By Keith Idec
HOBOKEN, N.J. – If Murat Gassiev gets past a tough, experienced ex-champion on Saturday night, it’ll set up one of boxing's most fascinating fights of early 2018.
The winner of Gassiev’s IBF cruiserweight championship defense against Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk will advance to the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. Cuban knockout artist Yuniel Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs), the WBA champion, awaits the winner of their scheduled 12-rounder at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
If it’s Russia’s Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs, 1 NC), promoter Richard Schaefer is certain there will be intense interest among boxing fans for Gassiev-Dorticos.
“Honestly, from a fireworks and excitement standpoint, this is probably one of the most exciting fights you can make in the sport,” said Schaefer, a co-promoter of Saturday’s card. “It’s one of the most significant ones as well. It’s a championship unification bout, two huge punchers, two undefeated guys. It is really boxing at its absolute best, if that would happen. So I would be very, very excited to promote that event.”
Abel Sanchez, Gassiev’s trainer, is eager to prepare Gassiev for Dorticos, yet also wants to see improvement in his young, undefeated fighter against Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs), a 36-year-old former IBF and WBC champion. Sanchez believes Gassiev is much more diverse than Russia’s Dmitry Kudryashov (21-2, 21 KOs), who was knocked out in the second round by Dorticos on September 23 in San Antonio.
“It all depends on how he looks against Wlodarczyk,” Sanchez said. “It’ll be an even bigger fight [against Dorticos] if he does some of the things that Kudryashov couldn’t do, like box a little bit, and be able to be a boxer-puncher, instead of just a slugger like Kudryashov was thought to be, then I think the Dorticos fight becomes an even better fight because they’re both gonna have skills inside the ring.
“Right now they’re just looking at [Gassiev] as a big puncher. They’re not looking at him as a boxer. So it all depends on how we do in this fight as far as that part of it. But yeah, I’m salivating at the idea of it, too, because it’s two very good fighters and you don’t get that everywhere.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.