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Johnny Wilds, ESPN Boxing Insider, On Usyk v Gassiev

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The first season finale of the World Boxing Super Series is finally here.

This Saturday, July 21st at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow (known locally as Olimpiyskiy Stadium) cruiserweight kingpins Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) and Murat Gassiev (26-0-1 NC, 19 KOs) will put it all on the line to lay claim to the unified Cruiserweight Champion of the world and the first ever Muhammad Ali Trophy.

This is a highly anticipated matchup of two of boxing’s most exciting fighters, and fight fans around the world are clamoring to see who is truly the best cruiserweight in the world.

 

Below is information on where the money is going from Vegas bookmakers, offshore and overseas, along with opinions from boxing experts, trainers and my prediction for the fight.

 

Line movement:

At William Hill US, Senior Trader Adam Pullen posted the fight with Usyk at -160 and Gassiev +140. “Market price lowered the line to -120 and then money came in on Usyk and now the line is at -130/+110,” said Pullen. Total tickets written are in favor of Usyk at 2-1 and total money wagered at 10-1 as well. Being this fight isn’t in the United States and on a major network, Pullen will see limited action on this fight compared to other high profile fights.

 

The Panel:

  • Colin Morrison (boxing sharp): “What a fight! Difficult one to predict but what we do know for sure is that once all is said and done in Moscow, the cruiserweight division will have an undisputed champion. I think Usyk will employ a more movement based game plan for this bout as standing and trading with Gassiev, as he did with Briedis in the semi-final, would not be advisable. As a highly capable boxer I think Usyk will just do enough to convince two of the judges he was better in seven rounds. Usyk by the closest of split decisions. Final word – props to the WBSS. The cruiserweight tournament has been superb and this finale, with the Muhammad Ali Trophy up for grabs, is one of the best matchups of the year. Can’t wait.”

 

  • Abraham Gonzalez (boxing sharp): “This fight reminds me of Two Face from the Dark Knight with his two-sided coin: Either way you flip, you’re a winner. A certified 50/50 fight where Usyk will try to control the fight with his jab but the hard hitting Gassiev will look to breakdown Usyk down to the body. This will be a fight of two halves which I believe will result in a split decision. Usyk by SD in an absolute thriller.”

 

  • Stephen “Breadman” Edwards (boxing trainer): ”Toughest fight in a long while to call. Usyk has a major stylistic advantage. But my gut tells me Gassiev gets urged on by home crowd and he stops Usyk with a liver hook late. Just a guess not sure.”

 

  • Michelle Joy Phelps (boxing sharp): “The bookies have this fight as a true 50/50 matchup with Usyk having small edge over Gassiev. So small you can easily say they don’t know who’s going to win. And I’d have to agree. Yes, Gassiev has the power. He likes to go to the body, has a mean uppercut and his double punches with his left have become something of a signature move. Usyk knows he can’t fight Gassiev the way he did against Briedis and he admitted to making many mistakes in that fight, even recently parting ways with his trainer because he didn’t feel he was helping him to improve. And of course you have to always question if his shoulder injury is 100%. He’s the more technically sound fighter with an impeccable amateur record. If Usyk can withstand the power of Gassiev and go the distance, I can see him winning but he’d need to do so convincingly because he’s fighting on enemy territory. I’m split. Expect a fight of the year candidate Saturday night and may the best man make history.”

 

  • Evan Young (boxing sharp): “It wasn’t too long ago when Usyk was the odds on favorite in this bout at nearly 3-1. But they have both had recent bouts that has apparently caused a shift in the public perception. Usyk is a tremendous boxer that brings volume, movement, awkward angles and solid power. I believe many previously viewed Gassiev like a come forward tank with heavy artillery and not much else. But against the very dangerous and tough Yunier Dorticos, Gassiev showed some subtle wrinkles to his game; he keeps a tight defense, is very patient, takes a great shot and as most know, his compact punches can be lethal. Usyk will pump the jab all night and will stay very busy, but with all his volume, Gassiev will have opportunities. I think Gassiev keeps it close early, fighting responsibly and breaks out later in the fight with damaging, fight altering blows. I’m going with Gassiev to win the fight by late round stoppage in a thriller.”

 

  • Luke Chapman (boxing sharp): “Finally! In what promises to be a can’t miss fight I’m backing the technically brilliant Usyk to beat pressure-puncher Gassiev. Usyk’s defence and ability to punch from angles will win him most rounds and, as much as Gassiev is a big puncher who puts together lovely combos, I can’t see him knocking Usyk out late to get the win. As much as pick’em is available for the win but I’m backing Usyk to win it on the cards at +140.”

 

  • Will Smith Jr. (boxing sharp): “This should be such an amazing fight!  Usyk is so naturally gifted with his boxing ability and movement, it’s difficult to pick against him!  Still, I believe Gassiev’s boxing ability is underrated. Along with that and confidence, Gassiev is very sturdy and has scary punching power!  I’m going out on a limb and predicting the upset (in most people’s minds) in picking Gassiev by TKO. I think we’ll see a great display of some vicious body work from Iron Gassiev!”

 

Usyk: The 31 year old Ukranian holds the the WBC and WBO cruiserweight titles. He got to this finale by beating Marco Huck via 10th round KO in September of 2017. Then, last January he defeated Mairis Briedis via majority decision in a very tough and competitive fight. He has very good power as evidenced by his 79% KO average, knocking out 11 of his 14 opponents. As of February 2018, he is ranked as the world’s best active cruiserweight by The Ring Magazine. He secured gold medals in the 2011 world championships and the 2012 Olympic Games as a heavyweight.  There isn’t much Usyk doesn’t do well in the ring. He has a laser jab, superior foot movement and, as aforementioned, more than adequate power. To top this off, his chin has proven more than steady his whole career. He won his first title, the WBO cruiserweight belt, in June of 2016, with a one-sided victory over Krzystof Glowacki in his tenth professional fight.

 

Gassiev: The 24 year old Russian is the WBA and IBF cruiserweight champion. Gassiev got to this finale by beating Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in October of 2017, via a 3rd round brutal knockout from a hellacious body shot. He then was pitted against Yunier Dorticos last February via 12th round KO in a fight he was winning on the scorecards 105-104, 106-103, 106-103 at the time of the knockout. He is ranked 2nd best cruiserweight by The Ring Magazine, only behind his opponent Usyk.  He only had 25 amateur fights and no real international experience. He approached one of boxing’s top trainers, Dr. Abel Sanchez, and asked him to train him when he was 20 years old.  The rest is history and, while some might think Abel found his next GGG, the reality is he may have found his modern day Evander Holyfield.

 

Who will win? The panel is split 3-3 and one too tough to call by Michelle Joy Phelps. I am not surprised it’s a split panel as this fight is certainly a toss up on paper. Both fighters are exceptionally skilled, and two of the top cruiserweights in the world. For me, the difference is two fold. This fight is in the backyard of Gassiev and he has one of the best in his corner in Abel.  This should be an epic fight and may the best man win.

 

Pick: I like Gassiev to win but this is going to be an epic war.

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