Former unified cruiserweight world titleholder Murat Gassiev's debut in the heavyweight division will come against Joey Dawejko, who served as former unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua's main sparring partner going into Joshua's massive upset loss to Andy Ruiz Jr., Matchroom Boxing announced on Monday.
Gassiev will face Dawejko in a 10-round bout on July 27 (DAZN) on the undercard of the junior welterweight world title unification fight between Jose Ramirez and Maurice Hooker at the College Park Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington in Arlington, Texas, not far from Hooker's hometown of Dallas.
"This is a very solid heavyweight debut for Murat and a big risk as his first fight," Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said. "Joey is always competitive against the top heavyweights, most recently against Russia's Sergei Kuzmin in a fight that could have gone either way. This is an intriguing fight on what will be an outstanding night of boxing headlined by a potential fight of the year contender in Hooker versus Ramirez."
Dawejko (19-7-4, 11 KOs), 28, of Philadelphia, has lost three 10-round decisions in a row to good competition: Kuzmin on March 9, Andrey Fedosov in October and former world title challenger Bryant Jennings in April 2018 in a fight for Philadelphia bragging rights.
But more recently, rumors have swirled that Dawejko dropped Joshua in sparring and roughed him up in the weeks before Joshua's seventh-round knockout loss to Ruiz on June 1, although Hearn has denied it and Dawejko has not spoken about it publicly.
"Murat had a lot of success in the cruiserweight division. He is a very good fighter, and I'm sorry to have to derail his plans at heavyweight," Dawejko said. "My record doesn't look great, but I am the most skilled heavyweight in the division, and I belong with the big names. On July 27th, I will prove that a two-time time former champion is not on my level."
Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs), 25, of Russia, who trains in Big Bear Lake, California, under the guidance of Abel Sanchez, was a devastating puncher as a cruiserweight aiming to see if that power will come with him up the scale. He won a cruiserweight world title by decision over countryman Denis Lebedev in December 2016 and then immediately joined the field of the World Boxing Super Series' first-season cruiserweight tournament.
He blew away former titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in the third round in his first defense in the quarterfinals and then knocked out Yunier Dorticos in the 12th round to unify two belts in the February 2018 semifinals in Sochi, Russia, in an action-packed, fight of the year contender.
But in the tournament final, Gassiev met Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed world title last July in Moscow and was outclassed in a near-shutout decision loss. Gassiev later signed a co-promotional agreement with Hearn and announced his plans to move up to heavyweight, just as Usyk is also planning to do.
"I just want to fight -- I need big fights," Gassiev said. "I haven't boxed for a year. I am only 25 years old, so I have time, but I want to be in big fights. The most important thing for me is to be in shape and fit. I feel good up at heavyweight in the gym; I don't feel heavy, so I am excited to settle into the weight.
"I sparred with heavyweights all through my time at cruiserweight, and it was good for me, but sparring is different. I think that the time is right to move up, though, and I'm very motivated."