Murat Gassiev’s trainer Abel Sanchez has revealed who the Russian is targeting in his long-awaited heavyweight campaign, after he was ruled out of a clash with Jerry Forrest back in February.

Former unified cruiserweight champion Gassiev has been inactive for almost two years following his close decision loss to Oleksandr Usyk, and Sanchez acknowledged that the 27-year-old will require a tune-up fight prior to pursuing the division’s big names.

“I would like to fight Adam Kownacki, Robert Helenius or Andy Ruiz Jr,” Sanchez told Sky Sports. “But he [Gassiev] hasn’t fought in two years, so I would like a tune-up fight first.

“I first started working with him when he was nearly 20 years old. He was 192lbs back then. I saw his frame and his hands – he has tremendously big hands. It took a little longer to get to the heavyweights, but he will be good. I anticipated this when I first started working with him.”

Sanchez believes that Gassiev (left) will fare better at heavyweight
than former foe Usyk (right).
Photo: Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik.

Gassiev’s maiden pro loss came in the World Boxing Super Series final against Usyk, who has also embarked on his quest to claim world honours at heavyweight. Despite the defeat, Sanchez believes that Gassiev will be better suited to the sport’s marquee division than his Ukrainian counterpart. 

“Murat was killing himself to make weight for cruiserweight,” said Sanchez. “That’s not an excuse – Usyk was the better man on the night. We look forward to meeting Usyk at heavyweight.

“He [Gassiev] is as big a puncher as the best heavyweights. Like Evander Holyfield, he has the speed of a cruiserweight. His speed and quickness will be the difference against heavyweights, the same as Oleksandr Usyk.

“But will Usyk have the strength to handle heavyweights? He doesn’t have a big punch. In the heavyweight division, you need to have something that keeps people back.”