By Alexey Sukachev
With just several hours left before the biggest Russian fight card in recent years, Moscow is well prepared for the event. The fight week saw a fascinating constellation of boxing stars and standouts from all over the world taking part in pre-fight festivities and activities.
Pre-fight Presser Excerpts (July 19)
Kalle Sauerland, a co-promoter of the World Boxing Super Series
On the event, “We have a sensational fight down here in Moscow, just a week after the FIFA World Cup Final, which makes it truly amazing. All in all, Usyk vs. Gassiev will be a World Cup of Boxing, which World Boxing Super Series is, Final. And I want to thank local organizers and Russian Boxing Federation for staging this event and also for hosting the WBSS Draft Gala.
It’s hands down the Fight of the Year. We witnessed greatness in both of the WBSS semifinals, and the best men came here to topple those fascinating performances with their fight here in Moscow. Come everyone on Saturday to see the best of the best”.
On a pre-fight gossip and cancellation rumours, “It’s very simple. Comosa AG has contracts with both fighters. I’m very surprised with all those rumours around Internet fight forums and message boards. I’m twice as surprised, no one had contacted me or other Comosa AG representative to know better about the event. The fight is definitely on, no worries here. Both fighters are ready to showcase their best talent. There’s no place for politics here, and, please, don’t bring it in. Just a great fight for the fans, the Champions League of boxing”.
Oleksandr Usyk, WBC/WBO Champion
“It’ll be a great fight, and I hope we shall live up to the expectation of the fans”.
About local support from Ukrainian and Russian fight fans, “That’s what the sport of boxing is all about. When you root for your man but respect the man in the opposite corner. No swearing, no bullsh*t, no trash-talk.
I don’t read comments in various social networks. While in Sochi, lots of Russian fans came at me to say hello, to congratulate on a win (versus Briedis) and to say they will root for Murat but saying I’m also a cool cat. That’s great”.
About amateur boxing and prizefighting, “Truth be told, I consider amateur boxing to be #1, and prizefighting to be #2. It’s really that simple: it’s not a different planet but rather a foundation. You cannot enter a university if you haven’t finished a school. It’s all the same in boxing”.
About why his open workout lasted just 10-15 seconds, “I was told that it shouldn’t exceed ten to fifteen minutes. So I decided why not to make it record-breakingly short for that purpose”.
For what Muhammad Ali means to him, “My trainer always told me to see how light Muhammad was on his feet, how smooth he was, a really great experience”.
About a coach change and about Anatoliy Lomachenko’s role in his life, “I wanted it (a change in coach) came in a different moment but I’m not worried about it.
Speaking of Anatoliy Lomachenko, he is like a father figure to me. I have worked with him so much when I fought as an amateur. He still advices me on so many daily problems and issues. Yet, he always says that I’m an adult, not a child, to be responsible for what I’m doing right now, for making my own decisions”.
On his sparring partners, “No, I haven’t been working with Alexey Papin and Andrey Knyazev this time. I have trained with Oleksandr Gvozdyk and the Klitschko brothers”.
Murat Gassiev, Super WBA / IBF champion
On the event, “All attention has been rightfully brought to this fight, and this is great. It’s such a rarity to see two undefeated champions in a fight for all the titles in boxing, a really huge event. Together with Sasha we shall do our best to give fans something to cheer for and to celebrate”.
On fighting in Russia, “That’s great. A real warm feeling to fight in my Motherland. I’m also so happy my mama is coming to cheer for me, as she was denied a visa to the States, where I’m training with Abel Sanchez”.
On a fans support, “I’m thankful to all the loyal fans that root for me so hard. This said, I don’t think I‘d have such a big advantage by fighting at home. I know there are a number of those, who will support Sasha. I have nothing but an utmost respect for Olexander. I respect my every opponent, and Sasha is no exception”.
For what Muhammad Ali means to him, “This is the peak of boxing. When I was a young kid, I used to see him fighting on the local TV. It was a truly fascinating experience”.
On changing his training facilities, “It is a great experience that I’m getting from training with Abel (Sanchez). I had a wonderful team here in Russia, and they still aid me, but I have trouble finding suitable sparring partners so that the change was a need. I came to America three years ago and I have never looked back”.
Abel Sanchez, Murat Gassiev’s head coach
“I knew I had a special talent with me when I first saw Murat in my gym. We had a wonderful camp this time, we are ready and willing to fight a really hard opponent in Usyk. That’ll be a step up for Murat, both boxers being at such a high level. That’ll be the biggest fight in boxing. I’d also like to thank Vitaliy Slanov, who is Murat’s local trainer, and whose work with Murat gave us such a gem”.