Canelo-Charlo Gets All the Ink, but Don’t Overlook This Compelling Match-up in Turkey


By Arne K. Lang

The eyes of the boxing world will be on Las Vegas this Saturday where Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez risks his four super middleweight title belts against unified 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo. Earlier that day, at a luxury resort hotel in the city of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, there’s a heavyweight match sitting under the radar that may prove to be the better fight. It’s an intriguing match-up between former world cruiserweight title-holder Murat Gassiev and Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin, a bout with significant ramifications for boxing’s glamour division.

Gassiev (30-1, 23 KOs) and Wallin (25-1, 14 KOs) have only one loss, but those setbacks came against the top dogs in the division. Gassiev was out-boxed by Oleksandr Usyk back in the days when both were cruiserweights. Wallin gave Tyson Fury a world of trouble before losing a unanimous decision.

Since those fights, both have been treading water.


Gassiev was inactive for 27 months after match with Usyk while dealing with legal issues and an injury to his left shoulder. He is 4-0 (4 KOs) since returning to the ring while answering the bell for only eight rounds. The only recognizable name among those four victims is German gatekeeper Michael Wallisch. After stopping Wallisch, Gassiev was out of action for another 13 months while reportedly dealing with an arm injury.

A first-round knockout of Carlouse Welch, an obscure 40-something boxer from the U.S. state of Georgia on Aug. 26, 2022, in Belgrade, Serbia, was promoted as a title fight. The sanctioning body was the Eurasian Boxing Parliament (insert your own punchline here). Gassiev followed that up with a second-round knockout of former NFL linebacker Mike Balogun who came in undefeated and was seemingly a legitimate threat to him.

Although he has yet to fight a ranked opponent since leaving the cruiserweight ranks, Gassiev -- a former stablemate of Gennady Golovkin who has been living in Big Bear, California, training under Abel Sanchez – is one of the most respected fighters in the division because he has one-punch knockout power as Balogun and others can well attest. The rub against the Russian-Armenian bruiser is that he is somewhat robotic.


Otto Wallin, a 32-year-old southpaw from Sweden who trains in New York under former world lightweight champion Joey Gamache, fought Tyson Fury on Sept. 14, 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. There was a general feeling that the Swede would be a stroll in the park for Fury, but to the contrary, he gave the Gypsy King a hard tussle while losing a unanimous decision.

Wallin is 5-0 since that night beginning with victories over Travis Kauffman (KO 5) and Dominic Breazeale (UD 12), but his last three opponents were softer than soft and all three lasted the distance. In order, Wallin won an 8-round decision over Kamil Sokolowski, who was 11-24-2 heading in, won a 10-round decision over ancient Rydell Booker, and won an 8-round decision over Helaman Olguin. His bout with Utah trial horse Olguin was at a banquet hall in Windham, New Hampshire.

It isn’t that Wallin has been avoiding the top names in the division; it’s the other way around. His promoter Dmitriy Salita reportedly came close to getting Wallin a match with Anthony Joshua whose team has second thoughts about sending Joshua in against another southpaw after back-to-back setbacks to Oleksandr Usyk.

Gassiev vs Wallin is a true crossroads fight. Both are in dire need of a win over a credible opponent. At last look, Gassiev, who figures to have the crowd in his corner, was a 3/1 favorite.