By Keith Idec
NEWARK, N.J. – Krzysztof Wlodarczyk was wary of Murat Gassiev for very good reason Saturday night.
When the aggressive Gassiev got to his cautious opponent in the third round, the hard-hitting Russian drilled Wlodarczyk with crushing combination that abruptly ended their scheduled 12-round fight for Gassiev’s IBF cruiserweight title. Gassiev connected with a left uppercut to the head and a left hook to the body that left the Polish contender on his gloves and knees.
Wlodarczyk couldn’t get up and referee Earl Brown stopped their fight at 1:57 of the third round before a small crowd at Prudential Center. The 24-year-old Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs, 1 NC) also advanced to the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament by beating Wlodarczyk (53-4-1, 37 KOs).
“We do a lot of work in [the] gym and I have a great chance,” Gassiev said. “I throw a good shot and that’s it.”
To reach the cruiserweight championship match, Gassiev will have to get through Cuban knockout artist Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs).
Dorticos recorded a spectacular, one-punch, second-round technical knockout victory over Russia’s Dmitry Kudryashov (21-2, 21 KOs) in their quarterfinal fight September 23 in San Antonio. After Gassiev’s victory, Dorticos came into the ring and predicted he’ll knock out Gassiev in their semifinal fight, which will take place on a soon-to-be-announced date in January.
The winner between Dorticos and Gassiev will advance the final to face the winner of the other semifinal. Ukraine’s Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs), the WBO champion, will battle Latvia’s Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs), the WBC champion, in that bout.
Before Saturday night, the 36-year-old Wlodarczyk had not lost by knockout or technical knockout during a successful professional career that spanned 17 years and 57 fights.
“I thought that Wlodarczyk was gonna give us a little more work,” said Abel Sanchez, Gassiev’s trainer. “The problem that I’ve had with this young man [Gassiev] is that he only had 25 amateur fights. And this is his 25th professional fight. Wlodarczyk had more professional fights than he has fights.
“So it was a matter of accerlerating his progress and accelerating his development. But I think he’s coming along just like I thought he would. A year-and-a-half ago, I said that he would be the next Golovkin coming out of my gym.”
Wlodarczyk was very cautious in the first round and didn’t take many chances because he didn’t want to afford Gassiev opportunities to open up on him. The former IBF and WBC cruiserweight champ tried to keep his distance from Gassiev in the second round as well.
Once Gassiev backed him against the ropes in the third round, however, he landed the vicious combination that ended their fight.
“The adjustment for me was to tell him to close the distance a little quicker,” Sanchez said. “He was throwing a punch and just thinking things were gonna happen, instead of making them happen. So I wanted him to deliver a shot – whichever hand it was – and just close the distance to create an opportunity. And he followed instructions to a tee. When you move your hands, you have a chance to land a shot, and the shot was landed.”
In the co-feature before Gassiev’s victory, cruiserweight contender Mateusz Masternak dominated Stivens Bujaj before stopping him in their scheduled 10-round bout.
Poland’s Masternak hammered Bujaj with right hands throughout their one-sided bout and dropped him with a right hand in the seventh round. A brave Bujaj was able to make it to the end of the round, but a ringside physician stopped their bout before the eighth round began.
Masternak, who improved to 40-4 and recorded his 27th knockout, was head 69-63 on all three scorecards when their fight was stopped. Brooklyn’s Bujaj dropped to 16-2-1 and lost for the first time by knockout or technical knockout.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.