Otto Wallin doesn’t know what to make of Murat Gassiev as a heavyweight.
The former IBF/WBA cruiserweight champion has knocked out all four of his heavyweight opponents inside of four rounds since he moved up in weight four years ago. None of Gassiev’s heavyweight conquests were nearly as proven as Wallin, however, which makes their 12-round fight Saturday night at Regnum Carya Hotel in Antalya, Turkey the pivotal point of the once-beaten Russian’s career in their division.
“We don’t really know,” Wallin told BoxingScene.com. “He was a good cruiserweight, but moving up, we’ll see. He struggled with Usyk, of course, lost that fight. He had some good wins over [Denis] Lebedev and other guys. I think he’s a good fighter, but we’re gonna see. He’s fighting a real heavyweight now, somebody that’s gonna come to win, so I think things are gonna be a lot different.”
Sweden’s Wallin (25-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC) is most known for testing Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) in their 12-round, non-title fight four years ago. A left hand by Wallin opened a grotesque gash above Fury’s right eye, but the big British star fought through that adversity and beat Wallin on all three scorecards (118-110, 117-111, 116-112) in September 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Wallin beat Travis Kauffman and Dominic Breazeale in back-to-back bouts after his loss to Fury, yet his career hasn’t advanced since a reportedly injured Dillian Whyte withdrew on 10 days’ notice from their October 2021 bout at O2 Arena in London. The 30-year-old southpaw has won three low-profile fights since February 2022, but Wallin hopes a victory over Gassiev rejuvenates his career.
The winner of their fight for the WBA intercontinental title will become the IBF’s number two contender to Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs), who owns the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO belts. The second spot in the IBF’s heavyweight rankings is currently unoccupied.
“This is a chance I’ve been waiting for,” Wallin said. “I think it’s a really big fight and I’m gonna be in a great position if I win this fight.”
The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Gassiev (30-1, 23 KOs) has lost only to Ukraine’s Usyk, who decisively defeated him in their 12-round fight for the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO cruiserweight championships in July 2018 in Moscow. Gassiev, 29, most recently knocked out previously unbeaten American southpaw Mike Balogun (20-1, 16 KOs) in the second round March 3 in Yerevan, Armenia.
“He was a unified [cruiserweight] champion, so you’ve gotta be pretty good to do that,” Wallin said. “And then he fought Usyk in 2018, and I think Usyk did a really good job with him and really outboxed him. And then he moved up. He’s had four fights. Those have all been, I believe, first-round or second-round knockouts. So, we don’t really know much about him at heavyweight. I don’t think he’s fought a real competitor at heavyweight, so we’ll see what he can bring. But I think me being a natural heavyweight, you know, I’ve fought at heavyweight all of my pro career, and I think that’s an advantage for me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.