Oleksandr Usyk wins undisputed cruiserweight championship and Muhammad Ali Trophy
Oleksandr Usyk became the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world, on Saturday, in Moscow, Russia, outboxing Murat Gassiev for 12 rounds to a unanimous decision (120-108, 119-109 twice) victory, collecting all four major cruiserweight titles and hoisting the Muhammad Ali Trophy given to him, for winning the World Boxing Super Series.
Usyk, 15-0 (11), an Olympic gold medalist in 2012, overwhelmed Gassiev with a busy jab and keen positioning, that left the Russian with few ideas on how to circumvent the issue at hand. From round one on, Usyk’s jab was constantly in Gassiev’s face, and, although he seemed patient from the start, being out of position to pull the trigger was just as constant as his foe’s lead left hand. To start the second, Gassiev, 24, flashed a powerful threat, after a left hook to Usyk’s body made him react, but the sporadic, one-punch mounts of success were too few and far between for the Russian. Gassiev even landed a big right hand to Usyk’s head, at the end of round four, but the bell rang before he could follow up. Usyk took both of those shots well, all things considered, and never found himself in serious trouble.
Gassiev, 26-1 (19), who brought the unified IBF/WBA cruiserweight titles to the table, had no semblance of a jab that could counteract with Usyk’s or set up one of his power shots. In the middle rounds, Usyk started implementing more and more combinations, as he had controlled the distance and perhaps found his way into Gassiev’s head. All Gassiev could do, at times, was shell up and let Usyk get off hooks around the guard or uppercuts up from beneath. When he did fire back, Usyk was ready, and, soon enough, by the eighth, he was one-upping any menial shot Gassiev managed to find with a quick combo. Gassiev, who had a small swelling beneath his left eye, by the fight’s end, wasn’t getting hurt by Usyk’s sharp shots but was visibly frustrated, huffing back to his corner, where his trainer Abel Sanchez was in his grill all night.
Before the final round, Sanchez rightfully told Gassiev he wasn’t winning a decision but, even with that in mind, Gassiev still couldn’t find any sense of rhythm and Usyk continued his fabulous clinic, even finding time to stand in front of Gassiev, and pepper him with shots to clearly win the round. Usyk even managed to shuffle his feet in that final round, perhaps has an ode to the man who is the face of the World Boxing Super Series Trophy – Muhammad Ali – with whom Usyk happens to share a birthday.
“Thank God,” were the first words out of Usyk’s mouth, in the post-fight interview. The Ukrainian crusader has been on a remarkable road to becoming the one true cruiserweight champion. First, winning the WBO title in Poland, making an Stateside appearance, in which he beat an American prospect Michael Hunter, dismantling an aged German legend Marco Huck in Berlin, edging an inspired Latvian Mairis Briedis, for the WBC title, in Riga, and finally, dominating Russia’s unified brute Gassiev, in Moscow, to reach the pinnacle of the cruiserweights.
“Thank you to all people that were staying with me in training camp,” Usyk added. “I give gratitude to my team. My team made me how I look in the ring. This is our victory.”