World Boxing Super Series Preview
By Ciaran O’Malley: The World Boxing Super Series Quarter-Final draws were made on Saturday night at a star studded draft Gala in Monaco, bringing with it some exciting and exceptional match-ups for the first stage of the newly formed tournament. The top four seeds in each division had the pick of the four unseeded boxers in their division to decide on whom each would face.
The Quarter Finals of the tournament are due to take place in September and October of this year, with the Semi-Final’s due to be next January and February with the Finals of both divisions penciled in for May 2018 where the winner of both the Super-Middleweights and Cruiserweight divisions will receive the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
The Cruiserweight division has the more depth and class of the two divisions in the tournament and bringing with it four outstanding Quarter Final fights. The number one seed in the tournament Oleksandr Usyk had the first pick off the unseeded fighters and with this elected Marco Huck which many of the hard-core fans see as the contest of the tournament thus far.
Usyk may only be 12-0 (10 KO) but already has the WBO World title around his waist, and has showed supreme class in the professionals ranks to date. The Ukrainian has had an elite amateur career which was topped off by winning a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Marco Huck will be going into the bout as a heavy underdog after coming of his loss in a unanimous decision in April of this year to number three seed in the tournament Mairis Briedis, Huck (40-4-1) looked far from his best in the fight and must improve if is going to have a chance against many peoples early favorite Usyk.
Murat Gassiev (24-0) is the second seed in the tournament and also the current IBF World Title holder which he won in a split decision against Denis Lebedev in December 2016. Gassiev will face Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1) a former world title holder himself but the 35 year old Polish is coming to the end of a long career and will be seen as the underdog in this tie.
Mairis Briedis (22-0) opted for Mike Perez in the Quarter final with the third pick in the division. Perez (22-2-1) is a former Cuban amateur who is now fighting out of Cork Ireland and has recently moved down from Heavyweight to contest at Cruiserweight where he will be a threat to many, but is just back from a two-year layoff after his loss to Alexander Povetkin in 2015 it has also been reported that Perez was also dealing with personal issues in that time. Briedis is a heavy puncher with 18KO’s in his 22 fights and with Perez being somewhat inactive as off late many feel Briedis will just have too much for the Cuban in this exciting match-up.
The final match-up of the Cruiserweight division will see the fourth seed Yunier Dorticos (21-0) vs Dimitry Kudryashov (21-1). Dorticos like Perez is a former Cuban amateur but failed to make it to any major world amateur tournament before turning over to the pro ranks in his adopted home in Miami. Kudryashov has only one loss on his recorded which he avenged in his last time out. Both men are relatively untested against high calibre fighters but with 41 KO’s between the in 43 bouts it is hard to see this contest going all twelve rounds in what is seen by most as a 50/50 fight.
The Super Middleweight division has only one official World Title holder in the tournament, George Groves who recently won the vacant WBA World Title against a tough and brave Fedor Chudinov in May of this year. Groves (26-3) entered the Gala as the number one seed in the division and with his pick opted for fellow Brit Jamie Cox in an all Domestic Dust-up. Cox has previously fought at 154lbs but after a long layoff returned in 2015 campaigning at 168lbs, the Super middleweight limit. The pair will know each other well having both being part of the GB development squad in there amateur days. Groves will be heavy favorite going into the fight and rightly so having fought the much higher calibre of fighters throughout his career but the undefeated Cox (23-0) will be no walk in the park for the newly crowned WBA champ.
The second seed is another English man Callum Smith (22-0), many in the boxing world believe Smith will be victorious in the tournament with the 27 year old coming into his “peak years” and at 6ft 3” he is a big Super Middleweight. Smith has stopped he last five opponents inside the distance with relative ease but to go on and progress to the later stages of this tournament he will be facing must sterner competition. Smith was due to face Anthony Dirrell from the vacant WBC championship but opted out to enter the World Boxing Super Series but still holds a mandatory position. Smith will face Erik Skoglund of Sweden in the Quarter-Finals, Skoglund is dropping down from Light-Heavyweight for the tournament. Although the Swede is 26-0 hew has fought relatively unknowing opponents, Smith will be expected to be in the round of the tournament.
The third seed for the Super Middleweights will be awarded to winner of this Saturday’s showdown in London between the current IBO champion Chris Eubank Jr and former world title holder Arthur Abraham, with both fighters finishing up training camps for the fight Chris Eubank Sr was selected to represent the pairing in doing so he picked Avni Yildirim also knowing as “Mr Robot.” Yildirim is a strong come-forward fighter who does not take a backwards step in the ring, but with only 16 fights in the pro ranks he is lacking some experience at the top level. If the bookmakers are anything to go by Eubanks will come throw the fight on Saturday with Abraham and be the fourth English man in the Super Middleweight Quarter-Finals
The fourth and final seed in the division is Jürgen Bramher (48-3) his last outing was in October 2016 where he retired after round six claiming he had dislocated his shoulder against Nathan Cleverley where he lost his WBA (Regular) light-heavyweight title. Bramher is dropping down to the 168lbs limit for the tournament which won’t be easy for the 38 year old veteran of the game, but size could well prove a factor as he faces Rob Brant a young hungry Middleweight contender who has had little look chasing the bigger fights of the Middleweight division and has decided to take the jump up in division to join the World Boxing Super Series. Brant has fought relatively poor and unknowing opposition to date and if the Bramher of old shows up and makes weight without too much difficulty Brant will be in for a difficult nights work.