By Hamid Zaman – After all the pre-fight hype, It was a busy day of boxing this past Saturday, there were cards that took place here in London, at the O2 Arena, also at the Bank of America Center, in Corpus Christi, Texas, televised nationally in the states on ESPN. But the highlight and main event of the weekend took place at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Russia, where the World Boxing Super Series semifinal cruiserweight took centre stage, putting out a classic between IBF belt holder Murat Gassiev and WBA titlist Yunier Dorticos.
What was predicted by many to be a war and FOTY candidate didn’t disappoint. In the early rounds, the fight took the shape of a high-level chess match with fleeting moments of brutality displayed. Not the fight we envisaged, What was meant to be a slugfest between two heavy hitters that was predicted wouldn’t go beyond 3 Rounds was instead, at the beginning, a tactical battle, which saw Gassiev who normally operates on the front foot, forced to actually box off the back foot.
It was certainly unusual to see Gassiev going in reverse but it was clear he was working according to his gameplan and inviting the Cuban’s long shots, who is notably known for his powerful right hand but who was also having success with his jab even in the early stages and that’s why many including myself had Dorticos building an early lead.
Dorticos was the one coming forward and initiating the action and at times the one who looked in control suggested by the body language of both men, whilst Gassiev was playing it relatively safe, retreating and only committing when he was forced to react. Although the stocky built Gassiev like a bulldozer, when he was getting his offence going, for the most part, was laying out his jab and occasionally planting the occasional body shots.
However there was a method to Gassiev’s strategic plan, while he allowed Dorticos to take some early rounds, he also made him expend energy and slowly but surely, he started to take tactical and mental control of a battle which seemed likely to explode at any moment.
In the fifth round, Gassiev started to hold his ground, dictating the action from the centre of the ring, making it uncomfortable at times for Dorticos, who was able to showcase his granite chin to go with his heavy hands.
Gassiev had started to find his rhythm, landing several right hands over the top, left hooks to the body and uppercuts between the guard, Dorticis unlike several others, withstood the steady onslaught.
The power which had fallen the likes of Krzysztof “Diablo” Wlodarczyk had so far been dealt with admirably, who unlike his countryman Guillermo Rigondeaux (Sorry had to) showed a true fighting heart and warriors mindset when it was most needed, Dorticos courageously and valiantly was trying to stay in the fight.
I had the fight level at the eighth round mark by a score of 74-74 but the tide was turning in favour of the Russian, Gassiev was still cautious of Dorticos’ power and was very disciplined in making sure his left hand didn’t drop unnecessarily and his guard was kept high, at times it reminded me of a Turtle who would go in to a shell when in harms way or danger, protecting himself from Dorticos’ most dangerous weapon. Yet while the Cuban whom was game for the most part, had become physically drained by the later rounds.
Abel Sanchez sensing a shift, requested his man to keep the pressure on, Gassiev’s thudding shots had begun to take their toll on Dorticos, who had begun to fold in the late rounds, at times seeming like he was broken man, some of those same shots that landed earlier in the contest was now having a much bigger effect in the 12th, as he was floored three times in the final stanza in dramatic fashion. At that point, it was clear that Gassiev had pulled ahead and was on the verge of unifying multiple belts but he put an exclamation point on a compelling affair.
The World Boxing Super Series has exceeded our expectations, even the critics, yes there were some at the beginning have now become believers in the format. It’s still a great shame why no network or TV company picked this tournament up over the pond in the US. The Americans have truly been denied by a premium network like HBO or Showtime who neglected the idea of its showing, such a shame for my American colleagues.
Although I was told unlike the previous week, the streams for Gassiev-Dorticos were provided by the World Boxing Super Series, on its YouTube channel and its Facebook page, operating smoothly for its free viewers and what I was told by my American followers on Twitter it was an enjoyable experience.
Who knows? Maybe the finals will be broadcast by a major network in the U.S. If not, they may keep the free high-quality streams.
I have to add even though the cruiserweight tournament hasn’t resonated from mainstream sports here In Britain as well as the super middleweight’s whom have had several Brits in there tournament. Although on the other hand, as a Brit I am proud this fantastic tournament was picked up by Terrestrial Tv Giants ITV.
On to the final which will be a showcased between two Eastern Europeans in Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev in May, taking place in Saudi Arabia for a chance to crown the Undisputed cruiserweight champion and the proud recipient of the Muhammad Ali trophy.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and performing Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as a Muslim back in 2010, even visiting finals destination of Jeddah along the way on my journey, I have to add it is a lovely city.
So on to the final, who’s up for booking a flight to Jeddah? (I might be) to witness history, Think I got a few weeks where I can make some arrangements
Until next time So long. Adios