If you haven’t been following the World Boxing Super Series, you’ve really missed out.
The series, which comprises of eight-man, single-elimination tournaments at both super-middleweight and cruiserweight, kicked-off last September and it has produced some tremendous action thus far, especially over the last two weekends.
While the super-middleweight tournament features the bigger names, with the likes of George Groves, Chris Eubank Jr. and Callum Smith involved, the cruiserweight tournament is of greater significance. It began with pretty much all of the best cruiserweights in the world and with the titles of all four major governing bodies in play. Thus, the winner is likely to unify the division for the first time in the so-called four-belt era.
Last weekend in Riga, WBO titlist Oleksander Usyk and WBC champ Mairis Briedis met in the first cruiserweight semi-final. The two delivered a truly riveting, back-and-forth contest that was fought at a tremendous pace for the full twelve rounds. In the end, Ukraine’s Usyk rightfully got the nod over the hometown boy via majority decision and booked his place in the final.
On Saturday night in Sochi, IBF titleholder Murat Gassiev and WBA kingpin Yunier Dorticos battled it out in the second semi-final. A meeting of two huge punchers, this one promised fireworks. And it delivered, although the display lasted much longer than most were expecting.
While Russia’s Gassiev had scored 18 stoppages in his 26 wins prior to this fight, including some really savage KO’s, Dorticos had stopped 21 of his 22 opponents, earning him the nickname ‘The KO Doctor’, and he was coming off of a scintillating knockout win in his quarter-final clash with the hammer-fisted Dmitry Kudryashov. Yet, despite trading huge power shots throughout, neither man could really put a dent in the other’s chin until the championship rounds.
After taking Gassiev’s earlier digs without even so much as a hint of discomfort, Dorticos was finally slightly stunned in the tenth by a wonderful combination of hooks and uppercuts. In the 11th, the Cuban found himself in an even worse situation and he was lucky to survive the round after being buckled by a left uppercut, followed by a hard right hand. He couldn’t escape a grizzly demise in the 12th, however, as Gassiev scored three knockdowns, the last of which left Dorticos on the ring apron with his legs hanging on the ring ropes. The fight was called off with just eight seconds remaining.
Murat Gassiev stops Yunier Dorticos in the 12th round of a fantastic fight. The WBSS cruiserweight semifinals were incredible. pic.twitter.com/GD6iAScG8l
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) February 3, 2018
The first of his professional career, this defeat was obviously a tough one for Dorticos to swallow and he was unable to hide his emotions at one point during the post-fight presser. This, however, inspired a touching moment of sportsmanship from Gassiev who immediately stood up and went over to comfort his foe.
— World Boxing Super Series (@WBSuperSeries) February 3, 2018
With the WBSS cruiserweight final, which will take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in May, now set, attention turns to the super-middleweights. The first of the two semi-finals in the lighter weight class takes place just under two weeks from now, on February 17th, when George Groves meets Chris Eubank Jr. in a mouth-watering all-British clash at the Manchester Arena. Then, the following Saturday night, Liverpool’s Callum Smith takes on former WBO and WBA light-heavyweight titleholder Juergen Braehmer in the other semi in Nuremberg.