By Jake Donovan
Murat Gassiev was on his way to a knockout win when his last opponent found a way of their title eliminator last December. The unbeaten cruiserweight from Russia made sure to get the job done in swift fashion this time around, flattening Jordan Shimmell inside of one round in their main event battle Tuesday evening at Black Bear Casino in Carlton, Minnesota.
The knockout was as frightening as it was sudden. Gassiev put Shimmell down and out with a compact left hook in the final 15 seconds of the opening round of their Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1 headliner.
In his most recent ring appearance, Gassiev was in a final eliminator with Isiah Thomas, who'd previously outpointed Shimmell. The bout was slow moving for two rounds, but with Gassiev slowly closing the gap only for the night to end on an incidental foul when the 22-year old from Russia landed a punch after the bell, with referee Jay Nady miserably out of position and unable to separate the boxers in time.
The fight ended in a No-Contest, resulting in Gassiev losing his place in line to Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk, who will get next dibs at reigning cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki.
It wasn't the outcome he wanted, but made the most of it and is now on a path to another title - two in fact, assuming a winner comes out of this weekend's unification clash between Denis Lebedev and Victor Ramirez.
Gassiev made sure to seize the opportunity the moment it presented itself. Shimmell came in with the far deeper amateur background, but has yet to put it together in the pro ranks. The 27-year old from Hudsonville, Michigan was regarded as the showcase attraction ahead of last summer's clash with Thomas, but came well short in their NBC Sports Network-televised clash of then-unbeaten cruiserweights.
His first career TV main event was far worse in comparison.
Gassiev - trained by noted cornerman Abel Sanchez - has developed a pattern of stalking his opponent before eventually landing the heavy artillery. He did just that versus Shimmell, closing the gap and moving within position to crack his foe with a short yet impactful left hook.
Shimmell was out from the moment the punch landed, falling flat on his back and nearly out of the ring. Referee Mark Nelson pointed Gassiev to a neutral corner, but in seeing Shimmell sprawled on the canvas immediately halted the contest and urged for ringside medics to tend to the fallen fighter.
The official time was 2:54 of round one.
There was concern that Shimmell (20-2, 16KOs) would have to be carried out on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. Thanks to the actions of Nelson and the medical staff on hand, the fallen cruiserweight was put in a position to where he was able to rise to his feet and leave the ring on his own terms, though suffering a second career loss in the span of his past three starts.
Meanwhile, Gassiev rolls to 23-0 (17KOs) while storming into the cruiserweight title picture. Whatever he decides for his next step, the rest of the players in the cruiserweight division need to be pay close attention to what's bearing down in the rearview mirror.
Joey Abell pulled off a significant upset in scoring a 3rd round knockout of John Wesley Nofiire in the co-feature attraction .
Nofire was more regarded for his standing in the Native American community than for anything he's achieved in the ring to date. The unbeaten boxer from Oklahoma is a proud member of the Cherokee tribe and an active member of the Native American Youth Suicide Awareness Program.
For that reason alone, you want to root for an athlete like that to succeed. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be his night in a disappointing televised debut. Abell has been in versus the superior opposition, but has always fallen miserably short. The southpaw from Coon Rapids, Minn. - about two hours from the venue - now has a win on which to hang his proverbial hat, as he couldn't miss all night with his left hand.
The weapon was key in all three knockdowns on the night. Nofire hit the deck hard late in round two, as he was caught with a series of left hands followed by a vicious right hook square across the jaw. He made it to his feet in time to make it to the bell, but a sense of urgency already existed in his corner.
Widely respected cornerman Ronnie Shields insisted that Nofire needed to go for the knockout in round three, but it was Abell who went on such a mission. Two more knockdowns followed, the final sequence coming after Nofire missed wildly with a right hand and was clipped with consecutive left hand shots. The fight was waved off at that point, the fight ending at 2:12 of round three.
Abell improves to 32-9 (30KOs), while Nofire falls to 19-1 (15KOs).
Stephan Shaw claimed a unanimous decision win over Danny Kelly in the televised opener. Scores were 60-54 (twice) and 59-55 in favor of Shaw (7-0, 5KOs), who controlled the relatively slow-moving heavyweight bout on the strength of his jab and combination punching. Kelly (9-3-1) returns to Washington D.C. with his second consecuitve loss.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2