The last time we saw Murat Gassiev under the limelight, he was attempting to become a cruiserweight kingpin against Oleksandr Usyk in the World Boxing Super Series final.
Everything has seemingly gone bad for Gassiev ever since that day on July 21, 2018.
The former WBA and IBF cruiserweight champion lost a near-shutout unanimous decision to Usyk, he suffered a left shoulder injury that needed surgery, he then re-injured the same shoulder, and during the global pandemic, Gassiev was sued by Warriors Boxing and Ural Boxing Promotions for breach of contract after proclaiming he was a free agent.
Gassiev’s (26-1, 19 KOs) circuitous journey will finally be over 27 months later when he makes his heavyweight debut against the 43-year-old Nuri Seferi (41-9, 23 KOs) this Saturday at the WOW Arena in Sochi, Russia.
As has been the case for the 27-year-old Gassiev, the road to the fight was unsteady, as previously agreed on opponents Kevin Johnson and Sefer Seferi both dropped out.
“Being away from boxing for the last two years has been a long time, but I am excited to finally get back into the ring Saturday,” Gassiev told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “I have prepared myself for a tough fight. Nuri Seferi is a good opponent. I’ve been sparring with a lot of heavyweights and I feel comfortable. I know that actually fighting a heavyweight is different, but I am ready to try this division.”
The Abel Sanchez-trained Gassiev weighed in at 199.2 pounds against Usyk, but as a heavyweight, he said he will be tipping the scales north of 235 pounds.
“That’s a comfortable weight for me,” said Gassiev. “I feel good. It’s a great time for the heavyweight division. There are great fighters and champions, and I want to fight all of them.”
Having previously sparred with Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder and Chris Arreola, Gassiev has already gotten a taste of premium heavyweight competition.
Gassiev was in a good mood days before the fight, claiming that he can even scarf down cookies and home-cooked Russian meals if we wanted to since he doesn’t have to worry about making weight anymore.
Before dropping the fight to Usyk, Gassiev was riding wins as a champion against Yuniel Dorticos, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk and Denis Lebedev.
Now he looks to make his mark in a new division.
"Injuries have luckily left me already. Nothing bothered me during training,” said Gassiev. “The most frustrating part of the last two years was waiting, waiting and waiting. Boxing is my life. I put my heart into this sport. Without boxing, it was very bad for me. I'm finally happy again.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.