By Keith Idec
The last time Noel Mikaelian fought a former cruiserweight champion, he lost a debatable split decision near his opponent’s hometown that cost him a spot in the first World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament.
There shouldn’t have been anything debatable about the result of Mikaelian’s fight against Mairis Briedis on Saturday night. The unknown Armenian contender clearly out-boxed Briedis in their 12-round bout, yet all three judges somehow scored Briedis the winner of their World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight quarterfinal at UIC Pavilion in Chicago.
When they weren’t clinching or head-butting each another in an ugly, foul-filled fight, the taller, busier Mikaelian regularly landed his stiff jab and hard right hands. Briedis never really got into a rhythm and had difficulty the entire fight landing flush punches against the elusive Mikaelian.
That didn’t prevent all three judges – Hubert Minn (114-112), Steve Morrow (115-111) and Benjamin Rendon (116-110) – from scoring the top-seeded Briedis the winner. Internet sports books listed the more accomplished, tested Briedis (25-1, 18 KOs) as at least a 25-1 favorite over Mikaelian (23-2, 10 KOs).
Briedis advanced to the WBSS semifinals, in which he’ll face the winner of the main event Saturday night – Krzysztof Glowacki versus Maxim Vlasov.
The 33-year-old Briedis won a second straight bout after suffering his lone loss to Oleksandr Usyk on January 27. Ukraine’s Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) edged Briedis by majority decision in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals and took the WBC cruiserweight crown from him in Riga, Latvia, Briedis’ hometown.
The 28-year-old Mikaelian’s only previous loss came against former IBF and WBC cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. Poland’s Wlodarczyk (56-4-1, 39 KOs) beat Mikaelian by split decision in a 12-rounder in May 2017 in Poznan, Poland, to earn a spot in the World Boxing Super Series’ first cruiserweight tournament.
On Saturday night, Briedis seemed to think he needed a knockout in the 11th and 12th rounds to win the fight. He attempted to hurt Mikaelian in those rounds, but those final six minutes included more clinching and wrestling than clean punching.
Fifty-seven seconds into the 10th round, referee Guadalupe Garcia deducted a point from Briedis for repeatedly holding down Mikaelian’s head. Garcia previously took away a point from Mikaelian in the fourth round for continually hitting Briedis behind his head.
An accidental clash of heads caused a long, nasty gash over Mikaelian’s right eyebrow in the ninth round. Mikaelian’s right hand stopped Briedis in his tracks 15 seconds into the ninth round.
A chopping right hand by Mikaelian caught Briedis on the side of his head exactly at the halfway point of the eighth round. With 38 seconds left in the seventh round, Mikaelian’s right hand rocked Briedis and made him hold Mikaelian.
Mikaelian landed a hard left hook with about 2:10 to go in the sixth round. Briedis held him after absorbing that shot.
Mikaelian also connected with a right hand just after the midway mark of the sixth round. Briedis clipped Mikaelian with a counter left hook when there were just under 30 seconds to go in the sixth round.
Mikaelian stuck his jab in Briedis’ face several times during the first half of the fifth round. Briedis complained after an accidental clash of heads later in the fifth round and held Mikaelian by the head to take time to recover.
Briedis continued to have trouble in the fifth round landing flush punches against the elusive Mikaelian.
After warning Mikaelian multiple times, Garcia deducted a point from him with 27 seconds remaining in the fourth round for hitting Briedis behind the head.
Garcia gave Mikaelian a warning for hitting Briedis behind his head with 53 seconds to go in the third round. Mikaelian later landed a solid straight right with about 10 seconds remaining in the third.
Garcia warned Briedis for hitting Mikaelian behind his head at the 1:53 mark of the second round. Garcia warned Briedis again several seconds later for pushing down Mikaelian, who moved more in the second round as Briedis pursued him.
The taller Mikaelian stood his ground in the first round and tried to work off his jab. Neither fighter landed anything significant in that round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.