Murat Gassiev A Star, Or, At Least, MUST WATCH For Now

We ask the question all the time. Or, more accurately, two brave souls get down to business and answer the query for us…

Youth? Or experience?

On Saturday in New Jersey, we saw another “young” versus…I don’t to say “old,” but “older”…”more experienced” battle play out and on this night, the experience wasn’t enough.

Murat Gassiev repped the “young camp” and oh so effectively. The 24 year old Russian, who we’d been debating during fight week.. was he now a star? a future star? is he Golovkin-esque? …proved to doubters and those who’d been unaware of his merits that he is at the very least a must-see athlete and just might be more than that.

On a World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal within the cruiserweight class, Gassiev stood across from a more experienced hitter, Pole Kryzstof Wlodarczyk, one who’d climbed mountains, and enjoyed successes, in the form of titles. But those resume bullet points did him no good when the Russian came hunting at the Prudential Center in Jersey.

Gassiev stood impassive as he awaited the start of round one, perhaps provoking thoughts of the cinema baddie Ivan Drago..

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..similarly unmoved by pomp and pageantry and high stakes before he set out to destruct and destroy Apollo Creed.

Gassiev trainer Abel Sanchez had told me this week, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s see how the kid, he’s still a kid, develops. He hasn’t had the 300 plus amateur fights GGG did, so it’s not all natural and automatic for “Iron,” Sanchez said. Give him more reps, and more time, and if he doesn’t lose focus and go down the Broner hole, then maybe he will be what some are saying he is.

In the first, the Pole worked a jab, moved, assessed. Then, at 1:20 and 1:10 two rights came, with hot mustard on them. The second one, especially, it looked like Wlodarczyk flickered with recognition that the Russian had hands as advertised. The first didn’t give a hint that the Pole was old, too faded, scared or destined to lose..Or yet…Stat counter showed that Wlodarczyk landed 0 of 10 punches thrown.

In round two, the two came to center ring walking through a ring of lights surrounding the squared circle, a nice production touch, which Richard Schaefer had alluded to days before the fight night. The Pole picked up his pace to start, as did the Russian, who, as you see from guys trained by Abel Sanchez, a measured progression in pace, usually, with an incremental closing of distance, part of that “patient predator” style he teaches. At 1:59 a right to the body landed with a thud, and no visible wince from the Pole. But internal, maybe. At :23 seconds remaining, a left hook to the body maybe didn’t land as clean but spoke, of possible (probable?) future carnage.

Round three, 40 seconds in, we saw Wlodarczyk stumble a bit. The Russian was busier, closer, now less patient in his predation. A right hand-left hookercut combo scored. At 1:14 a left hook to the body, hitting Wlodarczyk as he was backed against the ropes, felled him. He went to two knees, looking down, studying the canvas for inspirational and instruction. Nothing there, and slumped onto his belly, face down, his brain sending signals via messed up nerve endings that he’d not be getting on his feet quick enough to beat a ten, or maybe a 20 count.

Handlers helped Wlodarczyk up, like he was in a geriatric unit and had a spill.  Replays showed the subtle art of the sweet science—the winner froze the Pole by starting a jab, fired a left hand uppercut to freeze his defense in the middle and then slithered with the left hook fired with seamless precision. Seamless, and organ rattling…

More discussion will ensue, how good is Gassiev, is he a future star or right now, is he someone who should be added to top 20 pound for pound lists. Sanchez hasn’t been moved to change his assessment of the kid all that much. “My guy is rapidly improving like I was hoping, he only had 25 amateur fights,” Sanchez said on Sunday.

And, for that fact, where Gassiev is right now is more than impressive. A quite stern and formidable test awaits, though. Yunier Dorticos is a most clever Cuban who again aces the Russian in the experience department, and at 31, we needn’t find euphemisms to speak respectfully of his age. He’s at or near the prime of his fighting life. This World Boxing Super Series should anoint one of these two semifinalists, Gassiev or Dorticos, as deserved of more adulation and acclaim than they’d been privy to. Date and location of that ought to be much anticipated scrap are forthcoming.

Michael Woods
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Michael Woods. Host, TALKBOX podcast, powered by EVERLAST; 1st VP, Boxing Writers Association of America; is my site