Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Gassiev-Dorticos, Usyk vs. Gassiev)

By Doug Fischer

EUROPEAN BOXING RULES THE ROOST

Dougie,

I feel a sense of deja-vu writing this email. It happened, the WBSS delivered again this weekend. Murat Gassiev vs. Yunier Dorticos was even better than Oleksandr Uslyk vs Mairis Briedes, which itself was tremendous. Last night’s fight was a barn burner with non-stop action, no holding, no running and both men fought brilliantly with tremendous courage.

European boxing is where it is at, including Joshua vs Klitchko, they have delivered the 3 best fights in the last twelve months. Furthermore, these tournaments where you end up with a unified beltholder are the best for boxing and its fans. Even the Super Six, which was slightly derailed by injuries, made for great fights.

My questions are:

  1. Who wins the final between Usyk and Gassiev? I will go with Usyk based on his work rate. That being said, have you seen the neck on Gassiev, he is not being knocked out.
  2. What other divisions would make for great tourneys? I assume you would say welterweight. Who would be your top 8?
  3. Is it just me or do European promoters seem more willing to cooperate and put on great fights compared to their American counterparts whose petty rivalries and need to protect their fighters makes us miss out on seeing the best fight the best.

All the best and enjoy the Super Bowl. – Aaron in Miami

Me and Tino!

Thanks Aaron. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. (Last one I watched from start to finish was when the 49ers beat the Bengals in 1989.) Instead, me and the wife and kids visited the Craft & Folk Art Museum along L.A.’s Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard and then we headed to The Grove, where I bumped into Constantino “Tino” Garcia, The Ring’s most excellent social media guru (who runs the very popular RingTV Instagram account) at the Barnes & Noble bookstore there.

Anyway, we had fun. And congratulations to the Eagles and the entire city of Philadelphia.

Regarding the excellence of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament and the European boxing scene, as well as the importance of tournaments that deliver unified champions, all I can say is that I agree with you 100%.

Who wins the final between Usyk and Gassiev? I favor Usyk, who I’ve been told (by JP, the gambling sage you might recognize from those Sunday Periscopes from SMC track) has been made a solid favorite by Bet365 (Usyk -300; Gassiev +225). I don’t favor the Ukrainian southpaw quite that much. I think Gassiev is definitely live in the WBSS final and probably worthy betting on if you like to root for the underdog and you appreciate the value of this early wager.

I will go with Usyk based on his work rate. I’m going with Usyk almost solely on his footwork and lateral/in-and-out movement.

That being said, have you seen the neck on Gassiev, he is not being knocked out. Hell no! Dude is THICK.

What other divisions would make for great tourneys? I assume you would say welterweight. Who would be your top 8? Thurman, Spence, Crawford, Pacquiao, Porter, Garcia, Matthysse and Vargas. And, obviously, junior bantamweight (AKA super flyweight) makes sense with Inoue (if he can still make 115), Sor Rungvisai, Estrada, Ancajas, Yafai, Chocolatito, Cuadras, and Warren.

Is it just me or do European promoters seem more willing to cooperate and put on great fights compared to their American counterparts whose petty rivalries and need to protect their fighters makes us miss out on seeing the best fight the best. It’s not just you, but promotional beefs exist in Europe, too. Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren have butted heads on the UK boxing scene in recent years, while Wilfried Sauerland (and his sons) and Klaus-Peter Kohl’s Universum-Box were fierce rivals in Germany during the 1990s and 2000s.

CRUISERWEIGHTS CONTINUE TO IMPRESS

Hi Doug.

Wow! That was two great fights in a row. Quality stuff from both Gassiev and Dorticos as I expected. Love this series, just goes to show that if the best get together, they more often than not deliver.

Gassiev showed that he has a bit more to his game than I initially thought. I didn’t think he could fight moving backwards so he must have felt Doricos’ power. He reminds me of a poor man’s Golovkin, very similar style, just not as polished. Would you say it is the Abel Sanchez influence?

He is not a volume puncher but he doesn’t really need to be because his accuracy and power is good and he doesn’t have head movement but then again, he is tough as nails.

