Gassiev set for Wlodarczyk battle: WBSS cruiserweight preview
This weekend the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) cruiserweight quarter-finals conclude as Murat Gassiev takes on Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in Newark, New Jersey. Callum Rudge previews the action...
The WBSS has created huge excitement around the boxing world and is a fantastic addition to an already stellar year for the sport.
The cruiserweight tournament in particular has generated huge buzz with all four sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO) represented by their respective champions (bar WBA 'super' champ Denis Lebedev) and four very solid ‘contenders’ also present.
The seeding system, which saw the top four seeds pick their opponents, made for gripping TV and no doubt the two tournaments will provide many moments to remember. While Oleksandr Usyk started as favourite in the 200lbs competition, the ‘Super Six World Boxing Classic’ super middleweight tournament held between 2009 and 2011 shows us that ventures like this don’t always go to plan - on that occasion pre-tournament favourites Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham both lost to Andre Ward and exited the tournament before the final showdown between the American and Britain's Carl Froch.
On 9 September, Usyk avoided an upset, however, by defeating former longtime title holder Marco Huck in Berlin via an impressive tenth-round stoppage to advance to the semi-finals, where he will meet Latvian Mairis Briedis, who defeated Mike Perez by unanimous decision on 30 September.
The other semi-final will feature the winner of Saturday's Gassiev-Wlodarczyk clash against unbeaten Cuban dangerman Yunier Dorticos, who spectacularly knocked out Dmitry Kudryashov in San Antonio, Texas on 23 September.
21 October: Murat Gassiev (24-0) vs Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1) - IBF cruiserweight title, Newark, New Jersey
Murat Gassiev should be preparing for this fight as a unified world champion after defeating Denis Lebedev last December and it is only, in the words of Lennox Lewis, the ‘politricks’ of boxing that stopped Gassiev leaving that night with two belts instead of just one. In another piece of boxing ‘politricking’ we were spared the drama of IBF titlist Gassiev picking his opponent as he was instead mandated by the IBF to meet Wlodarczyk, thus removing the spectre of the IBF stripping Gassiev for having the gall to unify the division (shout out to Terence Crawford!)
As for the fight itself, I think this will be a close contest. Wlodarczyk is that rarity - a good mandatory challenger, who was WBC Champion for over four years before losing the title to Grigory Drozd in 2014. He has since bounced back with four wins against solid if not spectacular opposition.
There is a 12-year age gap between the two with Gassiev just 23 years old compared to Wlodarczyk being 35, and this could be where the fight is won and lost. Gassiev is the fresher of the duo and will have learned a lot in his win over Lebedev. I think this fight could be close and I wouldn’t be surprised at some controversy over the scoring, but the pick is for Gassiev to retain via close decision.