By Keith Idec
The first four fights in the stacked World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament were determined at its draft gala Saturday night in Monaco.
Three of the four top-seeded cruiserweights chose their quarterfinal opponents from a field of three unseeded cruiserweights. The matchups for the cruiserweight tournament were made after the four World Boxing Super Series super middleweight matches were made.
One of the cruiserweight fights was predetermined because Russia’s Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs, 1 NC), the IBF cruiserweight champion and No. 2 seed in the tournament, must make a mandatory defense against Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs), a former WBC and IBF cruiserweight champion.
After Gassiev and Wlodarczyk discussed their fight on stage, top-seeded Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs), the WBO cruiserweight champion from Ukraine, picked Germany’s Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs), a former WBO and IBO cruiserweight champion.
“Because of my fans,” Usyk explained for choosing Huck.
Huck was equally excited to face the powerful southpaw and said, “This was my wish opponent.”
Following Usyk’s pick, third-seeded Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs), the WBC and IBO cruiserweight champion, selected Cuban-born, Ireland-based Mike Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs).
“He’s a great fighter from Cuba,” said Latvia’s Briedis. “And he comes from heavyweight and I say, ‘Hi,’ from cruiserweights.”
Perez will fight for just the second time as a cruiserweight when he battles Briedis.
“This is a great challenge,” Perez said. “He’s a champion, so I’m looking forward [to it]. I’ll win my first belt, so I’m looking forward to the fight.”
Once the first three cruiserweight contests were put together, it left Cuba’s Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs), the interim WBA cruiserweight champion, against Russia’s Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs) as the fourth quarterfinal fight in the tournament.
The eight-man cruiserweight tournament, like the eight-man super middleweight tournament, will begin with four quarterfinal fights that’ll take place in September and October. The super middleweight semifinals will take place in January and February, and the final will be scheduled for some time in May.
The winner will receive the Muhammad Ali Trophy and substantial prize money.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.