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Sizing Up Oleksandr Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev

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Photo by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

The Cruiserweight division continues to be one of the best and perhaps most overlooked divisions in boxing.

Given its habit of being filled with stone-faced Eastern European men whose surnames are beyond the pronunciation skills of the average American, it’s unlikely the division will soon have the mainstream success of the Welterweights.

In the meantime, hardcore fans can bask in the matchups it offers and the series of Fight of the Year-level contests the 200-pounders always seem to produce.

One of those matchups looming on the horizon is a showdown between Abel Sanchez’s silver child, Murat Gassiev and Ukrainian Oleksander Usyk, provided Usyk gets past his assignment against Thabiso Mchunu on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith.

Gassiev is coming off hot after a tightly contested fight against Denis Lebedev, who he knocked down on his way to getting the split-decision victory.

Usyk has been largely in the same boat. With only 10 professional fights on his record, he’s snagged a world title belt while putting on a dominant performance over the tough-as-nails former champion, Krzysztof Glowacki.

Usyk, a goofy, gap-toothed fighter with a 90 percent KO ratio could be a formidable opponent for Gassiev, a man with serious power in his fists—his KO over Jordan Shimmell remains one of the best knockouts of 2016.

While Gassiev could easily end any fight with one of his jawbreaker hooks, Usyk’s pure boxer-puncher tendencies are much more likely to be on showcase during this bout.

Gassiev may be a serious threat to be reckoned with among Cruiserweights, but Usyk is something else. Glowacki is a man who got off the canvas to put Marco Huck to sleep—he floored Steve Cunningham four times on the way to a decisive victory, yet Usyk made the Polish killer look incredibly pedestrian.

After comparing their most recent performances, it’s hard to see a world where Gassiev can dig deep and pull out a victory against someone with raw boxing skill of Usyk.

Gassiev’s best opportunity in this fight will be to try and land a single big punch after a well-timed feint or two.

Gassiev is a top-flight fighter, but it’s easy to see him being another notch in Usyk’s championship belt. If Usyk does in fact dispose of Gassiev with ease, there’s probably no hope for many other people in the weight class.

Abel Sanchez has noted that he feels Gassiev is the 200-pound version of fellow gym mate Gennady Golovkin—the irony of the statement is that Gassiev may just be negotiating to step in the ring with the real dominant Cruiserweight force in Usyk.

Photo by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

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