by Cliff Rold
If one tuned in to see a two-way battle, it turned out those thrills had already happened in the semi-finals.
Instead, last Saturday in Moscow, boxing got a master class. As the first World Boxing Super Series came to a close, there was no debate about scores, no endless debate about a round here or there.
The winner was crystal clear. So is the identity of the cruiserweight champion of the world. Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk, in three road fights, left no doubt. A fighter who many buzzed about almost as soon as he turned professional, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at heavyweight validated every ounce of his perceived upside.
It was the sort of technical mastery of a proven opponent that we only see every so often, his equivalent of Floyd Mayweather-Diego Corrales. Usyk took a dangerous, heavy-handed opponent with some real credentials and spent most of twelve rounds defusing him.
At the end of every big fight, the question of what’s next is a gimme’. In the case of Usyk, it’s one asked with peak curiosity.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Usyk: From the sound of things, what’s immediately next for Usyk might be the UK’s Tony Bellew, a former cruiserweight titlist now competing in the unlimited class. Coming off a pair of career altering wins over David Haye, Bellew has never held more value. Whether they fight at cruiserweight, or in a post-WBSS heavyweight debut for Usyk, it doesn’t matter. Assume heavyweight is where Usyk is headed sooner than later. If the assumption is flawed, it would be career malpractice. Already 31, Usyk doesn’t need to waste time. At 6’3, not having to make 200 lbs. anymore, he would be a lighter heavyweight but a natural one by almost any era’s standard. The footwork, boxing ability, and ring IQ Usyk displayed against Gassiev would serve him well. Could he outbox Deontay Wilder and avoid the explosive power puncher’s best shots? Could he maneuver around the much larger but also more flat-footed Anthony Joshua? Maybe he could. Maybe not. Let’s find out. Few of the cruiserweight champions since Evander Holyfield have looked like they could truly threaten to become the king of all boxing: the heavyweight champion of the world. Usyk raised the possibility last weekend.
The Future for Gassiev: Gassiev began the fight as he had in his previous two toughest assignments, Denis Lebedev and Yunier Dorticos: slowly. He did what he usually does, landing with blunt force sparingly with an eye on upping the punishment as the rounds wore on. Usyk never let him. The Ukrainian never stepped off the gas and when Gassiev did land big stuff he found out Usyk could take it. It’s not like Gassiev never had moments. He got Usyk’s attention more than once but could never sustain his attacks because Usyk wouldn’t let him. Just because Gassiev couldn’t get the job done last weekend doesn’t mean he’s an easy task for anyone else at cruiserweight, or heavyweight if the big punching Russian elects to move up eventually. Still only in his mid-20s, Gassiev has lots of fight left to give and room still to improve. The now former unified titlist will be back. Last Saturday, he just met a better man.
Rold Picks 2018: 25-10 (Including pick in Munguia-Smith)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]