By Bradley Nuttell: The world boxing super series cruiserweight tournament has been brilliant. Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev were the two men who had battled their way to the final to win the Muhammad Ali Trophy and be the first ever undisputed Cruiserweight world champion, holding all four belts. A truly brilliant tournament saw Usyk beat Mairis Briedis and Marco Huck, and Gassiev defeat Kryzysztov Wlodarczyk and Yunier Dorticos. A true battle of the best, something that does not happen all that often in modern day boxing.
Usyk came out with urgency for the first round and immediately started establishing his jab which could be argued as one of the best in the business. After a cagey opening stanza, Usyk claimed the round through his jab and quick feet, the highlight being a quick lead uppercut by the Ukrainian.
Again Usyk started the second round with fantastic movement before Gassiev came forward with a body attack which Usyk felt for sure. Gassiev, however was falling short and Usyk’s pitter patter, four even five punch combinations were landing and although not doing any damage they were scoring points. Gassiev again landed to the body at the start of the third round, it would be interesting to see what affect if any those shots would have later in the fight. After the early success in the round Gassiev again found himself being frustrated by the movement and piston like jab of Usyk, a jab which often came in threes and fours. Gassiev was beginning to let punches go in this round, planting his feet and really trying to dig them in to the body.
Much of the same in the 4th Gassiev plodding forward trying to land one big shot and Usyk catches him with a beautiful straight and and uppercut combination rocking the head of the Russian back. Then in the closing stages of the fourth, after a pretty much flawless round by Usyk one lapse of concentration by the Ukrainian resulted in a hard back hand from Gassiev bouncing of the chin of Usyk and could possibly have won the Russian his first round of the fight.
Usyk’s volume of punches and footwork so far had been unbelievable, in just four rounds the Ukrainian had thrown more than double the amount of punches that Gassiev had and there was more of the same in the fifth round. Usyk’s superior footwork was evident now as he danced round his opponent easily, his footwork was more than worthy of winning the aptly named Muhammad Ali trophy.
The frustration in the Gassiev corner was building in the break as Abel Sanchez threatened to stop the fight if Gassiev didn’t show him something soon. Gassiev answered his coach l at the beginning of the sixth round landing two hard hooks to the body of his opponent. The boxing ability of Usyk was beginning to show and he was looking levels above the brilliant Gassiev, throwing four punch combinations before pivoting off his front foot and landing two more beautiful jabs. Gassiev was looking frustrated now and Usyk still looked like he had more gears that he could go through.
Usyk’s work rate showed no signs of dropping as he came out with a quick five punch combination at the start of the seventh round followed by another three punch combination, this was becoming a boxing lesson now and Usyk was the teacher. Gassiev’s head was being rocked back repeatedly now as Usyk was landing at will. A hard right hand landed for Gassiev but once again it wasn’t enough and another round would have to be scored to the Ukrainian.
The round again went to 2012 gold medallist Usyk, he was toying with Gassiev now and the Russian seemed run out of ideas. The Ukrainian started the ninth like he wanted to finish it with a blistering combination. Gassiev still had the equaliser, however and he showed it with a strong left hook to the body. Usyk again was on his bike peppering his opponent with his jab, a jab which midway through the ninth round had already been thrown 354 times. Unbelievable output from ‘The Cat’ in what was a becoming a more and more one sided fight.
The piston like jab of Usyk again came to the fore at the start of the 10th round as he started the first peppering Gassiev with jabs and hooks and the occasional uppercut, Gassiev must of felt like he was surrounded in there. Boxing beautifully and showing no signs of stopping it was becoming almost like a heavy bag workout for Usyk now.
Another dominating display in the 11th round meant Usyk was three minutes away from a shutout victory and Gassiev needed one big punch. Usyk started the 12th as if it was the first round. A six punch combination landing with ease before he pivoted off out of the way of returning shots from Gassiev. Incredible to watch, Usyk has surely landed himself in the pound for pound top 5 after this performance his punch output not slowing as we entered the last minute of the contest. Usyk finished the fight in the centre of the ring throwing a five punch combination as the bell sounded and both men embraced
All three judges scored it in favour of Usyk, scores of 120-108, 119-109, 119-109 showed the dominating that it was. Usyk becomes the first ever undisputed world crusierweight champion of the world four belt era and becomes the first winner of the Muhammad Ali trophy. What’s better, however is how he did it, he did it in style completely dominating a fantastic fighter in Gassiev in what was probably the most one sided unification fight since Joe Calzaghe beat Jeff Lacy. Where does Usyk go from here? A move upto to Heavyweight could well suit him, the Ukrainian however seems to fancy a fight with former Cruiserweight world champion Tony Bellew in what would be an absolute barnstormer.
Post fight quotes
“To win all four belts and the Muhammad Ali Trophy is a dream coming true. It is no secret that Muhammad Ali is my biggest idol so this is a great honour,” said Usyk after the fight.
“I’m not a superstar, stars are in the sky. Just an ordinary guy, who is doing something well.”
"My team made me look like I looked in the ring. This is our victory. I will keep this trophy at a special place in my home because my beloved wife, Katarina, has already prepared a special place for it.”
Usyk and Gassiev embraced warmly after the fight with broad smiles on their faces.
"I had the best opponent in my professional career," said Gassiev.
“I did my best, but today it was Aleksandr’s day. Aleksandr was the favorite, and he proved it. This was a very good experience for me.”