All due respect must be afforded to Alexander Usyk, according to the trainer of the man who saw up close and personally just how adept the Ukrainian cruiserweight is.
Abel Sanchez, who cornered Murat Gassiev, boiled down just what the difference maker was on Saturday in Moscow, in the World Boxing Super Series season one finale, what it was that made Usyk a shutout or near shutout winner: experience.
The 400 amateur fights, the decades of study and toil and drilling, it showed on Saturday, as Gassiev wasn’t able to detonate on the mobile ace, who popped and slid and showed himself to be one of the ten best ring techs in the sport today, and elevated himself onto some top five pound for pound lists.
“All due credit must be given to Usyk,” I offered to Sanchez an hour after the decision was announced and Muhammad Ali’s wife Lonnie congratulated Usyk on his victory, in gaining the Ali Trophy.
“Absolutely,” said Sanchez, who noted that this version of Usyk would be a hard out for ANYONE, in any weight class, and that includes heavyweight.
Still, Sanchez tried to say the right things and help his kid, just 24, and having just 50 total fights on his resume, amateur and pro, turn the tide. “Not to be looking for perfect shot and close distance to wear him down,” Sanchez said he told Gassiev.
So, theorizing here…more volume might have helped. Yes, I know, easier said than done. Gassiev threw 313, to 939 for the champion, per CompuBox.
Volume is what Usyk is all about, volume and movement. I do wonder if maybe Gassiev wishes he listened to Sanchez in camps more about the jab being the best set up shot?
Sanchez brought me back to a more proper place, where I’m realizing of course hindsight is 20-20 territory…
“Yes, but Usyk fought a great fight, we would have had to have been perfect to beat him tonight, at this elite level a perfect night is necessary,” the trainer offered.
More pondering…Gassiev was so classy before and after the fight. I Tweeted out during the fight that maybe, just maybe I would have liked to see him stray low, left hook to the hip or what have you…get a little gangster. But no…I think he’s actually a really nice kid, is he not? No gangsta in him, is there Abel?
Gassiev is “young,” Sanchez replied. Plus, “Usyk didn’t let himself get trapped,” he said.
No he didn’t. His marriage of feet and fists, glued together with brain power, with magnificent intensity and focus meant that Gassiev needed to be a 110 percent version of his best being to have a chance to win. It wasn’t to be, and probably it wouldn’t have mattered if Gassiev was more of a diabolical operator, who was inclined to Salido-fy the scrap, drag it into a dark alley, where he could grab a Bud bottle and break it off and slash with it.
Interesting end note; I saw Mick Conlan…
..opine that Usyk could beat Anthony Joshua… with ease!
Doesn’t seem a bridge too far to me. His whiskers I think are heavyweight-sturdy, and his mobility gives guys with average legs fits. What does Sanchez think of a Usyk v AJ tango?
“This Usyk,” Abel said, “would be hard to handle for a lot of people!”
Listen to Sanchez on the “Talkbox” podcast here.