Undisputed Usyk a class above
Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk proved he was in a different class against Murat Gassiev in Saturday night's World Boxing Super Series final, argues Lee Gormley,,,
What was initially billed as a genuine 50-50 level match-up, a World Boxing Super Series final that could easily capture Fight of the Year status, ultimately resulted in a one-sided masterclass courtesy of the victor Oleksandr Usyk.
After pummelling both Krzysztof Włodarczyk and Yunier Dorticos along his own impressive path of destruction towards the final of the 200lbs tournament, Murat Gassiev entered the widely anticipated final as seemingly the most dangerous foe for the mercurial talents of Usyk.
Before the opening bell at the Olimpiyskiy Sports Complex in Moscow, there was virtually nothing to separate the Russian home hope, holding the IBF and WBA belts, and the traveling Ukrainian, defending the WBC and WBO straps.
Less than an hour later, the final bell brought to an end to one of the most resounding and supreme displays likely to be seen throughout 2018 inside the boxing ring. Scorecards of 120-108, 119-109 and 119-109 were an apt reflection of Usyk's dominance as he proved himself a 200lbs boxing maestro who outworked and outclassed a man previously seen as his equal; a fellow unified cruiserweight world champion.
Much was made of Gassiev’s devastating power before the bout, but Usyk’s sublime movement and ring generalship nullified that one highlighted trait.
The new undisputed champion was caught flush with a counter right hand midway through his dazzling Moscow showcase, but that was as much as he was truly troubled.
Usyk was able to completely demoralise Gassiev, sending him back to his corner after each lopsided round with his head lowered in frustration. This forced trainer Abel Sanchez to demand more from his man and plead for a sustained effort. But it was to no avail, as ‘Iron’ Gassiev was reduced to no more than a fruitless slugger.
Now the holder of all the belts in the division, the first fighter to ever claim the four ‘major’ titles at cruiserweight and only the fourth four-belt undisputed champion in history, Usyk is in a class of his own among the top names at 200lbs.
There’s a Ukrainian takeover atop the sport’s elite standings, with outstanding compatriots Usyk and Vasily Lomachenko, under the guidance of the latter’s father Anatoly Lomachenko, or ‘Papachenko’, delivering a unique dominance over those who attempt to challenge their superiority. There’s levels to this, as the saying goes. And the two Eastern European ring wizards are pushing far and beyond their peers.
Usyk had confidently promised a “beautiful fight” and that’s exactly what unfolded in Russia on on his part, mesmerising those watching with his dynamic skillset and movement around the WBSS’s now familiar black canvas.
Now the undisputed champion after just 15 professional outings, Usyk also earned himself the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy and a huge prize fund for his commanding tournament campaign in which he overcame three former and present world title holders in their own backyards.
The ultimate road warrior, Usyk had previously dominated Głowacki in Poland to clinch his initial WBO belt back in 2016. His WBSS debut saw him halt division legend Marco Huck in Germany before outpointing Latvian Mairis Briedis on 'enemy territory' once again.
His glittered journey was then capped off in style by making Gassiev look anything but the menacing knockout artist that has also graced this exciting tournament since last October. Gassiev was made to appear a one-dimensional foe without a Plan B, while Usyk captivated the 24,000 spectators in attendance in Russia.
It was a near-perfect picture painted by Usyk’s ring artistry. Both he and fellow pugilistic genius Lomachenko have been serving up displays of true brilliance this year and have already begun their takeover in the pound-for-pound standings.
With his blend of eye-catching work rate and remarkable movement for a big guy, Usyk has all the attributes capable of going on to bolster his control over the cruiserweight division for many years to come. Though, as is the relentless and aspiring nature of the Ukrainian, even more is desired and another step towards greatness is in his immediate sights (much like Lomachenko).
That’s where talk of a step up to heavyweight comes into the equation. Who’s to say Usyk can’t continue his ascendancy all the way up, where he would rub shoulders with the likes of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder? In light of such an imposing feat against the destructive powers of Gassiev, anything seems possible for this Ukrainian phenomenon.
Usyk’s latest show of mastery secured his spot in crusierweight history, as well as the Muhammad Ali Trophy; dubbed the ‘Greatest Prize in Boxing’. A fitting honour for a fighter who has swiftly established himself as one of the leading lights in the sport.