By Keith Idec
Oleksandr Usyk isn’t concerned about boxing Murat Gassiev in his opponent’s home country.
Ukraine’s Usyk is confident he can win a decision against Gassiev in their 12-round cruiserweight title unification fight Saturday night in Moscow. Gassiev-Usyk, the final of the World Boxing Super Series’ cruiserweight tournament, will take place at Olympic Stadium in Russia’s capital city.
“It does not matter which city, which country my opponent is from and I am not worried about fighting in Moscow,” Usyk said during a press conference Thursday. “For me, it’s normal to fight abroad.”
Ukraine was the site of eight of Usyk’s first nine professional fights. Since then, he has fought in Poland, the United States, Germany and Latvia.
In his last fight, Usyk settled for a majority-decision victory over Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18 KOs) on January 27 in Briedis’ hometown of Riga, Latvia. Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) won that fight by the score of 115-113 on the cards of American Robin Taylor and Canadian Robert Tapper, but Canadian Craig Metcalfe score their 12-rounder even, 114-114, in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals.
America’s Mauro Di Fiore, Taylor and Belgium’s Philippe Verbeke are the three judges who’ve been assigned to work Gassiev-Usyk.
“I don’t think I have an advantage fighting in Russia, because I know Usyk has many fans here, too,” Gassiev said Thursday. “I respect my opponent, and I don’t pay attention to where he comes from.”
Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) was ahead on all three scorecards when he stopped Cuba’s Yunier Dorticos (22-1, 21 KOs) in the 12th round of their semifinal fight February 3 in Sochi, Russia.
Poland’s Pawel Kardyni and the United States’ Steve Weisfeld had Gassiev in front 106-103 through 11 rounds. America’s Robert Hoyle had Gassiev ahead 105-104 at the time of the stoppage.
Gassiev, 24, and Usyk, 31, will fight for Gassiev’s IBF and WBA cruiserweight titles and Usyk’s WBC and WBO championships. The Gassiev-Usyk card can be viewed on KlowdTV in the United States, beginning at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.