answers. It did look as if Gassiev was a combination of tired and hurt in the final two rounds, as Usyk turned in a performance that emulated that of his good friend and fellow Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko. The high-volume attack and constant jabbing of Usyk led to him outlanding Gassiev 252-91, as Usyk threw a ridiculous 939 punches to Gassiev’s 313.
In the end, the final scorecards read 120-108, 119-109, and 119-109, as the Ukrainian fans inside the Olympic Stadium in Moscow cheered on their fighter.
What Usyk has accomplished since turning pro in 2013 is nothing short of astonishing, and he’s a true road warrior. Boxing columnist Tom Craze sums it up perfectly.
In his last four fights, Usyk has beaten an American in America, a German in Germany, a Latvian in Latvia, and, finally, shut out a Russian in Russia.— Tom Craze (@TomCraze) July 21, 2018
All of that while unifying the division and becoming only the second undisputed cruiserweight champion in history.
In order, that’s Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, and Murat Gassiev, with the last three wins all coming under the World Boxing Super Series tournament. He also handed Hunter, Briedis, and Gassiev their respective first defeats.
This is a truly special talent in the sport, and he has acknowledged the call out of Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs), who was interested in fighting the tournament winner. In the post-fight interview, Usyk said that if Bellew wasn’t willing to return to cruiserweight, he’d gladly move up to heavyweight.
Usyk is easily one of the three best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and this tournament has surely made him in excess of $5 million, and possibly $10 million if you go by Richard Schaefer’s original quote. He might have 2018 Fighter of the Year locked up already for what he’s accomplished by unifying all of the belts through the WBSS.
It’s believed that Usyk will move up to heavyweight soon, Bellew or no Bellew, and that could be something truly fascinating.