Murat Gassiev’s inactivity is remarkable, even by modern standards. He has only completed three fights since his World Boxing Super Series final defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in 2018 for the unified cruiserweight crown. Even more remarkably, his punching acumen combined with the lack of quality of the opponents means he has only completed 5 full rounds for those 3 fights.
Mike Balogun’s career is similarly enigmatic, approaching 10 years as an unbeaten American heavyweight pro, without taking on any names recognizable to even the most ardent of fight fans.
So, Friday’s encounter in Armenia represented a crossroads moment in the careers of both men. A loss could be catastrophic, but a win could provide the necessary oomph to actualize their respective potentials in the game. More was at stake than the WBA Inter-Continental trinket.
Murat Gassiev barely threw a punch throughout most of the fight. He was just charging up that big right hook, which dramatically called a halt to proceedings and earned the Russian victory over Mike Balogun.
It was another contest that doesn’t fully paint for us how Gassiev will look in the heavyweight picture for years to come. Many online observers were shocked that he was still only 29 years of age, 10 years the junior of his American opponent on the night. However, his ring generalship to force Balogun onto the backfoot without even having to fire shots off suggests he could have an ominous aura of obliteration, wherever he chooses to go next.
Andrey Stotsky holds a win in the amateurs over IBF cruiserweight champion, Jai Opetaia. He bossed his opponent, Ravshanbek Djabbarov, around the ring from the outset and stopped him with ease in the second round.
Also worth noting is a Cuban boxing prospect who fights out of Russia, Luis Miguel Bayona, who fought Muzaffar Rasulov. His hand speed was impressive but flattered to deceive at times when it wasn’t matched with timing and accuracy. Nonetheless, he boxed well and forced a corner retirement at the end of the third round.
By Harry Duffy