by Tamas Pradarics
On Thursday afternoon at 1:30 in local time, Riga turned it’s attention to the Radisson Blu Ridzene Hotel where the final press conference has taken place before the first cruiserweight semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament on January 27.
Approximately fifty media members attended the event that saw both WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk and WBC belt holder Mairis Briedis with their respected teams alongside with Kalle Sauerland, promoter of Saturday’s show that will take place at Arena Riga in the capital of Latvia.
WBO champion Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs), who won the gold medal on the 2102 London Olympic Games, will risk his perfect record as well as his first professional world title to add another belt to his resume at cruiserweight.
Fellow unbeaten Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) will put his WBC title on the line in arguably the biggest international sports event ever staged in Latvia.
”Lovely to be here in Riga in the first fight week of the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series. We have an absolute cracker. We have a fight between two world champions, two of the very, very best athletes fighting each other. We have a great arena on Saturday night. We have a country that seems to be captured by boxing, captured by this great trophy, captured by the name of the greatest of all, Muhammad Ali, and the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the fact is coming to Latvia I’ve noticed, since I arrived at the airport that everyone is very proud that the fight week is here, and it is the first semi-final. I really do believe if I look back at Latvian history, I think this is the biggest international sports event that has taken place in Latvia so far. So, I think we have a big showdown. It’s big money, it’s big business, it’s big titles at stake, and Saturday night is all what boxing is about,” said Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer, Kalle Sauerland.
”You know what to expect? Look at the first show. This show is even better. You’ve got two guys who are going for a place in the final, on May 11 in Jeddah [Saudi Arabia], and I think that a legacy is at stake. It’s not about the fight, it’s not about titles, it’s not about the money, these guys are train years and years and years for a night like this and I think that Saturday night is about legacy. You want to step up, you want to get to the Hall of Fame, Saturday night is the time to do it.”
Next up to the microphone was Alexander Krassyuk, promoter of Oleksandr Usyk.
”The last press conference we had in December I was talking about a funny story that we had before Mairis was in a training camp with Vitali Klitschko. We started to negotiate the possible cooperation with him. And today I want to tell you a one more interesting fact. Maybe a couple of years ago, together with my friend, Al Siesta we negotiated another bout between Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis. We were preparing the show in Kiev, and we were one step to signing the bout agreement. In the last minute, something went in a different way and we had to look for another opponent, but with Al we both agreed that these guys will definitely meet in the future with a world title be at stake. And that’s what we can see now, two guys, but now they are fighting not just for one but two, the WBO and WBC titles,” said Krassyuk.
”Many people ask about the chances for one and the other and they rely on the odds that betting companies give which are identically in the favor of Usyk. But I’ve got a different opinion. I want to give credit to Mairis Briedis, who would be the most technical, physically and mentally strongest opponent that Usyk ever had in his career. That is a huge test for our Ukrainian champion. I consider this fight to be the small final, because, with all respect to the other semi-final fighters, I think the winner of this bout will be the winner of the whole tournament and will attain the Muhammad Ali Trophy.”
Sergey Vatamanyuk, trainer of the Ukrainian world champion was short and formal on the stage.
”We can’t wait for fight day. We are ready. I think you can see a good fight, a beautiful fight on Saturday because in the ring will be two world champions,” said Vatamanyuk.
Oleksandr Usyk summed his thoughts in a single sentence.
”Hi everyone, welcome here on this fantastic Thursday,” said the WBO champion while he was turning towards his Saturday foe, Mairis Briedis.
On behalf of the Latvian titleholder, manager Al Siesta took the mic first.
”Alex Krassyuk just answered every single question that you’ve prepared, I guarantee. There’s nothing really much to say but I can say that we are really delighted to be here. I am very proud of Mairis and the whole team. It’s an incredible occasion, and we’ll do our best to deliver on the night,” said Siesta.
”We are finally back in Riga. We had three months in camp preparing for the fight. This is going to be the most important fight in our career and we prepared accordingly. We are, and we will be ready and ready to break the odds whatever they are for the fight at the current moment on Saturday,” declared Sandis Kleins, trainer of the Latvian WBC titleholder.
Briedis himself closed the official part of the event with his share of speech on the podium.
”I am very happy to see you all here. This will be a fight for me to prove that I can win. I will win it for myself, for my family and for you all. For me, money is not an issue so this is all going to be about pure sport and about proving myself,” summed up Briedis.
The winner of Usyk-Briedis will put himself in position to fight in the finals of the tournament that is about to take place on May 11 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Saturday’s show is expected to be a sold-out event by fight time according to Kalle Sauerland. Remaining tickets can be found at bilesuserviss.lv.