Russian IBF world champion Murat Gassiev will face former champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in the quarterfinal of the revolutionary World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) cruiserweight tournament.
Gassiev – nicknamed ‘Iron’ – was the first cruiserweight to sign up to WBSS, whose concept sees eight of the 200-pound division’s elite fighters competing in a straight elimination tournament for the coveted ‘Muhammad Ali trophy’.
Four of the eight boxers, including Gassiev, received seedings 1-4. Gassiev was named the ? 2 seed and was subsequently allowed the second pick of which of the four unseeded boxers he would face in his quarter final.
At the tournament’s lavish draw in Monte Carlo, Monaco, Gassiev chose to face former WBC and IBF titlist Wlodarczyk, whom the 23-year-old believes is the “number one contender in the world.”
“In this tournament there are no easy opponents. Wlodarczyk is a very experienced fighter, former world champion, and also the mandatory challenger to the IBF world title. I am confident in my ability and of my victory, it will be an exciting fight,” Gassiev said, as reported by TASS.
The fight will be Gassiev’s first since prizing the IBF world cruiserweight title from wily champion Denis Lebedev via a split decision in Moscow last December, knocking down his older opponent with a vicious body shot in the fifth round.
Originally from Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia’s Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, Gassiev bases himself in Big Bear, California when preparing for fights under the tutelage of renowned trainer Abel Sanchez at the latter’s state-of-the-art gym.
Six-foot-three-inch Gassiev has been trained by Sanchez for the last three years, during which he has sparred alongside another world champion, undisputed middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, whom Gassiev calls his ‘boxing idol’.
He has recorded five knockout wins Stateside under Sanchez’s tutelage since joining the Mexican-American coach’s stable in 2014.
Gassiev is the youngest fighter to take part in the newly launched tournament, which will also have a super middleweight version featuring WBA Super champion George Groves. Russia will have another representative in the tournament in Dmitry Kudryashov.
Promoted by Andrey Ryabinsky’s World of Boxing outfit, Kudryashov is looking to kick on this year after stopping Olanrewaju Durodola in June to avenge the only loss of his 22-fight career.
He faces a tough fight in hard-hitting Cuban Yunier Dorticos, who has won 20 of his 21 fights by knockout on his way to capturing the interim WBA title. The WBA ‘regular’ title will be on the line in that fight.
In the other two quarterfinal pairings, WBO champion and former amateur standout Oleksandr Usyk from Ukraine will take on German veteran Marco Huck, who will be looking to win back the title he held from 2009 to 2015.
Latvian Mairis Briedis, who beat Huck last time out to win the WBC title, will face Cuban-Irishman Mike Perez, who recently made the step down from heavyweight.
The quarterfinals will take place in September and October of 2017, and the winners will progress to the semifinal stage in January and February of 2018, before the final match for the Ali trophy in May.