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Aleksandr Usyk vs. Mairis Briedis next Saturday on Jan.27


By Jeff Aranow: WBO World cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) will be taking on WBO champion Mairis Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs) in a big fight next Saturday night in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament on January 27. The fight between Usyk and Briedis will be staged at the Arena Riga in Latvia.

(Photo credit: World Boxing Super Series)

It would be a big upset if Briedis beats the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk, because he’s not expected to win this fight. The guys that are thought to give Usyk problems are Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos. Those are 2 guys with 1-punch power that have the ability to stop Usyk with a single shot.

Briedis isn’t that kind of a puncher. For him to beat Usyk, he’s going to need to land a lot of shots over the course of the fight to get the win. That’s not going to be easy for Briedis to hit Usyk enough times to hurt him.

Usyk, 30, is the favorite going into this fight, but Briedis has a real chance of winning if he can land his power shots. He’s the bigger puncher of the two, but he’s coming off of a sluggish performance in his last fight against Mike Perez in the quarterfinals of the WBBS on September 30.

The 33-year-old Briedis won the fight by a 12 round unanimous decision, but it was hardly a one-sided fight. It was close. The fight took place in front of Briedis’ own boxing fans in Riga, and you can argue that may have had a bearing in the scoring of the fight. The judges scored it for Briedis by the scores 116-112, 114-112 and 115-111.

Usyk put in a good performance in his last fight in beating long time former WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck by a 10th round knockout. Huck was the best fighter in the cruiserweight division for a 6-year period from 2008 to 2014. While Huck wasn’t the same fighter he once was when he fought Usyk last September, he still was a big puncher.

Usyk dominated Huck, hitting him at will with shots, and easily evading his attempts at landing his own big punches. The fight was finally halted in the 10th round by referee Robert Byrd. It was a good stoppage, as Huck was taking shots and not going anything.

The keys to victory for Briedis are for him to cut off the ring, create pressure, land hard shots, and don’t let Usyk box from the outside. Usyk likes to stay on the outside and dictate the pace of his fights. He’s not nearly as successful when he’s being pressured like he was in his fight with Michael Hunter. Artur Beterbiev had success in pressuring Usyk in their fights in the amateurs. Usyk won the fights, but they could have gone either way.

“I have nothing bad to say about Briedis. His style is a bit boring, but I respect him. Briedis is a world champion so he has to be good,” said Usyk.

Usyk’s fighting style is arguably even more boring than Briedis’. Of the 2 fighters, Briedis tends to be more stationary and willing to sit down on his shots more than Usyk. Briedis is usually right there in front of his opponents looking to trade punches. Usyk is a boxer, who likes to move around the ring to land shots and not get hit.

In judging the entertainment value of the two cruiserweight champions, it depends on what boxing fans appreciate more. Usyk will move more, and not stay put long enough to get hit. Briedis wants to slug it out most of the time, and he counts on his chin to take whatever hard shots that he needs to

“It is a big fight and it is going to be a big day in my career,” said Usyk. It’s a unification fight. The fight for the Muhammad Ali Trophy is about the best fighting the best. I have the WBO belt and he has WBC – I like the color green and the WBC belt is green so I can’t wait to get that belt,” Usyk said.

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