Aleksandr Usyk faces Mairis Briedis on Jan.27 in Riga, Latvia
By Sean Jones: WBO World cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) will be on the road for his next fight against WBC champion Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series on January 27. The fight will be staged at the Arena Riga in Latvia. Usyk is from Kiev, Ukraine. This will be the second consecutive fight in which Usyk, the No.1 seed in the WBSS tournament, will need to travel to his opponent’s home country to fight.
In the quarterfinals of the WBSS, Usyk defended his WBO title against the German Marco Huck in Germany on September 9. Usyk was unfazed by the pro-Huck crowd, as he went on to give Huck a boxing lesson before stopping him with a flurry of punches in round 10. Usyk is used to fighting on the road from his amateur days.
Usyk captured a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics for Ukraine. He beat 3 tough fighters during the competition in Artur Beterbiev, Tervel Pulev and Clemente Russo. The matches against Beterbiev and Russo were close ones, but Usyk won them both in a clear fashion without controversy.
Usyk, 30, will have the opportunity to pick up Briedis’ WBC title to add to his collection. Usyk’s goal is to capture all 4 world titles at cruiserweight and then move up to heavyweight to go after the world champions in that weight class. The southpaw Usyk will need to put some weight on for him to be able to compete against the likes of heavyweight world champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Usyk won’t need to put that much weight on though, because Wilder has shown that he’s capable of dominating at 220 lbs. That weight is not far from where Usyk weighs after he rehydrates for his cruiserweight contests.
“I do not care where I fight,” said Usyk. “In Riga, there will be 10.000 fans and that’s great. The fans should expect a beautiful and interesting battle between two world champions.”
One reason why Usyk feels comfortable fighting anywhere in the world is due to his boxing skills. He’s a highly mobile fighter, who moves frequently around the ring, preventing his opponents from being able to land their shots. The Latvian Briedis will be feeding off the cheering from his home crowd, but they might not be able to drive him to victory unless he can catch up to Usyk to land his shots. Usyk is slippery, and very difficult to pin down to force him to fight in the style that Briedis prefers.
Briedis likes to have his opponents standing in front of him so that he can land his big power shots.
Briedis is coming off of a quarterfinals win over Mike Perez last September in Riga, Latvia. Briedis won by a 12 round unanimous decision. It was a close fight, but Briedis did just enough to earn the victory. It was perhaps the least impressive performance of Briedis’ 8-year pro career. He never was comfortable with Perez’s southpaw stance, and much of the fight involved a lot of clinching after punches were thrown. Briedis will need to deal with the southpaw Usyk in a better fashion to keep from losing that fight. Usyk will take advantage of Briedis’ difficulties adjusting to his stance if he hasn’t figured out how to fight that kind of style.