This (World Boxing) series is super
It was a busy day of boxing this past Saturday, when cards took place in London, at the O2 Arena, and the Bank of America Center, in Corpus Christi, Texas, that was televised nationally on ESPN. But the main event of the weekend took place at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Russia, where the World Boxing Super Series semifinal cruiserweight bout took place between IBF beltholder Murat Gassiev and WBA titlist Yunier Dorticos.
And like FedEx – it delivered.
The match-up between now unified WBC/WBO titleholder Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis, which was fought the week before in Latvia, in the other WBSS cruiserweight semifinal bout, was a solid 12-round scrap, won by Usyk in a close unanimous decision. Gassiev-Dorticos surpassed it.
What was thought to be a slugfest between two heavy hitters was instead, at the beginning, a tactical battle, which saw Gassiev (who normally backs up as much as a bulldozer on a one-way street) actually box off the back foot in the early stages of this bout. It was certainly uncharacteristic to see Gassiev going in reverse but it was clear he was gauging the Cuban’s long, powerful right hand.
After four rounds, the Cuban had built up an early lead on the cards. He was the one coming forward and initiating the action, while Gassiev was playing it relatively safe, retreating and only intermittently getting his offense going, for the most part, laying out his jab and occasionally planting body shots. However there was a method to Gassiev’s madness; while he allowed Dorticos to take some early rounds, he also made him expend energy and, slowly but surely, he started to take tactical control of the proceedings.
In the fifth stanza, Gassiev started to hold his ground and began to control the center of the ring and things started to become increasingly uncomfortable for Dorticos, who showed a stout beard as he was hit by numerous right hands over the top, left hooks to the body and uppercuts up the middle. Yet unlike many others, he withstood the steady onslaught from Gassiev. Lesser men had fallen in a heap from getting hit a lot less by “Iron” yet here was the proud Cuban – who unlike Guillermo Rigondeaux, had a true fighting spirit when it was most needed – courageously trying to stay in the fight.
Even as the tide had turned, Gassiev was still very mindful of Dorticos’ power and he was highly disciplined in making sure that left hand was kept high (and back to proper defensive position after punching) to shield him from Dorticos’ most dangerous weapon. But while he was game’ he had also become physically depleted by the late rounds.
With Abel Sanchez imploring him to keep the pressure on, Gassiev’s thudding salvos had begun to take their toll on Dorticos, who had begun to bend in the late rounds, then broke in the 12th, as he was floored three times in the final frame in dramatic fashion. At that point, it was clear that Gassiev had pulled ahead but he put an exclamation point on a riveting affair.
This tournament hasn’t been just a home run but a grand slam. The rarity has occurred here – it’s exceeded high expectations and the finals between Usyk and Gassiev in May, which will take place in Saudi Arabia (hey, they put up a bunch of money or barrels of oil – maybe both), is one of the gems of the upcoming boxing schedule.
Soooo, who’s up for booking a flight to Jeddah with me? (Think I got a few Bitcoins laying around here.)
Unlike the previous week, the streams for Gassiev-Dorticos provided by the World Boxing Super Series, on its YouTube channel and Facebook page, flowed like the Mississippi and it was an enjoyable experience on Saturday afternoon.
As long as this continues for the rest of the tournament – which will continue with the 168-pounders, in a couple of weeks – most boxing fans in the States will begrudgingly live with this alternative.
Who knows? Maybe the finals will be broadcast by a major network in the U.S. If not, keep the high-quality streams coming.
You had the expected results on the “Worldwide Leader” as WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez bludgeoned the unheralded Habib Ahmed, in six one-sided rounds, and IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas halted Israel Gonzalez in ten.
Yeah, this was – just like last week’s HBO show at the Forum – almost predetermined in results.
And the problem, like Lucas Matthysse and Jorge Linares, is that. for Ramirez and Ancajas, the most desirable dance partners (at least from the perspective of the fans) are on the other side of the street. For Ramirez, the other blue-chip super midds are either in currently in the World Boxing Super Series or, like a David Benavidez, the WBC beltholder, affiliated with Premier Boxing Champions.
While many of the marquee 115-pounders are participating in the “SuperFly” series on HBO (the next edition takes place on February 24), Ancajas – who signed a multi-fight deal with Top Rank – is on the outside looking in.
Moving forward, the question is: Just whom will they face that will bring about some actual athletic competition?
So will Teofimo Lopez’s cut keep him off the March 17 show at the Garden?…Kind of a buzzkill with the fight between Mikey Garcia and IBF junior welterweight titlist Sergey Lipinets being postponed till March 10…Hearing the “L.A. Fight Club” will return in 2018…Congrats to Ray Lewis on his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the best middle linebacker there ever was. Also Terrell Owens, a well-deserved honor…I loved “Great Performances” on PBS, in which Nas performed the “Illmatic” album with the Grand Symphony Orchestra…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.