I slightly favour Usyk to win the final but not by much and it is far from a given. I simply think that he has more in his toolbox. How do you see the final playing out?

Getting a bit ahead of myself, would the winner have a claim to be the best cruiserweight ever? The consensus division number one would be Evander Holyfield because he unified the division, with David Haye and the long lived Johnny Nelson and Marco Huck behind him.

The winner would be a four-belt champion as opposed to the three belts in Holyfield’s day (I know the WBA’s regular belt doesn’t really count but I’ll make an exception here since Gassiev already beat Lebedev) but then again, Holyfield unified all the belts on his own which will not be the case here since both finalists brings two belts to the table.

How do you think the quality of the WBSS participants match up to the guys Holyfield fought, ie Qawi, Ocasio, Tillman, Parkey and DeLeon?

Should Usyk win this thing and move up to heavyweight, I don’t have the same high hopes for him that Johnny Nelson has. He is excellent, who knows, maybe he does go all the way, but I don’t think he carries his power. To do the Holyfield comparison once again, after going life and death with Qawi, he literally tore through the division, including the Qawi rematch. Can’t quite say the same for Usyk, he is winning well but not destroying the guys. What do you think?

Mythical matchups:

Holyfield vs Briedis, Dorticos, Gassiev and Usyk

Keep up the great work! Regards. – Droeks Malan, South Africa

I think the cruiserweight version of Holyfield (who was a very underrated boxer) stops Briedis and Dorticos late, and outpoints Gassiev and Usyk (although I envision that he’d have a difficult time with the Ukrainian’s style and have to settle for a narrow points win).

Regarding Usyk’s chances at heavyweight, I think he could do well against the lower top 10-15 contenders but would likely get overpowered by the top dogs. He’s got the activity and the movement of the prime cruiser version of Holyfield but not the punching power or the ridiculous physical strength of The Real Deal at 190 pounds.

Anyway, as I’ve stated in previous mailbags, it’s way too early for us boxing nerds to pontificate on what Usyk might do at heavyweight. He hasn’t won the WBSS tournament yet, and we all know that he’ll have his hands full with Gassiev. The only time boxing fans should clamor for a cruiserweight champ to move up to heavyweight is when he proves to be the undisputed champ (or at least clear No. 1) and dominates the division for a few years. Usyk looks to be on his way, but he’s not there yet.

Quality stuff from both Gassiev and Dorticos as I expected. I thought we’d get an explosive shootout, and if one of the two punchers decided to box that it would be Dorticos, but this is why they fight the fights. We never know exactly how it will play out. I didn’t envision Gassiev boxing the poised and disciplined game plan that he executed to perfection, but man, it was a pleasant surprise, as was Dorticos’ take-no-prisoners attitude.

Love this series, just goes to show that if the best get together, they more often than not deliver. It ain’t rocket science.

Gassiev showed that he has a bit more to his game than I initially thought. I didn’t think he could fight moving backwards so he must have felt Doricos’ power. I guess so, or maybe that was just the strategy that he had prepared for. As strongly as Dorticos started the fight, I thought Gassiev did a great job of blocking or picking off most of the Cuban’s jabs, crosses and hooks. So, I really don’t think he was nailed flush too often.

He reminds me of a poor man’s Golovkin, very similar style, just not as polished. Would you say it is the Abel Sanchez influence? Absolutely, but I disagree that Gassiev is a poor man’s GGG. I think his technique is every bit as polished as the middleweight king’s, which is saying a lot given that he’s only 24 and barely had an amateur career to speak of (25 bouts, I’m told). Sanchez likens his gym in Big Bear Lake, California to a school, and Gassiev must be a very good student.

He is not a volume puncher but he doesn’t really need to be because his accuracy and power is good and he doesn’t have head movement but then again, he is tough as nails. I agree. With his defensive ability, durability, physical strength and punching power/accuracy, it probably suits more to be economical than to deal in volume. However, against an opponent as busy and mobile as Usyk, the patient puncher role might dig him a hole on the scorecards over the first half of the fight.

I slightly favour Usyk to win the final but not by much and it is far from a given. I agree.

