by Cliff Rold
It’s been so much fun watching the World Boxing Super Series field whittle down at cruiserweight, there has hardly been time to ask what comes after its over.
If the answer is the winner faces Mairis Briedis this fall, would anyone be disappointed? The answer might have been different after Briedis advanced in the quarterfinals over Mike Perez. What a difference a day makes.
It was the fight of the week on paper but one could wonder how Briedis would attack Oleksandr Usyk tactically going in. After twelve rounds of big time, big man action, the countering assaults of Briedis pushed the number one seed harder than anyone in his career to date.
Usyk replied with a rounded performance underlining his evolution from world-class amateur to dangerous professional. The pieces are all coming together for the Ukrainian southpaw but there is still enough vulnerability to make him less than a lock to win the WBSS.
Put another way, we saw a hell of a fight on Saturday.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Usyk: The future for Usyk is crystal clear. He is going to the final of the WBSS now with two divisional titles around his waist. He added the WBC strap in his fourth WBO defense, beating Evander Holyfield to partial unification at cruiserweight by one fight. With a win in the final, he will be undisputed at an edge of three fights.
That wouldn’t make him better than Holyfield but Usyk (14-0, 11 KO) but it gives an idea how impressive this early run is for him. He’s not taking an easy path and the rewards are building. He will face the winner of Yunier Dorticos-Murat Gassiev. If he wins, he will have decisions to make.
Is there a heavyweight future for Usyk? He has to win the tournament first. That’s still if, not when.
The Future for Briedis: Briedis may have lost but he did himself proud in front of a home crowd in Latvia. He also raised his stock in the loss. Briedis fought his heart out and refused to wilt when Usyk seemed to take over the fight for a few rounds starting in the seventh after a close first half. His effort in the final minute of the fight was fantastic, showing why the fight was kept so close. Usyk was busier but Briedis was always there, waiting, a big power shot away from rallying.
Briedis is in a perfect spot to face the winner of the tournament if they elect to stay at cruiserweight. At 33, Briedis still has lots of time to add some big wins. Of course, he too could opt to go up. The WBA is supposed to stamp a seal of approval on Manuel Charr-Fres Oquendo for their not-Anthony Joshua belt. Briedis (23-1, 18 KO) already has a knockout of Charr on his record. With his speed and canny timing, he could make noise in the unlimited class.
Rold Picks 2018: 2-0
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]