By Alexey Sukachev

Having ouslugged one of the biggest hitters in the sport, 18-0, 18 KOs, Russian Dmitry Kudryashov in a wild shootout Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola has immediately snatched his reputation of a murderous puncher. This reputation now belongs to the Latvian power banger Mairis Briedis, who has stopped Durodola in nine rounds of high-octane action in front of his home fans in Riga. But it has been smart agression and in-ring intellect, which allowed Briedis to become the WBC cruiserweight mandatory challenger and one of the hottest cruiserweights of the present time.

Durodola, 35, stopped a majority of his opponents in savage fashion thus his TKO 2 win over Kudryashov had further improved what has already been huge - his fearful reputation. The only two fighters to avoid punshment (and thus losses) were liquid-like stylist Thabiso Mchunu, who boxed out a decision, and natural heavyweight Ahror Muralimov, who had considerably outweighed his opponent in a failed attempt of the latter to make a splash in the sport's elite weight class.

Where Durodola failed, Briedis succeeded, producing one of the greatest moments of 2015 in boxing, when he knocked out heavyweight contender (and former world title challenger) Manuel Charr cold and in frightening fashion - in front of Charr's recent patron, an all-mighty Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. It hasn't been a fluke for a hitter, who stopped twelve of his nineteen opponents inside two rounds.

The fight started not exceptionally fast but a grim atmosphere of one-and-done punching chance for both battlers was felt very well by the fans, who flled in Arena Riga, a mecca of ice hockey, which is presenty #1 sport in Latvia. Durodola was one to seemingly have harder shots, while Briedis looked to outslug his opponent, not to land one home run haymaker. He was also using his left jab to measure and to tease his opponent. However, Durodola was landing heavy leather of his own from round one. That's where the Latvian showed his chin is made of stone of sorts. Though clearly shaken a couple of times, the Latvian has never lost his composure and continued to drive action in the opening two rounds.

In the third, a pivot was almost on hand, as the US-based Nigerian (and 2008 Olympian for his native land) started to land murderous blows through the guard of Briedis. It's where the Latvian summoned his durability at the fullest, and his bet was right on point as he managed to survive the storm. Adding more to his stock was veteran referee Frank Garza, who deducted a point from Durodola for continuous hitting on the break (two warnings have been issued before).

As the pendulum swang, round four became an opposite microcosm of his own. This time Briedis, finally sensing his best defense is surely offense, marched forward to wobble Durodola greatly with a wicked left hook to nail him to the ropes. Being almost unconscious - or have it seemed so? - Durodola managed to retain an upright position under very heavy fire and to fire back. Briedis threw everything he got at the Nigerian but the latter kept standing and produced a spark at the closing moments of the rounds. Known to be a fast starter Briedis was thus asked a stern question of his mid-range stamina, and the next round he gave a very clear answer to it - he wouldn't punch himself out even after a series he used in the previous round.

The sixth was a pivotal round of the contest. It started badly for the Latvian, who was deducted a point for continuous holding (which was also a correct decision by Garza) but continued with him landing a sneaky but extremely powerful left hook to knock Durodola down as he went in. Briedis started to capitalize on his opportunity but he did this wisely. The Latvian drove Durodola to the ropes, landed several big shots, then jumped out to a void an answer, then continued rumble. Throughout an entire contest Briedis has wisely used clinches when needed to avoid danger in close quarters. The Latvian has also shown old-school tricks, including putting his left hand to press a shoulder of his opponent down while still punching with his free hand.

Rounds seven and eight were similar, with the Latvian showing chin when needed, outslugging and outtoughing his fatigued opponent. Durodola was standing but his legs were very heavy by the end of the round. It's where Briedis felt it was a moment he needed. He accelerated trenemduosly at the start of the ninth. After a solid combo ended with a monstruous right hand, Durodola went crushing to the corner, where he was literally saved by Garza, who issued an eight-count. Durodola has immediately spit off his mouthpiece once being attacked by Briedis after that. But time wasn't on his side. Briedis moved in to unleash yet another furious fusilade of punches, finally forcing Garza to jump in and to wave it off with a couple of seconds remaining in the ninth.

While TBRB #9 cruiser Durodola falls back to 22-3, with 20 KOs, Mairis Briedis improves his perfect record to 20-0, with 17 KOs. He was rated #4 by the WBC, #5 by the WBO, and #14 by the IBF coming in - oppositely to the Nigerian, who was WBC #2, IBF #7 and WBO #9 rated cruiserweight. Briedis is also the WBC Silver titlist after this win.A winner of a fight between Tony Bellew and Ilunga Makabu for a vacant green belt can be in his nearest future.

