by Alexey Sukachev
Riga Arena in Riga, Latvia -The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) cruiserweight tournament continues, with World Boxing Council (WBC) Cruiserweight world champion Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) winning a twelve round unanimous decision over Mike Perez (22-3-1, 14 KOs) in quarterfinals.
The scores were 116-110, 115-111 and 114-112 for the champion.
Briedis will now advance to the WBSS semifinals to face the No. 1 seed, undefeated World Boxing Organization (WBO) cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs), who knocked out former world champion Marco Huck in the 10th round of their WBSS quarterfinals fight earlier this month in Berlin.
It wasn't the kind of fight that you replay tomorrow.
The fight went in the wrong direction for Briedis at the opening bell. The Cuban, who was fighting as a cruiserweight for the second time, started aggressively and went right after Briedis trying to land clean, meaningful punches. As was the case for his title-winning effort versus Marco Huck, the Latvian fighter chose to utilize lateral movement and to fire jabs and counters against the coming aggressor. Yet this time he wasn't as successful, as Perez shook him up with several good punches in the first, mostly left hands.
Briedis, who struggled against a southpaw due to stylistic inconsistency, did better in the second round but started the third with a minor catastrophe, being cut over his left eye after an accidental head clash. Referee Massimo Barrovecchio deducted a point from the Cuban under WBC regulations which force the referee to issue a penalty even if the headbutt was accidental. The third was fought also in Perez's favor.
The WBC #12 rated cruiserweight had been out of the ring for two years since his crushing first-round kayo loss to Alexander Povetkin in May 2015. He came back with a single-shot win over a nonsense opponent this June but he hasn't scored a relevant win in any weight class ever since his tragic victory over fallen Russian heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov, which is dated back to November 2013.
Yet, the Latvian had a secret weapon in his backpack named Dmitry Luchnikov. Arguably the best European cutman (or, at least, one of the best) made an around-the-world trip from San Antonio, where he worked Dmitry Kudryashov's corner in the second CW semifinal, to Riga to assist team Briedis. Luchinkov closed the cut after the third, but the champion didn't support it well with his actions in the ring, losing the fourth. Briedis did better in the fifth, while Perez still was a better man in the sixth.
BoxingScene had it 57-56 - for the Cuban after six rounds of hard but hardly watchable action. Each time he had a problem, Briedis chose to clinch and hug his foe. Both fighters showed some the dirty sides of their boxing nature but Briedis was lucky to avoid a penalty, at least for yet another accidental head cash in the fifth, which didn't result in any facial damage for Perez.
In the seventh, the fight started to turn the Latvian way as Perez's energy and corresponding confidence predictably began to dwindle. Briedis landed a major uppercut which definitely caught the challenger's attention. He added more serious touches by the end of the stanza, and the eighth round was also his, Mairis effectively was finding his range and connecting with hard right hands. The Cuban was game and tough but his pressure became inconsistent as the Latvian sapped his power in limitless clinches.
Hugging made the fight ugly, and Barrovecchio didn't make it any better. Finally, he chose to deduct a point from Briedis - way too long after when he should have really done it - for holding of course, which allowed Perez to have a refreshing round ten. Yet, the Latvian firmly got things under control and won both championship rounds to finish the fight strong.
Perez showed potential to be in some good fights in cruiserweight division.
Briedis is however another story... Unlike some other tourneys, the World Boxing Super Series is being played unevenly. By the end of the month three of four cruiserweight semifinalists are in place with the last one - between IBF champion Murat Gassiev (24-0, 18 KOs) and Polish veteran Krzysztof Wlodarczyk - to be decided on Oct. 21 during a super middleweight dominated month. Of the three recently defined semifinalists the Latvian seems to be a weak spot in the chain. His style and a manner, which he fights in could make up for a serious problem against power-hitting yet liquid bomber in Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs).
Against Perez, Briedis showed heart, cleverness and some chin but it wouldn't be enough to seriously distract the WBSS favorite. Time will tell if the Latvian prepares and studies some new tricks. For now he has time for celebration before finding himself in an underdog position in a future WBC/WBO unification fight.