The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) is well and truly ready to make waves in the boxing world. And it all starts on Saturday night (27th January) when the cruiserweight semi-finals commence with WBC & WBO champions Mairis Briedis and Oleksandr Usyk meeting in Latvia.
Both have found success easy to come by in their respective short careers. Usyk’s amateur exposure held him in good stead entering the professionals, and following 9 straight stoppages he lit up Poland with an excellent display to dethrone WBO ruler Krzysztof Glowacki.
Briedis 23-0(18KO’s) enjoyed a longer but just as fruitful route, stopping the likes of Manuel Charr and Olanrewaju Durodola along the way, before he met a Marco Huck seemingly on the way out of the sport. The great champion was outgunned, losing the majority of the rounds as the vacant WBC title was swept up by the Latvian on the road.
But since picking up their respective title belts, both have failed to vastly improve on their title-winning performances.
Briedis laboured to an unattractive win over Mike Perez – in the quarter-final stage – while Usyk 13-0(11KO’s) struggled early with the inexperienced Michael Hunter, before pulling away late on. Admittedly his 10th round stoppage of Marco Huck was impressive – again in the quarters – but Huck was a faded version of the once pummeling fighter.
This is the semi-final that pits the two best boxers together, so expect the sort of tactical affair that purists relish. But as heavy as these two men are, the chances of one being toppled inside the distance is significantly high too.
Briedis seemed troubled when forced to be the engager with Perez, and should he need to begin chasing this fight, than previous form suggests he will have no chance of turning the tide.
So for Usyk, an unusually fast start would be of great benefit if the Ukrainian is to yet again win on foreign shores.
But Usyk seems to improve as the fight goes on, leaving one to believe that the home fighter will be the first to make his move. He can take advantage of Usyk’s sometimes laboured style, but must put his punches together even when Usyk is not.
The two are such accurate counter punchers, which is what makes this such an intriguing contest. It is hard to call who will gain the significant advantages, but the fear for Briedis is that he just doesn’t have the same killer instinct that we have seen in Usyk.
There is good reason to believe that Usyk began to rely too much on his power in contests with Thabiso Mchunu and Hunter. But that won’t be a problem here, as he follows on from the beating of Huck, putting his punches together in bunches, and allowing the culmination of shots to do the damage.
That is why Usyk will add the WBC title to his collection, outlasting and at some points – especially late on – bullying Briedis.
There will still be a significant number of uneventful rounds that will allow for Briedis to possibly steal with the cleaner work. But at the end of 12, Usyk will not be denied his spot in the Final, winning the contest on points.