Fight Focus #6: Boxing WWMFTW

The World Boxing Super Series’ Cruiserweight Ali Trophy final Usyk vs. Gassiev might be the best scheduled fight on the calendar besides Alvarez vs. Golovkin 2

For those of you who managed to watch the World Boxing Super Series’ Cruiserweight tournament in its entirety you should be commended for your resourcefulness and dogged commitment to problem-solving. This writer failed at the undertaking, to be frank.

This Saturday in Moscow, some of the world’s citizens lingering around after the 2018 World Cup, can catch the conclusion of another epic international tournament. The Cruiserweight division’s WBC and WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk goes to war with WBA Super and IBF champion Murat Gassiev for the division’s supremacy.

Frankly, this is the type of matchup that should preclude boxing fans from diving headfirst into the Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder fray.

At any rate, Usyk is an extremely busy offensive fighter for a Cruiserweight, he stands 6-foot 3-inches and has a two-inch advantage in reach over Gassiev. The 31-year-old southpaw has great power, collecting 11 knockouts in his 14 bouts, and his performances have been impressive enough to be at the No. 10 spot on Ring’s pound-for-pound list. He just misses the cut on ESPN’s version of the mythical ranking.

Referee Robert Byrd stepped in between Usyk and Mario Huck amid a flurry by the Ukrainian at the end of the 10th round in their WBSS quarterfinal back in September. Huck’s been a warrior over his 47-fight career, but he clearly displays the signs of wear from nearly 10 year’s worth of world title fights in boxing’s second heaviest weight division. In April 2017 Usyk easily outclassed then 14-0 Michael Hunter, but after being out-landed by 121 more power punches at almost a rate of 53 percent, the Californian never hit the canvas until the final round. A round in which Usyk remarkably threw 90 power punches out of 121 total punches per CompuBox.

Gassiev is a half-inch taller, seven years younger, and the Abel Sanchez trained Russian nicknamed “Iron” has 19 knockouts in his 27 professional bouts – including one no contest. He’s a more economical puncher, with exceptional power that exhibits excellent patience, and fights well with a calmness as his opponents come towards him.

Gassiev defeated Krzysztof Wlodarcyzk by third round knockout in October 2017 – also a WBSS quarterfinal. However, in semi-final Gassiev elevated his standing in the game with his phenomenal execution against then 22-0 WBA Super champion Yunier Dorticos. Gassiev’s crafty defense and counter-punching nullified much of Dorticos’ intentions with his power hand. In the 12th round he completely turned the tables on the Cuban, knocking the champion down twice before closing the show in dramatic fashion with just eight seconds left in the fight.

This Ali Trophy finale represents an awesome matchup of styles for fight fans, and either man can get his hand raised at the bout’s conclusion. One key factor to watch is, if Usyk is able to consistently outwork Gassiev over the first six rounds, he has everything going well with him in control of the action; how does he manage to safely run out the clock? Whether or not Gassiev can, or wants to, match Usyk in output is unknown – if not unlikely. But he’ll need to do enough to avoid finding himself being lapped in the punch count.

Prediction: Gassiev’s combination of in-fight calculations, timing and power are intriguing. He has more ways to win the fight, and does by late-stoppage.

Boxing On The Premium Cable Channels

Unfortunately, Friday evening a ShoBox: The New Generation tripleheader could potentially clash with some interesting action that starts earlier on ESPN. Starting at 10 p.m. ET Showtime rolls out its standard Friday night three-fight lineup featuring the following bouts from Sloan, Iowa’s WinnaVegas Casino:

  • Jaron Ennis vs. Armando Alvarez, 10 rounds, Welterweights
  • Thomas Mattice vs. Zhora Hamazaryan, 8 rounds, Lightweights
  • Montana Love vs. Kenneth Sims Jr., 8 rounds, Junior Welterweights

The following night on HBO, Saturday July 21 at 10 p.m. ET, pull up for some world championship boxing, and get more familiar with exciting newcomer Jaime Munguia as he squares off against former Junior Middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith¬†live in Las Vegas for the first defense of his WBO Junior Middleweight title. Not even going to front, this writer hadn’t heard of Munguia until he was rejected as an opponent for Gennday Golovkin when Tom Loeffler was forced to scramble something together in order to save the date of the ill-fated rematch with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) was dropped multiple times by Alvarez before being stopped by a ninth round body shot in September 2016. Smith is a solid test for 21-year-old Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) who ambushed former Welterweight challenger Sadam Ali in May. Ali spoiled future Hall of Famer and former WBO Junior Middleweight champion Miguel Cotto’s retirement bout in December 2017, and was fighting at 154 pounds for just the second time when he ran into Munguia in Verona, New York.

Munguia’s big, he punches with good power, and depending on whether, and how, he gets past Smith we’ll know if he’s a credible force in the division. Along with kid’s exuberance, and proven power, the upstart could create some interesting options for either the division’s other champions or contenders.

In the co-feature bout Alberto Machado (19-0, 16 KOs) defends his WBA Junior Lightweight title – the regular version – against Ghana’s Rafael Mensah (31-0, 23 KOs).

Check hook

Earlier this week in New York, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn rolled out the initial roster, revealed the inaugural event and monthly subscription rate for U.S. fight fans to begin regularly streaming fights on DAZN¬†– the future home of the WBSS. A Showtime subscription and/or a HBO subscription, plus subscriptions for the still fairly new ESPN+ App and now DAZN might have fans crunching some numbers to decide exactly what the hell is the best way to satisfy one’s boxing fix. Continuing to scavenge cyberspace for a free link or taking up Hearn’s free one-month trial for his Prepaid Legal… I mean combat sports streaming service.

While you mull all of these grave financial decisions over, tomorrow on ESPN Junior Lightweight Lamont Roach, Jr. (16-0-1, 6 KOs) returns to action against Columbian Deivi Julio Bassa (20-4, 12 KOs) for 10 rounds of action live from Cancun, Mexico. Roach fought in San Juan, Puerto Rico back in mid-April, and departed the U.S. territory for Maryland, likely still confused over his controversial 10-round split draw with former world title challenger Orlando Cruz.

This edition of Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

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RL Woodson

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