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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Usyk-Gassiev, Stevenson-Gvozdyk, Spence-Crawford)

Murat Gassiev (left) and Oleksandr Usyk are ready to rumble in Russia for the undisputed cruiserweight championship.
22
Jun

USYK-GASSIEV IN RUSSIA

Dear Doug,

A couple of quick questions about a couple of Ukrainian fighters:

(1) Like everyone else I am super excited about Usyk vs. Gassiev. And like most people I see it as a real 50:50 fight. Some people have mentioned that Usyk, as a Ukrainian, is entering ‘enemy territory’ by fighting in Moscow – so we should beware the judges’ decision going against him if it goes the distance. I guess that might be an issue. But bear in mind that Gassiev is himself from Ossetia, which is also a disputed region of the Caucasus between Georgia and Russia. Gassiev’s Wikipedia page informs us that he ‘is of Iron descent’ which is both awesome and appropriate given that the dude seems like his chin and fists might actually be cast from solid metal…



Anyways – who have you got? I really like watching how quick and smooth Usyk moves for such a big guy and I can see him winning a bunch of early rounds with his jab. But I just have a gut feeling that he won’t be able to really hurt Gassiev and that the Iron Ossetian will start to walk Usyk down in the later rounds.

(2) I saw that Adonis Stevenson has been ordered to fight Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Mike Coppinger in his article suggested that Stevenson would ‘certainly be favored to retain his title’. Do you agree? I have only seen a tiny bit of Gvozdyk on youtube and I get that he has only had 15 pro fights so far. But the guy is an Olympic medalist and Stevenson isn’t getting any younger… How much of a chance do you give Gvozdyk?

Keep up the great work! The mailbag is a total addiction for me! Regards. – Tommy (in Germany)

Thank you, Tommy, I’m happy to be your pusher.

I give Gvozdyk a very good shot at dethroning the WBC/lineal light heavyweight champ. Although I’m part of the minority that thought Stevenson did enough to narrowly win his recent fight with Badou Jack, I saw an aging champion that is ready to be pushed off the proverbial cliff. Can Gvozdyk do it? It all depends on how sturdy his chin is. If he can take a decent shot, I think, like you, that this is a 50-50 matchup.

Esther Lin/Showtime

Stevenson has the edge in speed, power and experience, but Gvozdyk has better fundamentals (as Jack did), plus, the Ukrainian Olympian is the much fresher fighter. Gvozdyk just needs to make it through the first five or six rounds without getting clipped (which is easier said than done) and then I think he can take over the second half of the fight if he’s willing to take it to the southpaw bomber.

Regardless of who’s the favorite, I think it’s a very good matchup and I’m looking forward to it.

Like everyone else I am super excited about Usyk vs. Gassiev. You’re not a real boxing fan if you aren’t hyped for this undisputed cruiserweight championship.

And like most people I see it as a real 50:50 fight. That’s exactly what it is on paper.

Some people have mentioned that Usyk, as a Ukrainian, is entering ‘enemy territory’ by fighting in Moscow – so we should beware the judges’ decision going against him if it goes the distance. I really hope that’s not true. It’s up to the WBSS to make sure that the local boxing commission, in conjunction with the four sanctioning organizations that are involved, brings in the best and most impartial/neutral referee and judges to officiate this bout.

I guess that might be an issue. But bear in mind that Gassiev is himself from Ossetia, which is also a disputed region of the Caucasus between Georgia and Russia. Gassiev’s Wikipedia page informs us that he ‘is of Iron descent’ which is both awesome and appropriate given that the dude seems like his chin and fists might actually be cast from solid metal… That may be true about Gassiev’s ethic/national background, Tommy, but it’s also a fact that he’s a massive star in Russia right now, so I can understand Team Usyk’s trepidation about their man fighting there.

Anyways – who have you got? I slightly favor Usyk by decision, but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on that hunch.

