By Gleb Kuzin
Murat Gassiev clinically dismantled Yunier ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos en route to a dramatic 12th round stoppage.
Coming into the fight between Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos, it was hard to name a favorite. Most would settle their doubt with a coin-toss — and rightly so. Dorticos is a pedigreed Cuban amateur that had shared the ring with the very best the sport of amateur boxing had to offer — multiple world champions, olympic champions, and future professional world champions. Also, Dorticos is packing some mad power to boot.
The case for the 24 year old Gassiev was slightly bigger — Dorticos had been chinned in the amateurs and has demonstrated lapses in mental composure when things go south for him. Conversely, Murat had demonstrated maturity, patience, and composure even in his toughest fights.
With a matchup this close, it was all going to come down to what would happen in the ring on this particular night.
True to the matchmaking, the first half of the fight featured back-and-forth action. Dorticos had early success with his workrate and speed, while Gassiev was landing the better cleaner shots. One moment it would look like Gassiev might not be able to withstand the barrage of right hands Dorticos was laying on him, then the next moment it looked like Gassiev was going to pick Dorticos apart. Dorticos’ jab was absolutely outstanding: heavy, stinging, quick, and powerful. It was thrown with perfect timing. The jab didn’t just push Gassiev back, but visibly hurt him on numerous occasions.
After six completed rounds the fight was dead even on most people’s scorecards, but then Murat took control and started to back Dorticos up. From this point on it began to feel like the beginning of the end, but the danger of a one-punch knockout from either man felt everpresent.
Eventually it came down to Dorticos’ inability to adapt or vary his gameplan. He had some absolutely outstanding weapons at his disposal: speed, timing, stamina, power, and technical ability. Yet he used those skills in a very plain and straightforward manner. And though he had been landing effectively throughout the distance and even in the most difficult rounds, Murat was able to pull ahead by exploiting Dorticos’ basic offence to set up fight-changing bombs, rocking and hurting Dorticos three times up through the 11th round.
Despite the lack of creativity, Dorticos demonstrated dimensions of his skillset we had never seen before: an absolutely granite chin, a heart of a lion, and stern mental strength. He looked leagues beyond the man he was in his twenties. Back then showed signs of being impatient, unstable and weak, but on the night of WBSS semifinal he looked just the opposite. Despite losing wide on the cards (107–102 at the end of round 11 on my scorecard), his reputation as a professional boxer only grew stronger. And the round of applause he was given during the post-fight presser serves as further proof of the class of his performance.
Murat Gassiev, the man of the night, shattered any doubts critics could have had about him. He put together a masterpiece of a performance. He boxed beautifully and exploited every chance Dorticos left open to him with the precision of a surgeon. A 24 year old with virtually no amateur background got the better of a Cuban with a world-class amateur background in every technical and tactical aspect of the fight. The longer the fight went on, the more Dorticos struggled with Gassiev’s superb in-and-out movement. At no point in the latter rounds of the fight was Dorticos able to fight at his desired range. Murat managed the distance perfectly, placing every one of his shots precisely, measuring the fight and demonstrating incredible professionalism and maturity. He picked “The KO Doctor” apart.
At the end of the night, Murat Gassiev had done something few could have foreseen — he outshined Oleksandr Usyk. Gassiev entered the semifinal round of the WBSS as a 5-to-1 underdog to win the tournament, but he put on such a superlative performance against Dorticos that the odds are now close to dead even. It doesn’t matter what Usyk had achieved prior, it doesn’t matter how good he is, it doesn’t matter how high he’s ranked and who he beat. Murat Gassie went into the 12th round of a fight he already won, and made a statement the World Boxing Super Series had not yet seen. After 11 ½ tough and competitive rounds, Gassiev found another gear and knocked Dorticos out of the ring with crushing brutality.
With the final on the horizon, the match between Murat Gassiev and Oleksandr Usyk has become a coin toss. Gassiev and Usyk have already importilized themselves on the road to the final, notching achievements that elevate them above most of the champions in the sport. They overcame adversity, they defeated top competition (and looked incredible while doing so), and they demonstrated their willingness to risk everything in order to win. They showed that they each pack the heart of a lion and that they will never back down. The WBSS Cruiserweight semifinal bouts have showcased the best the sport of boxing has to offer. But the Cruiserweight tournament has one more fight to go, and it’s going to be legendary.
WBSS: Gassiev vs. Dorticos — Surgery Was Performed On The Doctor was originally published in sundaypuncher on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.