By Luke Furman
WBA, IBF cruiserweight world champion Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KO) admitted that he took things very slow in his unification with Yunier Dorticos (22-1, 21 KO) last weekend in Sochi, because he expected that the Cuban boxer to fade in the second half of the contest.
He wanted Dorticos to shoot most of his big shots in the first half of the contest and planned to take over when the fight crossed over in the second half.
"To be honest, I thought he would get tired after six rounds, but it was not evident. He was very well prepared physically and mentally," Gassiev told Sports Express.
After the first four rounds Dorticos had a big advantage on scorecards. In the next four fights, however, it leveled out, and the last few rounds belonged to Gassiev, who finally knocked out the Cuban puncher in the twelfth round.
"I did not know who was leading the points, I did not ask the coach about it. I did my best in every round, but I knew that in the final one I would have to risk everything so that no one... the opponent or judges, could influence the result in any way," Gassiev said.
The 24-year-old, who already had an IBF belt cruiserweight, won the WBA title in this unification.
After the fight, a beautiful scene took place when he handed the belt back to Dorticos in the locker room .
"The truth is that this belt belongs to him. It was made for him. I became a champion, but I left the title to him. They'll make a copy of it for me," Gassiev said.
Gassiev is resting now after the hardships of the fight, but he will soon begin preparations for the next match in the World Boxing Super Series final, where his rival will be WBO, WBC world champion Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KO). The fight will take place on May 11 in Saudi Arabia.
"[After the fight with Dorticos] in the ring in Sochi, I met with Usyk for the first time. We wished him luck. I can not say anything about him yet as a man, but as for the boxer ... well, you know everything: he's an Olympic champion, he has no professional defeats, he is a great boxer, one of the best in our weight," Gassiev said.
Luke Furman covers boxing for bokser.org.