by Tamas Pradarics
After a fast start with the first-round matchups last September, the WBSS tournament continued with the semi-final bouts in 2018. The first one came in the cruiserweight series between unbeaten champions Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis on January 27 in Riga, Latvia.
Though Usyk (14-0, 11 KO) was the clear favorite coming into the fight, Briedis (23-1, 18 KO) proved his superiority when he went toe-to-toe on spots with his Olympic gold medalist counterpart in a high-stakes tactical battle that saw both fighters being rocked by fierce bombs.
After 12 fast rounds, Usyk was rewarded by a razor close majority decision victory that also brought the WBC title around the Ukrainian’s waist next to his WBO belt.
Al Siesta, the manager of the first ever Latvian boxing champion in Briedis enjoyed the bout that brought over twelve thousand passionate fans into Arena Riga.
“I thought the fight was amazing! It was very competitive. Mairis came up a tiny bit short in his fight with Usyk, he missed out by one or two points due to Usyk’s experience and Usyk showed great ring craft,“ Siesta told to BoxingScene.com recently.
So, does the Russian-born, UK-based businessman agree with the verdict of the judges after a competitive battle?
“Yes, I agree with the judge’s score of 115-113, because when I was watching the fight back on television, I thought Mairis gave away five rounds in the middle of the fight and then some rounds I would have scored equally. But, he definitely won the first four rounds of the fight, that’s why I said previously he is a world-class fighter.”
Siesta, however, does not agree with the odds betting sites offered leading up to this important unification bout between two of the highest ranked 200-pounders out there.
“The bookies were giving odds of 8-to-1 which is pathetic. It was disrespectful! The fight was so much closer than everyone thought.”
Briedis, who holds knockout triumphs over Olanrewaju Durodola and current heavyweight fringe titlist Manuel Charr as well as decision victories over Marco Huck and Mike Perez, proved he belongs to the elite of the cruiserweight class today and he is believed to become one of the key figures in the division for years to come.
Siesta not only predicts his fighter’s future successes in the 200-pound class but also believes Briedis could use the experiences he picked up through 12 hard rounds with Usyk to turn it all around in a possible rematch with the Ukrainian.
“I’m not thinking, I can almost guarantee that Briedis can dominate the cruiserweight division. In fact, I will tell you something. After this performance against Usyk, everyone has been saying how good Briedis is. If there was a rematch against Usyk, I see Briedis beating him.”
Usyk is scheduled to have an undisputed championship fight serving as the final of the WBSS tournament against Russia’s Murat Gassiev on May 12 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Briedis, who is still ranked in the highest echelon of the cruiserweight class thanks to his great performance in defeat, could easily become the first opponent for the winner of the series.