DIVISION DISSECTION! THE CRUISERWEIGHTS

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Continuing on with #DivisionDissection I will be taking a look at the cruiserweights, breaking down who I think makes the weight category exciting and who has the potential to cook up a storm in the future. 

The cruiserweight division is currently one of the strongest and the potential unification clashes that could be made are mind-blowing. There is an opportunity to make this one of the top weight classes in world boxing if the politics behind the fighters didn’t cause issues.

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Denis Lebedev – WBA Super Cruiserweight Champion 29-3 (22ko’s)

Perhaps in the top handful of my favourite fighters to watch live, we have ‘The White Swan’ Denis Lebedev. The 37 year old’s boxing style is ruthless, he’s a brawler and you can expect an exciting bloodbath when Lebedev laces up his gloves.

Lebedev turned professional in 2001 and by 2004 he won the Russian light heavyweight title before taking a 4 year hiatus from the sport and returning in 2009 to embark on his path of destruction on the world scene.

He racked up an impressive record of 21-0 and was granted a shot at a world title against WBO champion Marco Huck. It was December 2010 and Lebedev lost by a close split decision in Germany.

The following year Lebedev was back in the ring, this time against former super star Roy Jones Jr. Lebedev knocked Jones Jr unconscious in the final 10 seconds of the final round, in an extremely controversial win, punching him flush to the face even though he was unconscious on his feet. You can see the punch here!

Capturing the WBA interim title against James Toney in 2011, he was two fights away from one of the most brutal and memorable bouts of his career. In 2013 he suffered his second loss, this time to Panamanian fighter Guillermo Jones.

Jones beat Lebedev up so badly it left him with one of the most horrific eye injuries boxing has seen. It almost ended Lebedev’s boxing career as the damage sustained was so bad, he feared he may never fight again.

After Jones lost the title to a failed drugs test later on, it was awarded back to Lebedev and he made three back to back defences of his title before facing Victor Emilio Ramirez, the IBF cruiserweight champion. Lebedev stopped him within 2 rounds.

December 2016 we saw Lebedev in the ring again, this time against hungry unbeaten fighter and fellow Russian Murat Gassiev. The undefeated 23-year-old was a very slight underdog coming into the fight but was certainly not to be written off.

Trained by Abel Sanchez, Gassiev entered the fight with extreme confidence and knocked Lebedev to the floor early on with a viscous body shot.The fight went the distance and Gassiev stole a close points decision and became the new IBF cruiserweight champion. Lebedev held on to his WBA title as it wasn’t sanctioned for the bout.

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Tony Bellew – WBC Cruiserweight Champion 28-2-1 (18ko’s)

A strong amateur career saw Tony Bellew win the ABA championships back to back and in 2007 he turned professional, campaigning at light-heavyweight. In Bellew’s 13th fight he faced Atoli Moore, knocking him out in the first round and becoming the new Commonwealth light heavyweight champion.

Two back to back victories against Ovill McKenzie saw Bellew earn a shot as his first world title. This bout would be against Welshman Nathan Cleverly and was a feud that would last a lifetime. The pair met in 2011 and Bellew lost a close majority decision in Liverpool.

He continued his path on the world stage but was halted in 2013 when he met Haitian powerhouse Adonis Stevenson over in Quebec. Bellew was stopped in round 6 and the dreams of being the WBC world champion were over, for now anyway.

After losing to Stevenson, Bellew moved up to cruiserweight and started his assault in a bigger division until 2014. The anticipate rematch with Nathan Cleverly saw an extremely bitter hatred for the pair lock horns again, this time Bellew walking away the winner by another close split decision.

In 2015 he became the European cruiserweight champion after beating Polish veteran Mateusz Masternak by unanimous decision and lined himself up for one of the most memorable nights of his career, a world title shot at Goodison Park, home of his beloved Everton football club.

He was up against Ilunga Makabu, a fearsome cruiserweight who had knocked out all but one opponent he had faced. Bellew went into the fight as the underdog and many expected him to suffer a brutal knockout loss, and after being put down in the first round, it seemed he was in for an extremely tough night.

In the third round he had caught Makabu with a flurry of punches, backing him into the corner and folding him like a deck chair. His hand was raised and he was the new WBC cruiserweight champion of the world, in his beloved Goodison Park.

Bellew made his first defence of the WBC title, knocking out American BJ Flores within 3 rounds. At ringside was a close friend of Flores, and an enemy of Bellew, it was the former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion David Haye.

The two sparked a media outlets dream as they erupted ringside, calling each other out and exchanging verbal blows. The pair put pen to paper and will be fighting on Sky Box Office at the O2 Arena on March 4.

skysports-murat-gassiev-gassiev-cruiserweight_3844058Photo Credit – (@SkySports)

Murat Gassiev – IBF Cruiserweight Champion 24-0 (17ko’s)

Very dangerous and hungry 23-year-old Russian fighter Murat Gassiev is part of the next generation of cruiserweight fighters. Winning his first world title against Denis Lebedev at the end of last year, he is expected to be a dominate force in years to come.

Gassiev is trained by Abel Sanchez, the mastermind behind the success of Gennady Golovkin. Training out of The Summit gym in Big Bear, America he is in arguably the safest of hands that could be guiding his career.

