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Iron-Fisted Murat Gassiev Returns With a Big Bang in Armenia

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  • Iron-Fisted Murat Gassiev Returns With a Big Bang in Armenia

    Murat Gassiev won the IBF world cruiserweight title in 2016 and made two successful defenses before encountering Oleksandr Usyk in a bout hailed as the most compelling match-up in the cruiserweight division since Evander Holyfield fought Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1986.

    That match, a four-belt unification fight, didn’t measure up to the hype. Gassiev was comprehensively out-boxed. But it wouldn’t be shocking if he and Usyk touch gloves again some day. His renowned American trainer Abel Sanchez was always under the impression that Gassiev would prove to be a better heavyweight than a cruiserweight and nowadays the recently-minted citizen of Armenia, a native of Vladikavkaz, Russia, is a full-fledged heavyweight.

    Gassiev carried 238 pounds for today’s encounter with U.S. import Mike Balogun in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. As was true in his previous fight with mysterious, 40-something Carlouse Welch, Gassiev dismissed Balogun with one punch. A straight right hand put Balogun down for the count in round two.

    One-punch knockouts have become something of trademark for Gassiev. His brutal one-punch knockout of former U.S. National Golden Gloves champion Jordan Shimmell was named the 2016 TSS Knockout of the Year.

    Gassiev fell off the map following his disappointing showing vs. Usyk. Plagued by injuries and promotional problems, he was out of action for 27 months. His bout with Balogun was his fourth fight back. All four were off-TV fights at Eastern European venues.

    At age 39, Mike Balogun was 10 years older than Gassiev. A former University of Oklahoma linebacker (via Lackawanna JC), he bounced around the NFL between 2010 and 2012, appearing in several regular season games with the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills. But despite his advanced age and his late start as a boxer, there were those that rated him a very live underdog to Gassiev. Heading in, Balogun had won his last six fights inside two rounds, most notably a first-round stoppage of previously undefeated Trey Lippe Morrison who was rated the best of Tommy Morrison’s two fighting sons. As a pro he was undefeated with 16 knockouts among his 20 wins.

    Alas, Balogun proved to be as vulnerable as the mysterious Carlouse Welch.

    What’s next for ex-cruiserweight champ Murat Gassiev whose record currently stands at 30-1 (23 KOs)? Obviously, he needs to ratchet up his level of competition to become relevant once again. However, at age 29 there’s no sense of urgency and no matter how formidable his next opponents, he will have a puncher’s chance.