Russian interference reaches new heights this weekend in Sochi, as ironman IBF cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18KOs) deals with a hostile Cuban invader in the form of WBA cruiserweight champion Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21KOs).
The World Boxing Super Series semi-final follows a sensational match-up between Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Breidis, which saw Usyk slightly out-everything Breidis to set the tone for what should be a rather appealing final.
However, this upcoming battle between Gassiev and Dorticos will be the tournament's best. Considering their style metrics and constitution, it might even be one of the year's best. This is fight porn. Think Gennady “GGG” Golovkin V Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, cruiserweight style. That's exactly what this is, and somebody's getting KTFO.
Before watching Iron Murat maul Krzysztof Wlodarczyk at the Prudential Center in Newark last October, I spent some time around Gassiev, 25, at Everlast Gym in Hoboken, NJ to gauge who he was and determined what he is not: A hype job. Murat..
..is as real as a hearty bowl of Borscht with a very manly beer (whatever you think that brand is). Imagine Bain from Batman unmasked, with a scruffy beard playing rugby in a boxing ring with heavy metal in both fists and a chin made of granite.
He's like an NBA player in build along the lines of Lemarcus Aldridge from the San Antonio Spurs with the dark showmanship of a non-English speaking Shaquille O'Neal. But what really makes Dorticos, 31, a charismatic anomaly and a potential superstar, is he possesses the arrogance of Ivan Drago and fights with the force of Che Guevera seeking revolution.
His is a Cuban style that would scare the shit out of Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, because Dorticos fights extremely high risk with polish and is very ballsy to say the least.
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For Gassiev, this is a rare opportunity for cruiserweight glory on the world stage in front of his countrymen, and his president, Vladimir Putin, as Sochi will host one of the hottest fights in early 2018. Just as there was an electricity surrounding them on the podium at the post fight press conference at Prudential, they were heightened all during fight week, so sparks will certainly fly this weekend.
But from this perspective, boxing is about to change and the WBSS is the future– and a not too distant one. It is extremely well financed and decidedly international in a way that matches it's ambition. After watching the gaudy Monaco rollout in summer 2017, which unveiled the dapper elite fighters of the super middleweight and cruiserweight divisions onstage, I couldn't help but notice a correlation to how PBC's elite fighters were lined up in front of us last week in New York City.
In this crazy world of globalization and constriction, its unlikely that the WBSS will stop at two grassroots divisions while handing out a Muhammad Ali trophy. This is a precursor to hegemony in a good way. They're staging events all over the planet, and the winner of Gassiev/Dorticos will face Usyk in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, like some shit out of Star Wars: Rogue One.
In the meantime, you'd be better off missing Superbowl LII before you miss Gassiev V Dorticos.