By Przemek Garczarczyk
“You could feel Murat Gassiev’s energy, his aura – instantly. Always respectful to people, to other fighters. Everything he’s doing is for his family, his friends. Every cent he makes, he sends to his Mom. He trusts her to make wise decisions about what to do with the money,” says Leo Khorolinsky, adviser to undefeated cruiserweight IBF champion Murat Gassiev in an exclusive Fightnews.com interview.
On February 3 in Sochi, Russia, “Iron” Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs) will challenge another undefeated champ, WBA belt holder from Cuba, Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KO) in World Boxing Super Series semifinal bout.
We all know where Murat is now – but what was the start of his career like?
I met Murat at a little bit of a later stage. He was trained and discovered by trainer Vitaly Slanov, his first boxing coach from Vladikavkaz in Ossetia, Russia. Vitaly was close friends with Evgenii Vainshtein, owner of Ural Boxing Promotions. It was a crucial decision for his career – to work with them. Ural Boxing had experience with fighters like Konstantin Ponomariev, Serghii Bogachuk, Denis Shafikov, and they also have a lot of young prospects ready to turn pro. It was Evgenii who told me that he had been taking care of Murat since he was an amateur and suggested it was time to go to be pro-fighter. This is how I met 18 or 19-year old Murat Gassiev – at his first pro bout in Russia.
When you had the first conversations about Gassiev – what was his coach’s first impressions, something you remember the most?
His presence. Murat’s skills then were far from what they are now, but his presence as a fighter, as a human being was always there. You could feel his energy, his aura – instantly. Always respectful to people, to other fighters. Everything he’s doing is for his family, his friends. Every cent he makes, he sends to his Mom. He trusts her to make wise decisions about what to do with the money. Murat is only 24, but he’s a family oriented man, always loyal.
Newark, New Jersey. It’s 2AM after Gassiev’s fight with Włodarczyk. Murat is talking with supporters, having fun with his team, eating pizza. I remember the same thing from GGG in New York…
Exactly. When we were looking for a coach in the US, we wanted to find such a coach, who would be dedicated to our fighter, would be able to form a relationship. We tried a few things here and there, some of our fighters work with other trainers but when we had a chance to meet Abel (Sanchez)… everything clicked instantly. He’s with fighters every step of the way – wakes up with them, goes to sleep when they’re in bed. Abel genuinely cares. We had to take one of our guys from his camp because he was not up to Sanchez’ standards. He’s all about loyalty, commitment and respect. Just like Murat. Gassiev is one of these guys who you shake hands with and he trusts you. He also wants you to trust him, and he will do everything he can to be the best. If Murat sees that you fulfill your obligations as a trainer, promoter or manager – he will never want to disappoint you or himself. Gassiev is not one of these guys who are calling his promoter twenty times a day, asking what’s going on. He is dedicated to doing his job 100 percent.
The World Boxing Super Series, the eight best cruiserweights in the world – a perfect stage to make him a star?
It is – and this is why he works like an animal in the gym. I think that he already performed in so many great fights that people have to realize how good the cruiserweight division is, but I also have to say that we have that unique time now when we have a whole bunch a great cruiserweight out there and they all deliver great performances! Murat will be the first to say that he’s not the only one who is putting this division on the map – at least in the U.S. Everyone is doing a great job. It takes two to tango.
Are big American networks fighting to sign Murat?
(smiles) I don’t know… One fight at a time. Once such an occasion occurred and, frankly, I’m glad that a major network did not sign us. Someone important said that “Murat is too green” and shortly thereafter Murat’s knockout (over Jordan Shimmell) was a Top 10 story on ESPN. We are in a much better position right now, so we are committed, and the WBSS Tournament is a great stage for us.
There’s always certain humbleness to everything about Murat – and his team – are doing. But aren’t we living in times when you have to scream, curse, and throw money around to be considered a star?
No, because in the end, real recognizes real. Murat is all about being better, working hard in the gym and beating you in the ring. Dorticos is a great fighter, Murat respects his skills and everything else is irrelevant. We have three types of boxing fans – one interested in pure sport, maybe 1000 seats in a 10,000-seat arena; a second group wants to see blood, battle, punches and knockouts – another 5-6 thousand seats; and then is the third group: fans who don’t care if they see MMA, boxing – they like the story behind it. Mayweather Jr. vs. McGregor would be a good example. Now you have 10,000 people in the arena, TV ratings are going up, everyone is happy. Promoters who invested money in developing fighters make their money back, fighters are happy because they like their big checks. So, tell me, what people want. Someone looking nice and pretty in the ring and then y the u fall asleep in tenth round? Or maybe someone hitting so hard that the other guy needs an oxygen mask to know where he is?
Gennady Golovkin proves to be a perfect gentleman outside the ring and have unbelievable following when stepping between the ropes. But he’s an exception to the rule.
I will give you more examples, from MMA: champions like Andrei Arlovski or Fedor Emelianenko – they never said a bad word about their opponents. Randy Couture – another example, always class. I don’t remember Arturo Gatti saying anything bad about fighters he fought. It’s should not be about talking a lot of smack, making you look like moron. Some fighters attract large crowds because fans want THEM to be beaten. Winning the crowd with your performance should be the number one goal for every fighter. It’s like creating your legacy. Do you want to be remembered as an idiot or a great, exciting guy in the ring and a great human being outside it? Your choice.
Four fighters reach the semifinals in the World Boxing Super Series Tournament: Murat Gassiev, Yunier Dorticos, Mairis Briedis and Oleksandr Usyk. Different fighters, different strengths and weaknesses… but no easy fights.
…and no favorites. Technically speaking, as a boxer, Usyk is probably the best but Briedis was already overlooked a bunch of times and he proved many of his critics were wrong. Briedis will not let anyone just beat him – no matter, who he faces. He will do everything he can. Versus Usyk – it could be the best Briedis performance ever. Murat never fought anyone like Dorticos, and Dorticos never fought anyone like Gassiev either. The best fighting the best. This is what everyone, including real fighters, real competitors, want.