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Oleksandr Usyk vs. Mairis Briedis on Jan.27 in Riga, Latvia

By Stanley White: WBO World cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) will be traveling to Riga, Latvia on January 27 to face WBC champion Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament.

Usyk, 30, is the No.1 seed in the WBSS tournament, but he’ll still need to travel to fight in the hometown of Latvian Briedis on January 27.

Usyk and Briedis both looked good in winning their quarterfinals matches in the WBSS. Usyk had the easier draw in being matched against past his prime 33-year-old former WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck (40-5-1, 27 KOs) on September 9 in Germany. Usyk gave Huck a boxing lesson before stopping him in the 10th round.

In looking at Huck get dominated by Usyk, it was hard to believe that he was the best fighter in the cruiserweight division for a 7-year period from 2007 to 2014. That’s a long time to stay on top of a division, but the sudden deterioration that Huck showed is an indication of how quickly things can end for top level fighters. They can go from being the best fighter in the division to being an over-the-hill fighter awfully quick.

Briedis didn’t look nearly as good in beating Mike Perez by a 12 round unanimous decision in his quarterfinals victory in the WBSS on September 30 in Riga. It was a contest marred by lots of holding by both fighters. Briedis would throw a shot and follow up by grabbing Perez in a clinch. Perez would then do the same thing. The fight never really got interesting.

In Briedis’ match before that, he easily beat Huck by a 12 round unanimous decision on April 1. That fight was supposed to be a competitive one, but Briedis had too much speed and defensive skills for Huck to handle.

It helps Briedis that he’ll be fighting Usyk at home, because he’s going to need every advantage that he can get for him to have a chance of winning the fight. 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk, 6’3”, has the height and the boxing skills advantage in this fight. Briedis will need to adjust to Usyk’s southpaw stance, which can be difficult for a lot of fighters to handle.

A bigger problem for Briedis might be the mobility of Usyk. He moves a lot around the ring, and jabs. Usyk is not easy to pin down to force him to trade. Briedis struggled with Mike Perez’s southpaw stance in their fight last September. It didn’t cause Briedis a tremendous amount of trouble, but it was trouble enough for him to look sluggish and uncomfortable the entire fight.

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