Gassiev has never looked like an easy touch for anyone, and his 9 stoppage victories prior to his world title bout showed he was a force to avoid. He scored one of the most horrific knockouts in 2016 when he knocked out Jordan Shimmell in the first round, catching him with a clean shot to Shimmell’s chin.

Gassiev has been a professional since the age of 17 and by the time he was 19 he had 11 wins, 7 coming by knockout.

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Oleksandr Usyk – WBO Cruiserweight Champion 11-0 (10ko’s)

In 2002 Usyk started boxing aged 15. He had an incredible amateur career, winning the gold medal at light-heavyweight in the 2008 European championships, gold at heavyweight in the 2011 Baku World championships and then a gold medal at heavyweight in the 2012 London Olympics.

Turning professional in 2013, Usyk started his campaign at cruiserweight and knocked out every opponent he faced up until 2016 when he faced WBO cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland.

Glowacki was also an undefeated fighter at the time but on the night Usyk showed a gulf in class, impeccable footwork of a man who big and danced his way to a unanimous one-sided victory.

Usyk became the WBO cruiserweight champion in just his 10th fight and he is now trained by the father of fellow Ukrainian world champion Vasyl Lomachenko.

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Yunier Dorticos – WBA Interim Cruiserweight Champion 21-0 (20ko’s)

After fleeing Cuba in 2009, Dorticos began his professional career over in America and has looked incredible since making his debut.

With 21 victories and no losses, he has built himself up a big reputation with a 20 fight knockout record. He is on course to face Beibut Shumenov later this year to try to become the WBA Regular cruiserweight champion.

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Beibut Shumenov – WBA Regular Cruiserweight Champion 17-2 (11ko’s)

Kazakh fighter Beibut Shumenov is a very talented and exciting fighter to watch. He was the unified light heavyweight champion before stepping up to cruiserweight and winning the vacant WBA strap, knocking out Junior Wright in the 10th round.

Beibut nearly died as a child after his parents left him with both his aunties, and he consumed spoiled milk whilst under their attention. After watching combat movies, he began to get a love for fighting and was practicing martial arts as a youngster.

He moved to the United States to start his professional career in 2007, remaining unbeaten until 2009 when he met Gabriel Campillo, loosing by majority decision. He then gave Campillo an immediate rematch and was succesful, becoming the new WBA light heavyweight champion.

He continued to retain his titles until he faced Bernard Hopkins in 2014, loosing his belts and forcing him to move up to cruiserweight. He then faced BJ Flores to become the interim champion, and then faced Junior Wright straight after.

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Mairis Briedis – 21-0 (18ko’s) 

Undefeated Latvian star Mairis Briedis is one of the more intriguing fighters in the division. Based out of Latvia, he struggled to bring the big crowds and exposure that you would hope to expect from a fighter.

He is however undeniably one of the best fighters in the division, with an impressive run of knockout wins since 2014. Names such as Manuel Charr and Olanrewaju Durodola on his resume.

Briedis was in line to face WBC champion Tony Bellew until Bellew opted to fight at heavyweight. The WBC granted Bellew an exemption from being stripped and the WBC ordered Briedis would fight Marco Huck for the interim title. The fight will take place on the 1st April in Germany.

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Dmitry Kudryashov – 20-1 (20ko’s)

Here we have one of the most terrifying looking fighters in the division. This man has never heard the final bell, in fact he has never made it past 7 rounds. With one upset loss to Olanrewaju Durodola and 20 wins by knockout, he is a top contender.

The 31-year-old started doing karate at the age of 8, and by 2008 he was drafted into the army. He finished his amateur career with a record of 138-12. He is the current WBC Silver cruiserweight champion and could be heading down the route of Mairis Briedis v Marco Huck.

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Krzysztof Glowacki – 26-1 (16ko’s)

Polish fighter Glowacki is also a world-class contender in the division. He is the former WBO cruiserweight champion, loosing his belt to Oleksandr Usyk last year. Putting that aside, he is still a very classy operator and has one of the best chins in the business.

We saw this when he won the WBO title earlier prior to the Usyk fight, upsetting Marco Huck in one of the fights of year for 2015. Glowacki got off the floor and stopped Huck in the 11th round in a brutal knockout, sending him out of the ropes.

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Grigory Drozd – Former WBC Cruiserweight Champion 40-1 (28ko’s)

Despite being inactive for over a year now and being removed as the WBC interim champion, Grigory Drozd cannot be forgotten. Boasting a great record of 40-1, he is a world-class operator.

Drozd’s only loss came back in 2006, being stopped in the 5th round by Firat Aslan in Germany. Since then he has looked untouchable, picking up the WBC title against Krzysztof Wlodarczysk in 2014.

He was sanctioned to fight Tony Bellew previously but had to pull out of the fight with an injury. He was then made the interim champion by the WBC but due to inactivity he was stripped. The 37 year old is getting on now and hasn’t hinted at a possible return any time soon, but until then you can’t rule him out.

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For all of the reasons above, and the fighters that are currently campaigning in the sport at cruiserweight, I believe it is one of the strongest weight divisions in world boxing today.

There is some incredible fights and unification’s to be made, and should be in for an extremely exciting 2017 with these lot!

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