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Gassiev vs Wlodarczyk: WBSS Quarter Final 3 Breakdaown

by Steve Fearon

World Boxing Super Series
Cruiserweight Matchups, QF3 – Murat Gassiev v Krzysztof Wlodarczyk

In the third of our Cruiserweight matchups, Murat Gassiev, the youngest fighter in the tournament squares off against the oldest fighter, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.

At 23 years old, Gassiev comes in as an unbeaten fighter after 25 fights, having most recently defeated Denis Lebedev in a split decision, and in doing so, announcing his arrival at the elite level. Wlodarczyk comes into the tournament at 35, having had a whopping 57 fights to date, and though he has lost on 3 occasions, he has never been stopped. Even once! In 57 fights!

So straight away, we have to acknowledge that age and experience are the major differentiating factors in this fight, though it is important to point out that Gassiev is no novice after 25 fights himself. The question remains, however, how much is the 32 fight difference worth to Wlodarczyk, and how much could this in fact be to his detriment, at the age of 35?

Gassiev has won all 25 professional contests so far, so on the face of it, his record perhaps looks the stronger thanks to the mythical power of the ‘0’ and its commercial value in modern-day boxing; though we have to acknowledge that Wlodarczyk’s 3 defeats in 57 is worthy of respect too.

Wlodarczyk’s defeats have all come via decision and it is important to note a few key points about these to mitigate the plain quantifiable values:

  • Firstly, that 2 of these defeats came away from home, which is traditionally always a tougher ask

  • Secondly, he has only lost once in the last 10 years, his other two losses coming from much earlier in his career

  • Finally, that the average opponent win% of those that bested him is 97 (70 wins from 72 bouts collectively)

In terms of their stoppages both Gassiev and Wlodarczyk have a very similar KO win % with Gassiev on 71% and Wlodarczyk on 70%. Though if we look at the last 10 fights, Gassiev’s win by stoppage actually jumps to 80% and Wlodarczyk’s drops to 55%, so that may be a better measure of where their relative power sits at this time.

Who, then, has fought the better opponents? Well Gassiev has a pretty poor average opponent win % of just 52%, which compares unfavourably with Wlodarczyk’s average of 64% (which still isn’t that high actually). However, if we look at the last 10 fights again, Gassiev’s average goes up to 72% which is much more respectable, and this is dragged down by Terrance Smith (29%), whom he stopped in January 2015 (If we remove Smith from the last 10 fights, the average goes up to 76%).

Similarly, Wlodarczyk’s average goes up too, though his jumps to a whopping 94%(!) suggesting that he is still fighting against opponents with strong records.

To take this further, the last 10 fighters faced by Gassiev had collectively had 261 fights, with 220 wins, Wlodarczyk’s have had 295 fights with 272 wins, so in terms of the quality of the records they have faced, we have to acknowledge that potentially Wlodarczyk is much more accustomed to higher level competition, and has been for some time.

Here is the difficult part…youth versus experience, potential versus a track record, an improving young fighter and a potentially fading older warrior…essentially we have to call whether Wlodarczyk has begun fading to such a degree that his track record no longer accurately describes the fighter that stands before us.

Let us examine the fact that Wlodarczyk has fought 4 times in the last 2 years, all in his home country of Poland, with two stoppages coming against older fighters (in their late 30’s) in 2016, and then more recently two decision wins against younger fighters he was unable to stop, indicating that though he has the skills, experience and ring-craft to win over younger opposition, his power may be waning. This could spell disaster against the powerful Gassiev.

In contrast, Gassiev’s KO rate has improved over the course of his career, and he is coming into the tournament after his biggest result yet (the tight win over the formidable Denis Lebedev) so it must be said the momentum is with Gassiev.

I think the seemingly inevitable decline in Wlodarczyk’s KO %, the upward trajectory of Gassiev’s KO% and Opposition win %, and the fact that there will be potentially 3 fights in fairly quick succession for those that progress, will mean that Gassiev will be able to commit more energy to the fight, as he will be better able to recover between fights, so Wlodarczyk’s ability to manage the fight will be a big factor in the outcome.

This quarter final may go the distance, as neither fighter has ever been stopped, and if Lebedev was unable to stop Gassiev, I am dubious as to whether Wlodarczyk can. This leaves me with two likely scenarios, “Gassiev outworks, and overpowers Wlodarczyk”, perhaps stopping him through volume of punches, or the “wily veteran uses guile and experience to frustrate and outbox the young Russian”.

Of these two scenarios, I think I would have to edge to Wlodarczyk, purely based on his record, and the fact that his last two fights were against strong, younger fighters, where he was just able to squeak out a points win, suggesting that he can use his skill and experience to mitigate the strength, energy and determination of younger fighters.

This prediction assumes that his ability hasn’t degraded to a point where his punch resistance is affected, as if it has, Gassiev will likely be the first to stop the veteran, and progress to the semi-finals.

Posted: 28th Jul 2017

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