I really like watching how quick and smooth Usyk moves for such a big guy and I can see him winning a bunch of early rounds with his jab. Same here. I think his activity (high-volume punching) will also be a factor.

Gassiev and Dorticos go at it! Photo / WBSS

But I just have a gut feeling that he won’t be able to really hurt Gassiev and that the Iron Ossetian will start to walk Usyk down in the later rounds. I can see that happening. I can also envision Gassiev setting traps while backing up during the first half of the bout. He really showed me a lot with his 12th-round stoppage of Yunier Dorticos. Gassiev has improved with each outing since his first title victory over Denis Lebedev.

 

CAN I AFFORD TO DREAM?

Hello Dougie –

Long time no chat my Friend. First and foremost, congratulations on your promotion to editor and chief of “The Ring”. It’s always terrific to see someone’s passion and commitment being rewarded.

Now, onto my question.  Given that Canelo-GGG 2 has been made, I think that I’m starting to believe that the fights at 147 that we all would love to see … just … might … happen.  Now I don’t want to put the mock on these fights, however this is what I’d love to see happen:

Next weekend Al Haymon and Bob Arum go out for some burgers. They share some compliments about how much they admire each other and thank each other for their contribution to boxing over the years.  After sharing a banana split for desert, they decide to match their top dogs at welterweight against each other in a bit of a round-robin event.

Spence, Thurman, the Porter v Garcia Winner and, dare I say it, Crawford, will all take a crack at each other in a pugilist extravaganza over the course of the next 18 months.  The winner? Well boxing fans of course! As well as all of the fighters I have mentioned being given an opportunity to find out who has the right to call the welterweight throne their own.

Everyone wins baby!!

So Dougie, the question is … Can I (or we as boxing fans) afford to dream?  Thanks for your time. – Craig Brewer – now an Australian based boxing fan 

Of course, you can afford to dream, Craig. Dreams are free. You just have to realize that it takes time and effort for them to come true. (My first feature story in THE RING was published 21 years ago. It’s been a long road to the E.I.C. position of the publication.) 

Now, I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long to see the best welterweights fight each other, but I do think we’ll see Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder before we see Crawford vs. Spence. However, I do think we’ll eventually get an undisputed welterweight champ.  Showtime clearly has intentions of getting the winner of the upcoming Danny Garcia-Shawn Porter fight (for the vacant WBC title) to challenge Spence. And I think WBA “chief” Keith Thurman will be ready and willing to face the winner of that IBF/WBC unification by the time it happens (probably by spring of 2019). If Spence is the superstud that everyone says he is, he will beat his PBC rivals and unify three 147-pound belts. If Mr. Haymon is smart and does business with Jerry Jones, bringing Spence back home at least every other fight, the native of the Dallas area will gradually become one of the biggest regional attractions in the U.S. boxing scene. If Mr. Arum does what he does best, he will continue to build up Bud’s Omaha following, while developing the three-division champ’s fanbase in other markets.  If the TV ratings for both undefeated Americans continues to grow, I think it will be worth Arum’s and Haymon’s trouble to make the welterweight Dream Fight that boxing fans worldwide want to see. But the earliest I see it happening is late 2019.

NEW BLOOD

Hi Doug,

I watched the fight between Valerio and Robles III over the weekend (shout out to Golden Boy youtube channel!). Good fight between 2 young guns. Valerio looked stiff and one-dimensional, trying to put all his power behind each punch. Same speed same power… Let’s see what he can learn from the defeat. Robles III looks like he got a high ceiling. I was impressed with his composure and tight technique. I will keep an eye on him.

From what I read there are a few big fights this summer (CW final) so it should be fun. It’s a pity Thurman does not have a high motivation because he would have been live against Crawford and Spence. These days I don’t think so…

The Tapia documentary was dope! Credit to his wife bc the man was clearly a (sweet) savage and man he could fight in that ring. I did watch some highlights afterwards and I had to reset my brain before Valerio vs Robles III. Peace. – Vince

I’ll have to check out that Tapia documentary. He was one of my favorite interviews in boxing, and for my money, arguably the greatest 115 pounder ever. Some of the wildest, funniest and most touching stories in our sport involve Tapia. Just ask Freddie Roach or Jessie Reid.  

