Former cruiserweight titleholder Murat Gassiev has moved up to heavyweight, but hasn’t actually fought in the division. In fact, he hasn’t fought since his 2018 World Boxing Super Series tournament final loss to Oleksandr Usyk.
But trainer Abel Sanchez believes Gassiev will prove the better heavyweight than Usyk, thanks to speed and power which he compares to Evander Holyfield, who made a remarkable transition from cruiser to heavy:
“Like Evander Holyfield he has the speed of a cruiserweight. His speed and quickness will be the difference against heavyweights, the same as Oleksandr Usyk. But will Usyk have the strength to handle heavyweights? He doesn’t have a big punch. In the heavyweight division you need to have something that keeps people back.”
Being honest, this sounds like gas-up talk for Gassiev (26-1, 19 KO), who is certainly a good fighter and intriguing heavyweight if/when we actually see him fight at the weight. We’ve been waiting for a while, as he’s dealt with repeated injury setbacks, and was meant to make his heavyweight debut about a year ago, but didn’t.
Sanchez makes no excuses about Gassiev losing to Usyk; he lost clearly, and Sanchez admits Usyk was the better man on the night at cruiserweight. But his doubts about Usyk at heavyweight are not terribly unusual. Though Usyk (17-0, 13 KO) is without question a greatly skilled fighter — Olympic gold medalist, undisputed pro cruiserweight champion, made a successful if not exactly thrilling heavyweight debut last year — there are a lot of questions about how he’ll fare against better names at heavyweight than Chazz Witherspoon. He really doesn’t have big power, and he looks soft at 215 pounds, and doesn’t have the naturally huge body of the top heavyweights.
Gassiev is slightly taller than Usyk by official listing, but also has a slightly shorter reach, and it’s a question of how he’ll fare, too. We’ll have to see. Usyk may not have passed the eye test at heavy with flying colors, but this Gassiev hype from Sanchez is just hype until we actually see him. Abel sounds very confident, but Abel would.