The cruiserweight king is finally ready to defend his crown.
Mairis Brieidis will end a year-long layoff, keeping it local for the first defense of his lineal/IBF cruiserweight championship. Briedis will face Germany-based Artur Mann on October 16 at Arena Riga in his hometown of Riga, Latvia. The bout was announced Thursday by Wasserman Boxing, the upstart promotional outfit formed between Wasserman and Sauerland Event—the latter whom worked with Brieidis throughout season two of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament in which the Latvian star claimed top honors.
“We’re delighted to be promoting our first event with Mairis Briedis, one of boxing’s pound-for-pound stars, at the Arena Riga under the Wasserman Boxing banner,” said promoter Kalle Sauerland. “
“I’ve been lucky enough to witness Mairis fighting in Riga before and the atmosphere is incredible. I can’t wait to hear the noise when he steps into the ring on October 16. Coming to spoil the party is Artur Mann. A tough German contender looking to dethrone Latvia’s boxing king.”
Briedis (27-1, 19KOs) makes the first defense of the title he claimed in a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over Miami’s Yuniel Dorticos last September, which also served as the WBSS tournament final after a nine-month delay. Original plans called for Briedis to next face mandatory challenger Michael Cieslak, only for the IBF to allow a voluntary defense once talks proved unproductive.
“We would like to thank the IBF for their support,” notes Sauerland. “Mairis was due to fight a mandatory challenger but after negotiations broke down we have applied for special exception to make this fight possible.”
At this point, any fight will do for Briedis, a three-time cruiserweight title claimant who is now 36 and with just one fight since June 2019. It has also been that long since he’s had the pleasure of fighting in his hometown, the last such appearance coming in a controversial third-round knockout of Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki in the WBSS semifinal round. The poorly officiated bout saw several fouls and Briedis being credited with a knockdown well after the bell to end round two, stopping Glowacki one round later.
Two separate appeals resulted in the WBO—whose title was at stake—ordering an immediate rematch, which would have disrupted the flow of the tournament. Briedis and Doriticos were due to meet in the final round, which was the case only for Briedis to vacate the WBO belt and enter as the challenger for Dorticos’ IBF strap. It was also a pairing of the top two cruiserweights in the world, with Briedis restoring championship lineage left behind by his lone career claimant, Oleksandr Usyk who won a twelve-round decision in their 2018 WBSS Season One semifinal bout.
More than a year later, the reigning champ is glad to be back in the ring—and home.
“It’s crazy to think it has been over two years since I last fought in Riga,” said Briedis. “I think I have already forgotten that fantastic feeling that Latvian boxing fans deliver each time and I can’t wait to step in the ring again in front of my home crowd. It will also be a special night for me as it will be my first IBF Title defense and I’m happy I will be able to do it at the Arena Riga.
“My opponent Artur Mann is a very experienced boxer. He is a very technical boxer coming from the Kazakh boxing school that is considered by many to be one of the best in the world. Together with my team, we are taking this fight very seriously. Defending a world championship belt doesn’t allow you to do anything less. We have already started our preparations and will do everything to be ready for the fight.”
Mann steps well up in competition for the title bid. The 30-year-old Kazakhstan-born boxer—who is now based out of Hanover, Germany—has won his last two starts after suffering his lone defeat in a fourth-round knockout loss to Kevin Lerena in their March 2019 IBO title fight.
The bout will mark the third career trip outside of Germany for Mann, who claims to have no concern over fighting in hostile territory against the division’s king.
“I’m very happy to fight for the IBF title against Mairis Briedis, the number one cruiserweight in the world,” said Mann. “I’m pumped and ready for Riga! I have a lot of respect for Mairis Briedis and his achievements but I don’t feel any pressure. Prior to my fight against Kevin Lerena, I felt a lot of pressure because a lot of things didn’t work out as they were supposed to, but this time, I’m super relaxed.
“All the pressure is on Mairis because he’s the world champ and he’s fighting at home in front of his people, which doesn’t always turn out to be an advantage. He’s got everything to lose and I’ve got everything to win!”
Per the release from Wasserman Boxing, tickets—which start from €29 —go on sale Friday at 12:00 (EEST) and are available to purchase via https://www.bilesuserviss.lv.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox