With a less than a week left to go until his unification bout against IBF and WBA cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev 26-0 (19) for the Muhammad Ali Trophy in Russia, WBC and WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk 14-0 (11) has spoken to the media about his training camp and what he is expecting from his opponent on Saturday 21 July at the Olympic Sports Complex in Moscow.
The 31-year-old Ukrainian southpaw progressed to the final of the World Boxing Super Series with a TKO10 win over former WBO champion Marco Huck in the quarter-finals last September and a 12-round majority decision win over Mairis Briedis in the tournament semi-final in January.
“I don’t live in the past,” said Usyk. “I try to move forward. My victory over Mairis happened on the 27th of January. Of course, I have good memories, I got another belt and reached the final, but now we have a new stage.”
The fight will be no walk in the park for Usyk. Gassiev had to get past veteran Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in the quarter-final and undefeated Cuban Yunier Dorticos in the semi-final to earn his spot in the WBSS tournament final.
The 24-year-old Russian knocked out Wlodarczyk in three, while it took him until the twelfth and final round to stop Dorticos in a hard-fought and competitive bout that Usyk watched from ringside in Sochi.
“That fight was perfect, two great guys who found out who is the strongest,” he said.
Usyk, the 2012 London Olympic gold medallist at heavyweight, has been preparing for the fight at the Olympic Village in Kiev.
“I get up at 4.50 a.m. every morning and set myself on fire. To rebuild, you have to burn yourself, so I have been burning! I enjoy the hard training, I love the pressure, can you believe it? Maybe I am a little bit crazy,” he said.
“We tried to find someone who has the same style as Murat. It is important. When they do the same work as Murat does, it will help me to train the particular combinations to use against him.
As for his opponent, Usyk played his cards close to his chest.
“I will only say this: he is a strong guy,” said Usyk. “And now, thank God, Murat and I will fight for the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the ‘absolute world champion’ title.
“When the strong guys meet, the fights are interesting! This is what is so great about this tournament. It is necessary for the sport. I have said it before and I will say it again: the fans should expect a beautiful final!”
Usyk insists he is unfazed by the prospect of fighting the final in Gassiev’s backyard.
“Do I look like I am afraid to fight anywhere?” he said. “I feel excellent about it. I am an athlete, a warrior. I do not care where I fight, I just want to fight.”
The winner of Usyk-Gassiev on July 21 at the Olympic Sports Complex in Moscow will be the first boxer ever to win the Muhammad Ali Trophy and unify the cruiserweight titles in the four belt era.