The Latvian remains one of the best kept secrets in boxing, even despite his voyage to the States a couple of years ago, which ended with the TKO 2 against a no-hoper. Meanwhile, Briedis is undeniably the greatest boxer his country has ever produced and one of the biggest boxing stars (alongside Lithuanian amateur stars of the 40-50's) of all Baltic nations. Unlike some other fighters, Briedis hasn't enjoyed a stellar amateur career but he was a promising kickboxer, his career culminating in a gold medal in 2008 European champinship. His pro boxing career was kicked off a year after but for the first two years Briedis had been mostly competing under the rules of Bigger's Better Boxing tourneys. His record is those fights are included is 32-1, 21 KOs, with a sole loss against Ivica Bacurin.

Briedis is also listed as a part of the Main Events roster at their official site, even though this particular fight has been promoted by Al Siesta and Empire Sports (Yuri Fedorov). It remains to be seen what is next for the Latvian, but it is a no-brainer he is one to keep your eye o really closely.



Russian light heavyweight Sergey Ekimov (16-0, 8 KOs) continued his European tour with hardly a memorable unanimous decision over tough-as-nails Ghanaian Charles Adamu (25-9, 19 KOs) over ten rounds. Scores were: 100-90 - on all the judges' scorecards.

The fight wasn't very entertaining to say at least. Ekimov, 30, pressed action against the 38-year old African, who was stopped just once in his career (by George Groves in a very disputed TKO - Adamu was stopped on his feet), but was not effective with it. Adamu fired off rare swings but landed very rarely. Ekimov was too methodical to really trouble his foe, which allowed Adamu to survive till the final bell with almost zero problems.


Welterweight Sergey Shigashev (3-0, 1 KO) dominated Georgian Giorgi Gviniashvili (9-2-1, 6 KOs) over six rounds. Shigashev was looking for one ending touch but the Georgian was elusive enough to avoid any danger, and Shigashev lacked some flexibility to get his plan B (if there was any) active. Scores were: 60-54, 60-54, and 59-54 - for the Russian.


Fedor "The Knockout Man" Papazov (17-2, 11 KOs) lived up to his monicker with a scintillating stoppage of rugged South African Xolani Mcotheli (13-4, 10 KOs) in the seventh round of scheduled eight. Papazov got his first win after his second loss overseas to Miguel Angel Gonzalez (the first one he suffered two years ago to Petr Petrov).

Papazov, 31, was more aggressive of the two, while Mcotheli, who was stopped only by former world champions Mzonke Fana and Malcolm Klaassen, chose to work defensively. Papazov's pressure was often effective, yet the South African often landed hard shots, specifically crosses and uppercuts. However, Papazov kept pressing forward no matter what.

The apex of the fight was reached in the sixth round. Firstly, Mcotheli caught off-balanced Papazov with a right hand and dropped him but it wasn't (incorrectly) ruled a knockdown. Then, Papazov issued a hard attack of his own, finally rocking Mcotheli badly with a left hook. The South African was clearly shaken. He was unable to recover under fire, and soon ate a major right hand that sent hims stumbling down. He beat the count but was very dazed at the en of the round. A short break was too short for him to recover, and Papazov used Mcotheli's groggy condition in his favour. He bullied in, started to land both body shots and hooks to the head finally forcing the referee to stop this contest at 0:37 of the seventh round.


Russian welterweight Aslanbek Kozaev (29-2-1, 7 KOs) got yet another close win - this time over eight rounds against Georgan recent debutant Nikoloz Gvajava (6-1-1, 6 KOs), who suffered his first career loss but has little to be ashamed of.

Kozaev, 28, was fighting for the third time since his second career loss - a one-sided decision to Ukrainian former amateur star Taras Shelestyuk. Interestingly, that fight was almost a month before Gvajava made his pro debut. In just five months the Georgian scored six kayo wins at home before being held to a disputed road draw by Swede Daniel Hartvig on his home turf.

Kozaev, who looked very pale in his latest fight against French journeyman Renald Garrido, was methodical but not very effective this time. His monotonouos pressure was enough to overcome Gvajava's guard at times and to win some rounds on activity alone but the Georgian had his own moments in local spurts. As rounds went by Kozaev started to show signs of fatigue but Gvajava failed to capitalize, paying well too much attention to showboating and producing way too little to support his claim. All in all, it wasn't the best night for Kozaev, and it wasn't the best what Gvajava could show. Final scores were: 80-73, 79-74, and 78-75 - for the Russian boxer. BoxingScene had it a bit closer: 77-75 - also for Kozaev.


Cruiserweight Ricards Bolotniks (8-3-2, 3 KOs) continued his ring education with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Georgian fighting traveller Georgi Tevdorashvili (25-19-1, 15 KOs). Final scores - 80-73, 80-74, and 80-75 - don't fully reflect what was done inside the squared circle. Bolotniks was fighting in spurts but wasn't very consistent, while Tevdorashvili wsa worn down too much and ate well too many shots. Bolotiks, 26, rocked the Georgian several times but was unable to drop him down. Tevdorashvili rallied late in the fight to get some accolades and even to win a round or two later on. Boxing Scene had it 78-75 - for the local boxer.