Murat Gassiev advanced to the WBSS Cruiserweight Final following a dramatic 12th round stoppage of Yunier Dorticos in Adler, Russia. With the highlight reel victory, Gassiev now unifies the WBA and IBF titles, with his unbeaten slate intact as he heads towards what seems like a mouth-watering May 11 finale with tournament favorite Oleksandr Usyk.
Tonight’s much anticipated showdown of lights-out punchers was a fiercely tense tear-up, brimming with bad intentions from both fighters. And for the first four to five rounds, it genuinely played out like the 50-50 encounter many observers – including this scribe – had expected to see.
This was a fight between two guys who clearly realised the magnitude of the event and exactly what was at stake. Dorticos (22-1, 21 KO) was confident playing the boss role, stalking and pressuring his opponent with busy hands as he pumped out a long jab while trying to find a home for his game-changing, missile right-hand.
Gassiev (26-0, 19 KO), despite spending these early rounds on the back foot, did a fine job of keeping his composure and form as he circled the ring, avoiding the constant threat of Dorticos’ booming right. Gassiev managed to find success of his own thanks to explosive, eye-catching punches, something which made this fight – split at 38-38 on BB’s card at the time – impossible to call.
Gassiev then gradually began to seize control of the action as he went through the gears, switching to the role of aggressor, and ultimately showcasing his more dynamic skillset. And he was able to do so in convincing fashion. One, because his arsenal was more varied and calculated, two, because he took away Dorticos’ right hand, and three, because, quite simply, Dorticos didn’t have a plan B.
Though Gassiev continued to be the more reserved with his punch output, his cluster attacks were the more accurate and damaging, with precision hooks able to penetrate Dorticos’s guard, particularly in the later rounds. Dorticos was rocked badly in the tail-end of the 5th, and, in a punishing 11th, somehow avoided the canvas – following a blistering one-two-hook-uppercut combination – by latching on to Gassiev.
Gassiev showed zero mercy in the final frame, with a full-blooded counter left hook detonating on Dorticos’ chin, resulting in the first knockdown. Dorticos courageously fought on, only to be chopped down again seconds later by a barrage of hooks, and then for a final time, with Dorticos being pummelled through the ropes.
A mere handful of seconds remained on the clock, but it was of course the right decision for the referee to wave off the contest there and then. In fact, there’s a sound argument that the fight should have been stopped five to ten seconds earlier while the rubber-legged Dorticos was still – barely – able to stand. For what it’s worth, BB had the fight 108-101 going into that 12th stanza.
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