The World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight semifinal between world titleholders Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos will take place Feb. 3 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia, organizers announced on Tuesday.
The talk after both fighters retained their 200-pound world titles in the quarterfinals was that their semifinal would take place either in Dorticos' adopted hometown of Miami or in Gassiev's home country of Russia.
In the end, Russia, with more money on the table for the fight, won out. The Bolshoy Ice Dome served as the host venue for the ice hockey tournament during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"This fight is a very special one," said promoter Kalle Sauerland, chief boxing officer of tournament owner Comosa AG. "The level in the Ali Trophy tournament is already of the very highest, but when you have two such decorated boxers with massive KO power, then the only guaranteed winner is the fans. Two world champions collide in Sochi, this special Olympic city. Russia, hold tight for the Ali Trophy experience; the lights and stars are on their way."
"Iron" Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs), 24, made his first title defense in the WBSS quarterfinals on Oct. 21, blasting former titleholder and mandatory challenger Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in the third round of a dominant performance at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs), 31, a Cuban defector based in Miami -- known as "The KO Doctor" -- advanced with a sensational second-round knockout of "The Russian Hammer" Dmitry Kudryashov on Sept. 23 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. That fight was Dorticos' first title defense.
Gassiev, who shares trainer Abel Sanchez with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, said he was not concerned about whether the fight would be in his backyard or in Dorticos' home city.
"The location for the semifinal was not important for me, but the fact that it will be in Russia and the beautiful city of Sochi makes me very glad," he said. "This means my family and friends and a lot of people from my home region of Ossetia will be attending. Also, it is always an honor and pleasure to fight in front of my countrymen.
"Dorticos is a very good, dangerous fighter. It is going to be great to test my skills against an opponent like him. I am confident we will deliver great boxing for fans around the world."
Likewise, Dorticos said he has no problem going on the road for the biggest fight of his career.
"I am looking forward to fighting in Sochi. No matter where I fight, I will work hard to take my opponent out," Dorticos said. "I believe I am the best in the world and the future winner of the Muhammad Ali Trophy. I can't wait to show Gassiev and the fans in Russia and all over the world what 'The KO Doctor' is about."
The Gassiev-Dorticos winner will advance to the final for the right to fight for the Ali Trophy against the winner of the semifinal between world titleholders Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs), 30, of Ukraine, and Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs), 32, of Latvia. Their unification fight will take place on a date and at a site to be determined in January or February.
On Sept. 9, Usyk advanced by knocking out former longtime titleholder Marco Huck in the 10th round on Huck's turf in Berlin. Briedis, fighting at home in Riga, Latvia, advanced on Sept. 30 when he won a unanimous decision against Ireland-based Cuban defector Mike Perez.
The WBSS final is slated to take place on a date to be determined in May in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.