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Before the World Boxing Super Series had commenced, almost all the boxing public were predicting Oleksandr Usyk with some certainty would be crowned the winner, and there was already talk of potential matchups at Heavyweight for the Ukrainian. However, the performance shown by Russian Murat Gassiev 26 (19 KO’s)-0-0 against previously undefeated knockout artist Yunier Dorticos 22 (21 KO’s)-1 (1 KO)-0 may have stirred some doubts in the minds of the public.

When this fight was confirmed after the quarter finals, most saw this as a showing of power as opposed to class, but it was boxing skills and exceptional tactics that got the job done for Gassiev yesterday, as he showed that he is far more than just a typical pressure fighter in a beautiful display of class and variety. In all his previous fights while Gassiev has shown that he has more skills than a Brandon Rios or Ruslan Provodnikov he has never shown a back foot game like he demonstrated against Dorticos.

The early goings were always going to be the most dangerous for Gassiev, in with a puncher like Dorticos with so many early knockouts, and it was perhaps a typical finishers instinct that proved to be Dorticos’s undoing later in the fight. From the opening bell Dorticos looked to back Gassiev to the ropes and unload his big right hand, however not only was Dorticos failing to setup this shot, meaning that Gassiev blocked or shifted away, but Dorticos was emptying the tank quickly loading up with everything on each shot. Dorticos did of course have success, finding Gassiev’s body on occasion but he did not target it nearly enough in the opening stages, and even if you could give some of the early rounds to Dorticos on activity there was a sense that Dorticos was winning the battle but losing the war.

If Dorticos was a fighter who seemed to be blindly set on a knockout, Gassiev was anything but. Though he started with a low volume, and had to weather the early storm, Gassiev showed much improved footwork and very classy combinations often punctuated with a left hook to the liver, making it seem there was a class between the two fighters, though most coming in saw it as a 50 50 fight.

Once Dorticos slowed down and worked out that Gassiev was not going to be knocked out with a single punch he seemed to run out of ideas remarkably quickly. In hindsight he should have attacked the body more, and attempted to switch up the trajectory on his right hands, but more it was his obsession with getting the knockout that was his undoing. If he decided to come into the fight with more of a long term gameplan perhaps the fight would not have turned out so one- sided, I found it difficult to give Dorticos many rounds after the 4th.

If Dorticos needs to go back to the drawing board Gassiev is looking onwards and upwards. In the fight he showed much more layers to his game than ever before, being more like the old Gassiev in the later rounds, steadily adding pressure to Dorticos, who at this point was pushing his punches more and seemed mentally fatigued. This culminated in an excellent four punch flurry at the end of the 11th round, and a left hook that knocked down Dorticos, and after two more the fight was ended earning a TKO victory for the Russian.

Though this is the result that will not shock the boxing world, it is the nature of the victory that is the most impressive, with Gassiev showing such a variety in his game. If Usyk had any attention set on the heavyweight division I recommend that he brings it firmly back to Gassiev, because if this fight is anything to go by the final of this tournament will not be as one sided as many previously were predicting.

Also on the card fellow Russian Roman Andreev 21 (15 KO’s)-0-0 knocked out Britain’s Craig Evans 17 (3 KO’s)-2 (1 KO)-2 to win the vacant WBO International Lightweight title.