When the organizers of the World Boxing Super Series launched their tournaments in late 2017, the hope was they would produce exciting fights and, in the process, an undisputed world champion.
Still, they had to sign fighters with the hardware to make it a reality. It won't happen in the first season's super middleweight final between world titleholder George Groves and Callum Smith this fall, though that figures to be a highly competitive fight between British rivals.
But the plan could not have gone any better in the eight-man cruiserweight tournament, which will conclude when two-belt titleholders Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev meet for all the belts and the Muhammad Ali Trophy commissioned for the tournaments in the final on Saturday (KlowdTV, 3 p.m. ET) at the Olimpiysky Sports Complex in Moscow.
"These are two are great boxers, amazing athletes who will literally be putting it all on the line on Saturday," said promoter Kalle Sauerland, the chief boxing officer of Comosa AG. "This is exactly what we started this project to do, to make history ... with two supremely gifted athletes with rare opportunity to write history. People will talk about this fight for many years.
"This is the moment we have been waiting for. True history and legacy making are at stake, and the 'winner takes it all' phrase has never been more fitting."
There will also be another undisputed world title fight on the undercard, as undisputed women's welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (33-0, 9 KOs), 36, of Norway will defend her belts against Inna Sagaydakovskya (7-0, 3 KOs), 33, of Russia.
Usyk-Gassiev was initially scheduled to take place on May 11 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but Usyk suffered a minor left elbow injury during his training camp, which forced the 200-pound final to be postponed and moved to a new location. Most expect a competitive and exciting fight matching Usyk's tremendous boxing skills with Gassiev's raw punching power.
The winner will become only the third undisputed cruiserweight world champion, joining three-belt champions Evander Holyfield and O'Neil Bell, as well as only the fourth male fighter to unify all four major titles in any division in the four-belt era. The winner will join former middleweight champions Bernard Hopkins (2004) and Jermain Taylor (2005), and former junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who unified the four 140-pound belts last August and then vacated to move up to welterweight and win a world title on June 9.
"This fight has the attention of fans all over the world," Gassiev said. "We are going to make history and will make a beautiful fight."
Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw and the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist from Ukraine, unified two belts in the semifinals with a majority decision win over Mairis Briedis on Jan. 27 in Briedis' hometown of Riga, Latvia. Usyk once again finds himself on the road in Gassiev's home country of Russia. Usyk won his title in Poland, made his first two defenses in the United States and won the World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal by 10th-round knockout against former longtime titleholder Marco Huck in Huck's home country of Germany.
"It does not matter which city, which country my opponent is from, and I am not worried about fighting in Moscow," Usyk said. "For me, it's normal to fight abroad."
Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs), 24, also unified two world titles in the semifinals with a stirring 12th-round knockout of Yunier Dorticos in a fight of the year contender on Feb. 3 in Sochi, Russia. He trains in Big Bear Lake, California, under Abel Sanchez and alongside unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin. He's happy to fight at home but does not think it is that big of deal.
"I would fight anywhere in the world, but it is a plus for my mother and brother that they easily can watch the fight live," Gassiev said. "I am sure the final will be a very interesting and good fight for fans all over the world. May the best man win."
Sanchez has supreme confidence in Gassiev and predicted he would win by knockout.
"Usyk's got skills," Sanchez said. "He is a very good fighter. Dorticos, Usyk, Briedis ... any of those guys, they are all very physical themselves so we have to be more physical. And I feel that our exercises and system make us a little stronger, a little better, a little faster than most guys.
"You can't allow a fighter to be the one he wants to be, and I believe Murat will be able to break Usyk down. Briedis allowed Usyk to move, allowed him to be first, and when Briedis came close, he was not effective. But Usyk also allowed himself to be trapped and to be hit. If Usyk fights Murat the same way he fought Briedis, he will be on his back before nine."