‘I want to win all my fights by KO’ – unbeaten Gassiev ahead of Lebedev showdown

Unbeaten Russian boxer Murat Gassiev fights Denis Lebedev for the IBF and WBA Super World cruiserweight titles in Moscow on December 3, in one of the most highly anticipated bouts in the boxing calendar.

Gassiev is looking to repeat the stunning first round KO win from his last bout which sent shockwaves through the cruiserweight division – Gassiev iced his opponent with a lethal left hook after just 2:54 of the first round in May. 

The victory brought his knockout total to 17 out of 23 professional victories, and gained him a shot at compatriot Lebedev’s belts, and Gassiev is looking to repeat the feat of his previous fight.

“I want to win all my fights like the last fight. But it’s boxing – it’s too hard sometimes when you want to knock out your opponent. It’s too hard. I just have to do my boxing, and that’s it,” Gassiev exclusively told RT Sport.

“I am very happy to be here. It’s a big fight for me, big test for my career, for me. I’m training hard for this fight. I am ready. And we’ll see what happens on December 3,” he added.

Gassiev was speaking at the cutting edge ‘World Class Gym’ in Moscow, where some of the most recognizable names in boxing gathered for an open training session for the upcoming Lebedev vs. Gassiev fight.

The fight with world number one Lebedev is undoubtedly the biggest in Gassiev’s career so far.

The 23-year-old, who is ranked no. 10, only turned pro in 2011, whereas Lebedev has 15 years of ring experience under his belt.

But Gassiev can count on the experience of training with world-renowned coach Abel Sanchez, and alongside one of the world’s best and most feared boxers, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.

For the last two years, Vladikavkaz-born Gassiev has been under the tutelage of Sanchez in Big Bear, California. Sanchez gained acclaim by guiding Kazakh terror Golovkin to the lineal middleweight championship.

Sanchez conducts high-altitude training with his stable of boxers at a custom-built gym in Big Bear, 8,000 meters above sea level. Gassiev says the influence of both Sanchez and Golovkin has inspired him to become champion.

“[For the] last two years I am training with Abel Sanchez. I am very happy he’s my coach and I feel the difference [between] training in Russia and US. I am training in Big Bear (California). And it’s the best gym for me,” he said.

“[Golovkin and I] never had sparring with each other. I just see how he spars, I see how he’s training. He is the best example for me. I just need to train hard... and I... maybe will be a champion like Gennady.”

Gassiev’s last five fights have been in the US, and is acclimatizing to life in Southern California, a boxing hotbed that has attracted distinguished Russian fighters such as world champion Sergey Kovalev.

The differences and advantages/disadvantages between training in Russia and in America are instantly noticeable to the young fighter.

“First of all, it’s altitude, different conditions, and a lot of sparring partners. In Russia, we have a problem – sometimes you can’t find good sparring partners. But in the US, you have short, small, fast, fast hands, good legs – there are a lot of plusses in the US.

“I think Russia has a lot of great boxers. Alexander Povetkin, Grigory Drozd, Denis Lebedev. The US has a lot of great champions. And I don’t feel a big difference – just different styles, different thinking inside the ring – that’s it.”

Explaining his ring name ‘Iron,’ Gassiev surprisingly makes no reference to iconic former heavyweight champion ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.

“It’s a little bit hard to explain, but in my native language (Ossetian), it’s pronounced ‘I-ron,’ which means my nationality. But in the US it’s just ‘Iron’ like… like iron (laughs).”

Gassiev hails from city of Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia’s Republic of North Ossetia, and proudly walks out to the ring to the song “Heart of the Ossetian”.

His coach Abel Sanchez also thinks that despite sharing the same nickname, the fighters cannot be compared as they “have their own ways.”

“You know Mike [Tyson] was a great champion. I think that Murat will be the same, but in his own style,” Sanchez told RT Sport.

“Mike had his ways and Murat has his. I want Murat to be the best Murat can be, and if that’s somewhere close to where Mike got to, great!”

“He is 23 years old so I think he’s gonna grow a little bit more. So hopefully we are successful on Saturday night. And a couple of years down the road, once he’s gotten all four belts, he may move up to heavyweight. Who knows? If he grows he may be a heavyweight in the near future.”

Regarding the upcoming fight and the coaching duel between himself and Denis Lebedev’s trainer Freddie Roach, Sanchez believes it’s time for a “change of the guard,” and that he and his student are ready.

“Freddie is a great coach, Denis has been a great champion. I think it’s time for a change. Freddie, I think, is in the fight mode, as we are. But after the fight, we are friends, we are competitors. We both want to win obviously, and our fighters want to win too. But it’s not so much about who’s best prepared, ‘cause they’re both gonna be very well prepared.

“It’s a changing of the guard. I think that Denis is ready to relinquish and Murat is ready to be champion,” Sanchez concluded.

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