The Big Question: Usyk vs Gassiev - who wins?
Photos courtesy of Peter Banke, WBSS
Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev do battle on Saturday night in an eagerly awaited World Boxing Super Series final in Moscow with total supremacy of the cruiserweight division at stake. The BM team are here with their picks and predictions...
Usyk vs Gassiev seems like an even bigger event now that we have been made to wait for certain details to be confirmed. This fight should be a cracker. Indeed, based on the duo's performances in the tournament so far it could even be a Fight of the Year contender. I've backed Usyk from the very beginning of the World Boxing Super Series, thinking he'd simply be too good for everyone else. But Gassiev is an absolute wrecking ball, with impressive boxing skills too. If Usyk doesn't keep on his toes for 12 rounds he could easily be taken out! Despite the fight being held in Russia though, I'm still sticking with my original pick (for now), which is Usyk to win via split decision. I can't wait! - Lee Gormley
This is a genuine champion vs champion unification fight, which is brilliant. I keep having a sneaking suspicion that Gassiev could upset the odds, especially after the semi-finals, but I'm still going with Usyk to take a very tight, debatable and close points decision. I think his amateur pedigree, plus the fact that he's a few years older - so has less time to 'rebuild and come back again' - will mean that he wants it that tiny bit more; and these two attributes will see him through to victory. - Colin Harris
This showdown has all the makings of a classic. Two undefeated, elite level boxers who can punch. And, to top it off, it’ll unify the cruiserweight division. I like Gassiev, but I am a huge fan of Usyk. He certainly belongs in the pound-for-pound conversation for me and at the top end, if he wins this fight. I love his footwork, his jab, and his patience. I think it’ll be a brutal, tight affair with both fighters splitting rounds early doors. As with the Mairis Briedis fight, however, I think Usyk will just have that bit more polish and fluidity which will help him pull away in the championship rounds. - James Oddy
I'm pretty hacked off that this bout has been put on PPV but that's a subject for another day. In terms of the fight itself I favour Usyk via decision, but can he get the nod in Russia? I was quite unsold on Gassiev after the Denis Lebedev fight but he showed more sides to his game against Yunier Dorticos. However, possibly naively given the location, I still favour the Ukrainian's extra speed and boxing fundamentals to be the difference between the men. - Marcus Bellinger
Gassiev was mightily impressive against Dorticos and will certainly make Usyk work hard. Any lapses in concentration could prove costly. However, he won't test the Ukrainian in the way that Briedis did (I thought the Latvian at least deserved a draw). Styles make fights and I just think Gassiev will get picked off at will by the wily former world and Olympic gold medallist. A unanimous points win for Usyk. - Luca Rosi
It’s impossible to overstate just how perfect this match-up is. Dwight Muhammad Qawi’s epic fifteen rounder versus Evander Holyfield has its own special retrospective shine as the first title win of an all-time great, but Usyk vs Gassiev is easily the most significant match in the cruiserweight division’s 39-year history. Two undefeated, unified champions meeting in their prime to crown an undisputed champion... Wow! It’s one of those rare fights where it’s very difficult to imagine either losing given the streak they are on. Paul Zanon and I were lucky enough to be at the Arena Riga in January for Usyk’s semi-final with Mairis Briedis in what was the most deafening atmosphere I’ve ever experienced. Usyk wasn’t at his best that night but was able to dig deep enough and make the adjustments necessary to beat a fine champion in that hostile environment. Gassiev simply oozes Eastern hardness. Watch the way he almost beheaded Jordan Shimmell and then calmly walked to a neutral corner, job finished. The man drinks blood, literally. I picked against Gassiev in a preview of his challenge to Denis Lebedev and haven’t underestimated him since. His patient semi-final bludgeoning of Yunier Dorticos was as thrilling as boxing gets and calm confidence appears unbreakable. Without much confidence I’ll tip a very close Usyk decision in one more brutal war where superior footwork and range of angles to work in proves a narrow differentiator.- Chris Williamson
I believe the boxing brain of Usyk - who I saw defeat Briedis in Latvia in the semi-final - will earn him a close decision. Gassiev is underrated with his sneaky lean backs and feints. His ability to set traps is masterful... and if you step into one of his traps - God help you! However, big Gass lacks the footwork, lateral movement and hand speed of Usyk, which I believe are the qualities which will grind him out the win. - Paul Zanon
This is a fight full of paradoxes. Despite it being the biggest event in the cruiserweight division since forever, it still lacks any US broadcast outlet. Whether that is due to US parochialism or other factors is open to question. We also have the intriguing spectacle of misleading unbeaten records. Gassiev at 26-0 is this not the grizzled veteran but the 24-year-old young gun. Conversely, at just 14-0 the former Olympic Gold medallist in the other corner is actually seven years the older man at 31. Whatever the inconsistencies we have two unbeaten fighters in their prime with all four legitimate world titles on the line. In other words, a proper nowhere to hide full unification match - something that would not have happened without the much needed establishment of the WBSS. That the fighters are equipped with contrasting yet ultimately complementing styles, for the fan at home at least, makes this a match-up for the ages. Picking a winner should be prefixed with the usual cigarette paper, coin toss clichés. However, these are not inappropriate in this instance. Gassiev, fighting in front of his home Moscow crowd has the single punch arsenal to end this one in an instant. But I still favour the boxing brain and knowhow of the Ukrainian to triumph in a hard-fought, granite jawed contest. My money is on Usyk by a narrow decision. - Garry White
I'm stunned that a fight so many are calling '50-50' has resulted in so few tips for Gassiev. Maybe it's the stubborn contrarian in me, but I'm going for Gassiev to upset the odds via a close, possibly controversial, decision. Behind the scenes rumours of disquiet in the Usyk camp with yet again being 'on the road' hint that he and his team are not delighted to be fighting in Moscow, a city that will have a supercharged atmosphere after the World Cup. Usyk has shown before that he isn't intimidated by an 'away' crowd but I thought he looked vulnerable, flawed and hurt at times in his semi-final against Briedis. Gassiev is the younger man and I think his determination and iron chin will carry the day in a cruiser classic that has everyone debating the split scorecards. (Don't discount a draw either, which I've seen offered at odds of anything between 20 and 25-1...)* - Luke G. Williams
I picked both Murat Gassiev and George Groves to win their respective World Boxing Super Series tournaments when the the line-ups were announced. I haven’t changed my mind. While Usyk is one of the finest cruiserweights the world has seen this century, I do feel he is going to play into Gassiev’s hands on fight night. On ability, Usyk comes out on top. If he uses his feet and distance he can win the fight on points by eight rounds to four, or in that region, but we have already seen his willingness to trade heavy shots in this tournament and I believe he will do this once again on Saturday night in Moscow. Gassiev’s fighting style can be described as thunderous. He is not as mobile as Usyk but certainly has the power to win this spectacular looking fight. I think Usyk will win the early rounds but Gassiev is going to land a shot that changes the context of the fight. Usyk is going to step in and miss and Gassiev’s uppercut is going to set everything up for a fight of the year contender. Usyk isn’t going to back down, he is going to dish out equal punishment but the Russian is more brutal and more destructive and because of this I pick Gassiev to stop Usyk in the final round. Don’t miss this fight! - Shaun Brown
Usyk by decisive points decision. - Michael Montero
Usyk on a close and possibly controversial decision. - Callum Rudge
Final tally: Usyk 10 Gassiev 2
*In the event of a draw, a fourth judge's scorecard will be used to determine the tournament winner, and then a countback system.