I simply think that he has more in his toolbox. How do you see the final playing out? Probably the same as you do, with Usyk outhustling and outmaneuvering a game and dangerous Gassiev en route to a close decision in a hotly contested bout.

Getting a bit ahead of myself, would the winner have a claim to be the best cruiserweight ever? He’ll probably be considered top 10, or even top five, but Holyfield’s got to be No. 1.

The Real Deal unified the three major cruiserweight titles between 1986-1988. Photo / THE RING

The winner would be a four-belt champion as opposed to the three belts in Holyfield’s day (I know the WBA’s regular belt doesn’t really count but I’ll make an exception here since Gassiev already beat Lebedev) but then again, Holyfield unified all the belts on his own which will not be the case here since both finalists brings two belts to the table. Come on, bro, The Real Deal unified the three major cruiserweight titles before the WBO even came into existence, so you can’t hold it against him that he didn’t win four belts (the WBO’s first cruiserweight title bout was in December 1989; Holyfield unified WBA-IBF-WBC belts against Carlos DeLeon in April 1988 and then made the move to heavyweight).

How do you think the quality of the WBSS participants match up to the guys Holyfield fought, ie Qawi, Ocasio, Tillman, Parkey and DeLeon? I think the WBSS semifinalists (Usyk, Gassiev, Dorticos and Briedis) would hold their own and win their share of fights, but I would give a slight edge to the fab five that Holyfield beat (Qawi was a like a 190-pound Joe Frazier – not as much power, but just as much pressure and probably a better overall technician – while Ocasio and DeLeon were very savvy and skilled stick-and-movers; and Tillman and Parkey were old-school badasses from the hood… they didn’t go down without a fight).

MORE UNIFICATION BOUTS PLEASE!

Hey Doug, what’s good? After watching the great fight between Dorticos and Gassiev and last weekend’s Usyk/Bredis bout, why don’t these undisputed unification tournaments happen more often? I have enjoyed the 8-man tournament that the WBSS has going on, and can easily see that translating into the other weight classes. One of my fondest memories involved the middleweight unification bouts during the early 2000’s, which gave us the Man, the Myth, the Legend B-Hop.

I don’t mind the 4 championship belts, if it ultimately leads to a undisputed champion. Ideally, it should result in good fights. I would like to see these become a staple of boxing (however unlikely that may be). As for the Gassiev/Usyk match, while I’m certain Usyk will be the favorite, something about Gassiev leads me to believe he can (and will) come out victorious. Thoughts? – D.W. from Boston, Ma

You might be right about Gassiev, who seems to exhibit new facets to his game with each bout. They’ve just got to fight the fight. We’ll find out in three months.

I’m like you, I’m OK with four major world titles as long as the beltholders make an effort to fight each other. Many of the most memorable fights and KOs/upsets I’ve had the honor to cover from ringside were title unifications, such as Barrera-Morales I, Vargas-Trinidad, De La Hoya-Vargas, Tszyu-Judah, Hopkins-Trinidad and Mayorga-Forrest I. The good news is that it appears that many of boxing’s top fighters (including a couple bona-fide stars) seem to be on a mission to collect all of the belts in their respective divisions, including Anthony Joshua, Gennady Golovkin, Errol Spence, the top three junior middleweights (Lara, Charlo and Hurd), and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

After watching the great fight between Dorticos and Gassiev and last weekend’s Usyk/Briedis bout, why don’t these undisputed unification tournaments happen more often? Because while some fighters, such as the four I mentioned above and the cruiserweights that entered the WBSS, have a desire to be the undisputed champs of their divisions, others a just fine with defending one belt every now and then (Adonis Stevenson comes to mind). (My man Keith Thurman seems content, for the time being, to just hold two 147-pound belts.) And they don’t want to lose those belts.

I have enjoyed the 8-man tournament that the WBSS has going on, and can easily see that translating into the other weight classes. One of my fondest memories involved the middleweight unification bouts during the early 2000’s, which gave us the Man, the Myth, the Legend B-Hop. I covered all three bouts that led to Hopkins unifying the IBF-WBC-WBA belts and it was indeed a very special event. Hopefully, we’ll see something like that again real soon in the U.S. and on a U.S. network. It happen outside of the standard tournament format. Showtime seems to want to unify two or three of the 154-pound titles and, eventually, three of the welterweight belts. HBO seems to be headed toward at least partial title unifications at light heavyweight (with Kovalev and the Bivol-Barrera winner) and at 115 pounds with it’s “SuperFly” series.

