Murat Gassiev will head into the World Boxing Super Series final against Alexandr Usyk this May following a stunning final round knockout in Sochi.
The IBF cruiserweight champion added Yunier Dorticos’ WBA version to his haul in an enthralling contest which had the crowd on their feet at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Like Usyk’s epic battle with Mairis Briedis last week, the WBSS delivered again as Gassiev and Dorticos stood toe-to-toe and battered lumps out of each other.
Gassiev had much the better of proceedings though, but just couldn’t move Dorticos as combination after combination bounced off the Cuban’s chin.
In the end, those solid Gassiev punches told and wore down Dorticos until he fell to the canvas in the twelfth and final stanza.
Pouncing on his frailty, Gassiev dropped Dorticos again and finally through the ropes and there was only 16 seconds left when the contest was waved off.
‘Iron’ Murat was on his way to a points win anyway, but made doubly sure with a spectacular KO that will live long in the memory.
A final bout featuring the two best 200 pounders in the world will now take place in Jeddah later this spring as Usyk and Gassiev fight it out for the undisputed crown and Muhammad Ali Trophy.
The WBSS is on hold for two weeks and kicks back off with the super-middleweight semis when George Groves battles Chris Eubank Jr. on February 17 in Manchester.
On the undercard, cruiserweight puncher Maksim Vlasov halted former world title challenger Olanrewaju Durodola in the tenth round of their World Boxing Super Series reserve match-up.
With the vacant WBC Silver title on the line, Vlasov claimed a 42nd career win and inflicted a fifth loss on Durodola in the process.
Former world champion Fedor Chudinov moved closer to another world title shot at super-middleweight by retiring late replacement Timo Laine.
Chudinov, who was due to fight Bobby Gunn Jr. until the American pulled out at the last minute, dispatched of Laine after seven completed rounds.
In a superb toe-to-toe battle at bantamweight, Mikhail Aloyan won a split decision victory against Alexander Espinoza to claim a fringe version of the WBA title.
Aloyan, fighting in just his fourth pro bout and the more experienced Espinoza. had the crowd on the edge of their seats for the duration as both men considerably enhanced their reputations in an enthralling dust-up.
Back-to-back lightweight contests began the action in Sochi as Roman Andreev remained undefeated with a ninth round stoppage of Craig Evans, whilst Vage Sarukhanyan dropped to 17-2-1 when he was shocked by Japan’s Hurricane Futa.
Futa, now 24-7-1, put Sarukhanyan on the canvas in rounds three and seven before finishing the job that same round.