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Mairis Briedis defends against Mike Perez on Sat.


By Jim Dower: WBC World cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs) makes his first defense of his title this Saturday night against the hard hitting Cuban Mile “The Rebel” Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs) in the quarter finals of the $50 million World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament at the Riga Arena in Riga, Latvia.

Perez is coming into Saturday’s fight without a lot of activity in his career in the last 2 years. Perez didn’t fight for a little over 2 years after his 1st round knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin on May 22 until returning to the ring on June 10 of this year in defeating Viktor Biscak by a 1st round knockout.

Perez looked good beating Biscak, but the fight only lasted 1 round, and it was a mismatch.

Briedis, 32, is looking very hard to beat right now with the way he’s fighting. It’s not only Perez, 31, that has to worry about Briedis. The No.1 seed in the WBSS cruiserweight tournament Oleksandr Usyk has a lot to worry about, because Briedis has the punching power and boxing skills to beat him. In the past, Usyk chooses to back-peddle all over the ring when attacked. We saw him do that last April against Michael Hunter, which was by far the toughest fight of his 4-year pro career. Usyk will need to stand and fight Briedis, because he’s not going to win running from him.

Briedis has the talent to beat Usyk in a one on one fight. Briedis would need to fight Usyk the way that Artur Beterbiev did in the amateur ranks. Beterbiev chased Usyk around the ring, nailing him with shots. Usyk beat Beterbiev by controversial decisions in the 2011 World Amatuer Championship and the 2012 Olympics. In both fights, Usyk beat Beterbiev by a 17-13 score. I saw both fights and I had Beterbiev winning them both. Usyk was slapping with his shots while on the run, and taking hard punches from Beterbiev. If those fights were done in the pro ranks, Beterbiev would have won based on him landing the far more solid blows. Usyk was unable to stand his ground. Briedis can beat Usyk, but he’ll have to chase him for 12 rounds. Briedis still needs to get by Perez on Saturday night for him to have a chance of possibly meeting up with Usyk at a later point in the WBSS tournament.

”I can really tell Mike Perez that boxing in front of a Riga crowd will not be easy for him,” said Briedis. ”The boxing community around the world will learn how passionate and loud Latvia fans can be! This is the first fight of the tournament, the first defense of my WBC World cruiserweight title, and I’m really happy that I will be able to do it in front of my home crowd. There are no easy fights in this tournament. Mike Perez has already made his name in the heavyweight division and seems to be in the shape of his life coming down to cruiserweight,” said Briedis.

The weight that Perez has taken off just to get down to around the cruiserweight level is extraordinary. Perez appears to have lost 25+ lbs. He’ll likely drain down from 215 lbs. to get to the 200 lb. cruiserweight weigh-in limit this Friday night, so we’re probably talking about approximately 25 pounds that Perez has lost to go from the low 240s to 215 for the fight with Briedis. I don’t think Perez is going to be blow 210 on the night of the fight this Saturday. That would be crazy for Perez to do that, because he would be too drained from having lost too much weight in a short period of time. Besides that, Briedis would have a weight and strength advantage over him. and that’s not good news for the Cuban.

Briedis-Perez is arguably the most competitive match-up on paper thus far in the 8-man World Boxing Super Series tournament. Thus far it’s been nothing but blowouts in the tournament with WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk destroying former WBO belt holder Marco Huck by a 10th round knockout earlier this month on September 9 in Berlin, Germany. Last weekend, WBA World cruiserweight champion Yunier Dorticos made easy work of Dmitry Kudrayashov by a 2nd round knockout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Huck and Kudrayshov are 2 fighters that probably didn’t belong fighting in the WBSS tournament based on how they’d been performing recently. Huck had been easily beaten in his previous fight by Briedis in losing a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision last April. Kudrayashov had been knocked out in the 2nd round by Olanrewaja Durodola in 2015. And while Kudrayashov did come back to avenge the loss by stopping Durodoa in their rematch, he still looked very shaky each time he would get hit solid. It was pretty obvious that Kudrayashov wasn’t going to go far in the World Boxing Super Series tournament with the way he’d been fighting. With Perez and Briedis, you’ve got 2 solid fighters that should make it competitive. If this one turns out to be a blowout, it’s not because the loser of the fight is a flawed guy. It’ll be due to the winner having tons of talent and boxing skills.

It’s a big plus for Briedis to be fighting in front of his home boxing fans this Saturday night in Riga, Latvia. The fans are going to be cheering loudly for Briedis, who fights well when competing at home in Latvia. Briedis fights well on the road as well. In his last fight against Huck in Germany, the contest might as well have been in Riga as well, because Briedis totally dominated that fight from start to finish. Huck had no moments at all in that contest.

Briedis did a better job beating Huck than Usyk did, despite not knocking him out. Briedis had Huck looking completely discouraged after 3 rounds because he kept getting nailed by him each time he would try and open up with his big power shots.

“Fighting in Latvia isn’t an issue for me,” said Perez. ”I don’t care where I fight. I’ll fight anywhere. I feel good, I’m confident, and I’m looking forward to Riga. I have a chance to become world champion in my very first fight in the tournament.”

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