by Tamas Pradarics
Oleksandr Usyk is preparing for his second appearance at the World Boxing Super Series tournament and, again, he has to travel to a place that his opponent can call his hometown.
Last September the WBO cruiserweight champion fought German Marco Huck in Berlin to kick-off the prestigious WBSS series. Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) won by way of a tenth round TKO followed by a systematic beatdown of the veteran former titlist Huck.
On January 27, the 2012 London Olympic gold medalist Ukrainian will step into the squared circle at Arena Riga in the capital of Latvia against fellow unbeaten, WBC champion Mairis Briedis.
In the quarter-final of the WBSS, Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) faced Cuban Mike Perez and brought in ten thousand loud fans in the same arena in late September 2017. The Latvian boxer, who became the first world champion pugilist of his country, plans to repeat the success and enjoy a massive hometown advantage.
Usyk, however, does not plan to get intimidated by his opponent’s fans in the arena.
”I have a plan and strategy for the fight, I know what and when I need to do to reach my goal, so the place or city doesn’t matter to me,” said Usyk to BoxingScene.com through translator Yulia Diachenko.
”Moreover, I always have a great army of fans traveling with me wherever I fight and it feels like home. I’ve heard more than three thousand people from all over Ukraine (including my dear hometown, Simferopol) are going to be present in Riga to support me,” said the unbeaten world champion, who is currently an 8-to-1 favorite to beat Briedis and enter the finals of the tournament.
Usyk’s promoter, Alexander Krassyuk shares the view of his boxer about his passionate fanbase.
”Though Riga is not Ukraine we expect more than a couple thousand compatriots in attendance so Usyk will be supported properly,” said Krassyuk to BoxingScene.com.
The promoter also points out a reminder that even a hostile crowd should not bother someone who is fully focused on reaching his heights.
”A goal-oriented sportsman [always] looks for reaching his objective. Usyk always wanted to unify the titles among the cruiserweights, he does not really care much about the location of the fight. The only thing he cares about is to collect the WBO, WBC, IBF and WBO belts.”
The winner of Usyk-Briedis will become a WBC/WBO unified titlist and enters the finals of the WBSS series. On the other wing, IBF champ Murat Gassiev and WBA World belt holder Yunier Dorticos will decide who the other finalist will be. The winner of the final showdown, that is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia in May, will elevate an undisputed cruiserweight champion.