Friday, July 12, 2024  |



Mike Balogun gets his shot at becoming heavyweight player against Murat Gassiev

Mike Balogun
Fighters Network

Mike Balogun is 39 years old, but is as strong and fit as someone 10 or 15 years younger than him. All he hopes for is an opportunity to demonstrate he is a legit heavyweight contender.

That opportunity for Balogun takes place Friday night when he faces Murat Gassiev at the Karen Demirchyan Sports Complex in Yerevan, Armenia. The 10-round bout will air live on REV TV throughout Russia (10 a.m. ET/ 7 p.m. AM). 

At Thursday’s weigh-in, Balogun weighed 235 pounds. Gassiev weighed a career-high 238 pounds.

Balogun (20-0, 16 knockouts), who resides in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, last fought on October 6, stopping Marcus Oliveira in the second round. In his previous fight on April 15, Balogun knocked out Sergio Ramirez Marin, also in the second round.

In his most meaningful fight to date, which took place in December 2021, Balogun stopped Trey Lippe, the son of former WBO heavyweight titleholder Tommy Morrison, in the opening round. 

Prior to making his pro debut in October 2014, Balogun played linebacker for the University of Oklahoma. He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He signed to play on practice squads later that season with the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills, eventually playing in an NFL game.

Balogun made his mark in football and hopes to have more success in prizefighting. Promoter Lou DiBella is confident Balogun will not only defeat Gassiev, but excel in the heavyweight division.

“Mike is a terrific athlete,” DiBella told The Ring Wednesday night. “He is a former NFL player and has no wear and tear as a fighter. He’s improved incredibly, and has been very busy. 

“Gassiev has never been in with a real heavyweight, a southpaw who can crack. Gassiev isn’t a real heavyweight. 238 pounds is a long way from cruiserweight. It’s going to be an interesting fight. Anyone sleeping on Mike is making a huge mistake.”

The 29-year-old Gassiev (29-1, 22 KOs), who is originally from Vladikavkaz, Russia and now resides in Big Bear, California, stopped 42-year-old Carlouse Welch in the first round of his last bout on August 26. He has won his last three fights since losing to Oleksandr Usyk in a unification world cruiserweight fight in July 2018. 

Prior to winning the IBF world cruiserweight title over Denis Lebedev in December 2016, Gassiev fought a handful of fights under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner. 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]