GASSIEV IS A BEAST

Hi Doug,

That was a darn good fight Saturday. Gassiev-Dorticos delivered the promise of a good fight. You could see from the opening bell that it was going to be a competitive fight between two very well-schooled punchers with good boxing IQs. It was evident early on that everything Dorticos did Gassiev did a little bit better. He was a little faster, had a better jab and overall ring generalship. His punches to the body in the first couple of rounds started to pay off by the 6th or 7th; you could see Dorticos slow down a bit. What impressed me the most was his ability to take Gassiev’s punch and still show the heart of a champion and fight back. Maybe Guillermo Rigondeaux can learn a little from his fellow countryman.

Gassiev-Usyk, oh my, that’s the fight I’m looking forward to the most this year! What a matchup! Both these men deserve to be mentioned when we talk about the best in the world and the fact they’re squaring up for all the belts tells you a lot about who they are.

Plenty mentioned on Twitter and other social media that HBO should’ve grabbed the World Boxing Super Series and that it was a shame that no American network did. We all know why, that’s a direct hit to Richard Schaefer for his disgraceful backstab to his old employer. It’s not going to be easy to come back. Truth be told, he did put on a good show and got to give the man credit for making this happen. Not many are doing it.

Pretty stoked about the first six months of boxing, can’t wait for the next big one! Thanks, and have a great week! – Juan Valverde, San Diego

You won’t have to wait long for the next one, Juan, and you won’t have to wait long between the big-‘uns. We’ve got Groves-Eubank on the 17th, Sor Rungvisai-Estrada on the 24th, Wilder-Ortiz and Bivol-Barrera on March 3, Valdez-Quigg on March 10, Joshua-Parker on March 31, Lara-Hurd on April 7, Frampton-Donaire on April 21, Canelo-GGG on May 5, Usyk-Gassiev on May 11 and Stevenson-Jack on May 19.

Give the Sauerland brothers a little credit for the WBSS. I guarantee you that they did more to organize this tournament than Schaefer, but I agree that Dickie’s penchant for burning bridges back when he was the 800-pound gorilla of the U.S. boxing scene probably had something to do with his inability to bring in American cable networks.

Regarding Usyk-Gassiev, the winner will not only be the undisputed cruiserweight champ (which will include THE RING belt), he’ll likely be ranked in everyone’s pound-for-pound top 10 (and deservedly so).

That was a darn good fight Saturday. Gassiev-Dorticos delivered the promise of a good fight. I thought it was a lot better than “good.” It was a stirring and dramatic contest. I was practically shaking during the 12th round. That doesn’t happen very often with me. The fight was so special I totally forgot that I was watching a YouTube stream on my laptop from my kitchen table. It didn’t even bother me that I wasn’t watching the fight on HBO or Showtime on a big flat screen in my living room. The intense tactical battle was that engrossing.

You could see from the opening bell that it was going to be a competitive fight between two very well-schooled punchers with good boxing IQs. Gassiev showed me more IQ than Dorticos, who I expected to be the more versatile of the two.

It was evident early on that everything Dorticos did Gassiev did a little bit better. The only thing Dorticos beat Gassiev at was punch output, but that wasn’t close to being as effective as he wanted because the young Russian’s defense was so good.

He was a little faster, had a better jab and overall ring generalship. His punches to the body in the first couple of rounds started to pay off by the 6th or 7th; you could see Dorticos slow down a bit. I thought Gassiev took control of the fight as early as Round 5, and began to apply his usual smart pressure by Round 9. It was clear that Dorticos was fighting on pure will going into the championship rounds because his head and body had been brutalized.

What impressed me the most was his ability to take Gassiev’s punch and still show the heart of a champion and fight back. I was awestruck by Dorticos’ relentlessness. I gained a new level of respect for him. I just hope he doesn’t lose a step from the beating he took.

