Former cruiserweight world titlist Yunier Dorticos, known as "The KO Doctor," was one of the participants in the first season of the World Boxing Super Series and he is back for the second season, hoping to advance deeper than he did last time.
In the first season, Dorticos retained his title in the quarterfinals with a punishing second-round knockout of "The Russian Hammer," Dmitry Kudryashov, 13 months ago. In the February semifinals, Dorticos was dethroned in a 12th-round knockout loss to Murat Gassiev in a tremendous slugfest in their unification bout, which is a candidate for fight of the year.
Oleksandr Usyk went on to easily outpoint Gassiev in the final to become the undisputed world champion. But even though the titles are not available -- Usyk has not vacated them, at least not yet, and will defend them against Tony Bellew on Nov. 10 -- World Boxing Super Series organizers decided to go back to the cruiserweights for one of their three second-season tournaments, along with bantamweights and junior welterweights.
"I am back to prove to the world and to the World Boxing Super Series what I am all about. Winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy will be one of the biggest achievements I will accomplish." Yunier Dorticos
Dorticos got the call to fill one of the eight slots and will take on Mateusz Masternak in a quarterfinal fight -- one that is also a world title eliminator -- on Saturday at the CFE Arena in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday (DAZN, 8 p.m. ET).
It was a no-brainer for Dorticos, a Cuban defector fighting out of Miami, to accept an invitation to return for the second season.
"I am back to prove to the world and to the World Boxing Super Series what I am all about," Dorticos said. "Winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy will be one of the biggest achievements I will accomplish. I am extremely happy, excited and thankful to have been chosen once again for the second season of the WBSS. I have learned from my defeat in Season 1 and I am coming back stronger than ever. All I look forward to is taking home the trophy with me this season.
"'The KO Doctor' tasted his own medicine against Gassiev, but he is determined to come back and show boxing fans that he is still one of the biggest players in the 200-pound division."
Dorticos (22-1, 21 KOs) suffered his first defeat against Gassiev and said he learned from it and plans to show improvements in this tournament.
"The defeat to Gassiev hurt, but when you get knocked down you get up again," Dorticos said. "You train harder and make sure it doesn't happen again. Everyone that has seen me knows I'm an exciting prizefighter with superb boxing skills and power in both of my hands. I leave it all in the ring for my fans. My aggressive fireworks style, it's what my fans and boxing fans all over the world want to see."
Masternak (41-4, 28 KOs), 31, of Poland, is the former European cruiserweight champion and has won five fights in a row since losing a tight decision to Bellew in a European title fight in December 2015.
"When I look at Masternak, I already see a man with 'KO' written in his face," Dorticos said. "Believe me, the knockout is coming. I am going to KO everyone in front of me in this season."
Masternak has been stopped once in his four defeats, in the 11th round by former world titlist Grigory Drozd in 2013.
The Dorticos-Masternak winner will advance to face Floyd Mayweather-promoted Andrew Tabiti (17-0, 13 KOs), 29 of Las Vegas, who outpointed Russia's Ruslan Fayfer in their quarterfinal fight last Saturday in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
There is also a bantamweight quarterfinal on the card as Emmanuel Rodriguez will defend his belt against mandatory challenger Jason Moloney in the main event.
Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs), 26, of Puerto Rico, won a vacant 118-pound belt by lopsided decision against Paul Butler in May and will be making his first defense against Moloney (17-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Australia.
Moloney made sure to arrive in Orlando well ahead of time to make sure he adjusted to the climate and time difference.
"We flew over to Orlando on Sept. 27 to give ourselves a good three weeks over here to settle in and acclimatize perfectly before fight night," Moloney said. "Obviously, Australia is very far away and the time difference is huge, so we came nice and early to make sure that we will perform at our absolute best.
"We are all here for one purpose and that is to become world champion. The whole team here is going above and beyond to make sure I have everything I need to perform at my absolute best. Everything from my meals, training, massage and recovery, everything is perfect. As always, we are leaving no stone unturned in our preparation."
He said he knows this fight is the opportunity of a lifetime to not only win a world title but to advance deeper into the loaded field.
"The fans can expect an explosive, entertaining, all-action fight," he said. "I am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I win this fight. This has been my dream for many, many years and I will not let this opportunity slip."
The Rodriguez-Moloney winner will advance to the semifinals to face secondary world titlist Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs), one of boxing's pound-for-pound best fighters. Inoue, 25, of Japan, drilled the Dominican Republic's Juan Carlos Payano, a former world titlist, in just 70 seconds in their quarterfinal fight on Oct. 7 in Yokohama, Japan.