Ossetian boxer Murat Gassiev loses world champion title fight
The fight for the boxing heavyweight world champion title on 21 July in Moscow was closely watched in both South Ossetia and North Ossetia-Alania (Russian Federation).
Murat Gassiev, a 25-year-old boxer and local idol from Vladikavkaz, was fighting for the prize.
However, his opponent, Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk, emerged victorious. He became the undisputed cruiserweight world champion having collected the WBC (World Boxing Council), the WBO (World Boxing Organization), the WBA (World Boxing Association) and the IBF (International Boxing Federation) titles.
He was also the first to win the prestigious Mohammad Ali Cup from the authoritative international publication The Ring.
housands if not hundreds of thousands of fans rooted for Gassiev. An enormous screen was set up in Vladikavkaz on Freedom Square where people watched the game outside. In South Ossetia there was originally a plan to set up a ‘fan-zone’ outside, high up in the mountains in the ancient village of Galiat against the backdrop of its medieval towers. But the fight took place late at night, and concerns were raised that the difficult road would pose a danger to those coming and going to see the match.
The match between Gassiev and Usyk was one of the most awaited events not only for Ossetians but for the global boxing community as a whole.
Neither boxers have faced losses in the professional ring. Gassiev beginning his professional career at 17 and has 26 wins to his name, 19 of which were knockouts. He has long worked with the well-known trainer Abel Sanchez and spent the majority of his time preparing for the match in Sanchez’s Big Bear training centre in the mountains of California.
Local journalists wrote that during his training sessions he mostly worked with left-handed sparring partners in order to adapt to Usyk’s southpaw stance.
Usyk had 14 matches before this final face-off, 11 of which were knockouts.
Initially, the final of the World Boxing Super Series in the first heavyweight championship was to be held on 11 May in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. However, according to the Russian media, local organisers in Saudi Arabia encountered a number of difficulties. Gassiev’s managers, who had initially opted for Moscow, were able to have the match in the Russian capital.
Later, difficulties arose when Usyk’s managers announced that they were concerned for his safety in Moscow and threatened to cancel the fight.
However, the fight took place as planned.
Usyk will receive USD 4 million in winnings, while Gassiev will receive USD 2 million.
After the match, Usyk called Gassiev his ‘strongest opponent’.
Gassiev returned the complement.
‘Best opponent in my professional career.’
— World Boxing Super Series (@WBSuperSeries) 21 July 2018
After the match, Gassiev said in an interview that he would first be returning home to Vladikavkaz:
“I’ll meet my family and see my friends. Forward Ossetians! Forward Russia! We will come again, even stronger than now.”