Maybe Guillermo Rigondeaux can learn a little from his fellow countryman. Ouch. (You just had to go there, didn’t you?)

GASSIEV IS READY

Well, it wasn’t the Foreman-Lyle/Louis-Galento type shootout I was expecting, but it turned out to be a pretty damn compelling fight in its own right. My biggest immediate takeaways from the fight were: Gassiev possess craft and savvy that seem to defy his age and experience, and Dorticos must be made of steel.

It was interesting to see Dorticos apply the pressure and put Gassiev on the back foot for the first half of the fight. I honestly thought if anything it’d be the other way around. I guess Dorticos figured he would test this kid early, pressure him and hit him with power shots he’d never felt before, make him question himself. It turned out Gassiev was very cool under pressure and was able to deflect most of the heavy artillery off his forearms and gloves (this kind of older Ali radar blocking defence really impressed me) as well as answer back with hard single shots, as well as sneak some draining body shots in between Dorticos’ volleys.

Some might say in hindsight that Dorticos should’ve stuck and move, tried to frustrate Gassiev with “Cuban boxing,” but those people would be singing his praises if his gambit paid off and he broke the kid early. It just turns out that Gassiev has the poise and skill of a veteran fighter.

I can’t wait for the Final Showdown in Saudi Arabia. I view this fight as another toss up; I believe Gassiev is better than Briedis, similar in style but with more wrinkles to his game. Briedis wasn’t quite on Usyk’s level, but I think Gassiev is. Usyk will bring unique challenges; he doesn’t hit as hard as Dorticos and likely isn’t as incredibly durable, but he has the footwork to apply pressure or be elusive (sometimes at the same time) and he punches with variety and volume. He also seems to have a great awareness when it comes to knowing where and when to turn it on to win a round, thinking long term. Abel Sanchez will have to come up with another great gameplan but I think Gassiev has the defensive ability as well as the heavy handed selection and accuracy to compete with the absolute elite.

Sorry for the long email, this tournament has gotten me far more excited than I was anticipating. It’s just been awesome. – Jack

You’re not alone, Jack. It’s a victory for the sport just to have brought together two exceptional talents in Usyk and Gassiev to battle it out for the undisputed title, but when you consider the excitement the WBSS created with some of the quarterfinals and certainly with the semifinal bouts it has to be considered a huge success.

I agree that Gassiev is better than Briedis and that Usyk is more versatile than Dorticos.

My biggest immediate takeaways from the fight were: Gassiev possess craft and savvy that seem to defy his age and experience, and Dorticos must be made of steel. Steel? F__k that. The KO Doctor’s bones are definitely laced with adamantium.

It was interesting to see Dorticos apply the pressure and put Gassiev on the back foot for the first half of the fight. I didn’t expect sustained pressure like that from the Cuban, but credit to him – he believed he had the power to Gassiev out and he tried like hell to do so.

I honestly thought if anything it’d be the other way around. I guess Dorticos figured he would test this kid early, pressure him and hit him with power shots he’d never felt before, make him question himself. He certainly made a lot of fans question whether Gassiev could keep up after three or four rounds.

It turned out Gassiev was very cool under pressure and was able to deflect most of the heavy artillery off his forearms and gloves (this kind of older Ali radar blocking defence really impressed me) as well as answer back with hard single shots, as well as sneak some draining body shots in between Dorticos’ volleys. Gassiev was brilliant. I’m glad he’s getting credit from most fans for his poise and defensive ability. It was old school and fascinating to witness.

Some might say in hindsight that Dorticos should’ve stuck and move, tried to frustrate Gassiev with “Cuban boxing,” but those people would be singing his praises if his gambit paid off and he broke the kid early. True.

It just turns out that Gassiev has the poise and skill of a veteran fighter. And how about the class he showed immediately after the fight and during the post-fight press conference? I still can’t believe this guy is 24.

Email Fischer at dougie@boxingmailbag.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

The post Dougie’s Monday mailbag (Gassiev-Dorticos, Usyk vs. Gassiev) appeared first on The Ring.

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