Photo by Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions

I looked forward to Robles-Valerio, and while the prospect showdown did not deliver the dramatic scrap that I’d hoped for, it did shine some much-deserved spotlight on Robles. I think he’s a good fit with veteran trainer/cutman/cornerman Rudy Hernandez, who asked me about that particular matchup late last year (which lets you know that he had his eyes set on exposing Valerio’s various flaws with the superior boxer). Robles had the better amateur background, the better schooling (from his father and former trainer, Manny Robles II), and the more complete style and it showed during the fight. Valerio’s struggle to make featherweight didn’t help him. A move to 130 pounds might improve his reflexes and stamina, but he still needs to bring in a world-class trainer if he wants to evolve into a better boxer.  

In the meantime, Robles is one to watch. He’s true technician and he reminds me of a young Mikey Garcia.  

From what I read there are a few big fights this summer (CW final) so it should be fun. Yeah, Usyk-Gassiev will be awesome (and it’s for the vacant RING cruiserweight championship, I might add). Garcia-Easter and Garcia-Porter will be interesting, as will Mungia-Smith.

It’s a pity Thurman does not have a high motivation because he would have been live against Crawford and Spence. Let’s see if The Thurmanator can get healthy, get back in the ring for a tune-up bout (in August), and regain some mojo. I think he can still be a factor in the 147-pound division (but I admit that I’m a fan of “Chief Keef”). I agree that a year ago he would have been considered a very live dog against Crawford or Spence if not the slight favorite, but he’s lost most of his career momentum, which is a shame, while Bud and The Truth have continued to improve.

These days I don’t think so… You are not alone in that opinion.

BOBBY CZYZ

Doug,

Just came across this (I’m in New Jersey):

http://projects.nj.com/investigations/bobby-czyz/index.html#incart_std

Everett

I read this earlier this week (and made sure to retweet it from my Twitter account). Steve Politi penned a masterpiece, and NJ.com did a great job presenting it.

LINARES, ZEPEDA-RAMIREZ

Hey Doug,

I was wondering what you made of the Zepeda-Ramirez fight; I hadn’t seen much of either but that bout turned me into a fan of Zepada! Knocked down in the fourth only to come back and KO Ramirez in the 5th-really great stuff. What’s next for Zepeda? I’d love to see him take on some higher level talent in the lightweight division, maybe a rematch with Flanagan if the latter makes a return to 135.

More on that division-what do you think is next for Jorge Linares? His fight with Loma was amazing, and I’d like to see him battle the loser of Garcia-Easter or Beltran. If he brings the same level of talent to either of those fights that he did against Loma the true winner of those nights will be the fans.

Sincerely. – Shelby

Linares will definitely be back. I’m sure his ultimate goal is a rematch with Lomachenko, but I agree that he’d have a very good shot of beating the loser of the Garcia-Easter unification bout (and let’s be straight-forward and just say that will be Robert) and WBO beltholder Ray Beltran (who I think Jorge can beat handily if he’s motivated).  

Regarding Zepeda, I consider him a fringe lightweight contender, just outside of the top 10. If he can continue to make the weight (he had campaigned at junior welterweight prior to the Ramirez fight) and lure better opposition into the ring, I think he can earn his way into the ratings and maybe a second shot at a world title. Who knows? If not for that freak injury vs. Terry Flanagan three years ago, Zepeda could be an undefeated titleholder.  

As it is, he’s an experienced southpaw boxer-puncher with solid technique and proven heart. I wouldn’t count him out against any of the legit lightweight contenders. All Zepeda needs is the opportunity to show that he belongs.

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

 

 

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