Oleksandr Usyk vs. Mairis Briedis – Results
By Jim Dower: Using his high work rate, the taller WBO cruiserweigh champion Olesandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) outworked previously undefeated WBC cruiserweight belt holder Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18 KOs) to beat him by a 12 round majority decision in their semifinals fight in the World Boxing Super Series on Saturday night at the Riga Arena in Riga, Latvia.
The scores were 115-113, 115-113 for the 31-year-old Usyk, and 114-114 even. Boxing News 24 had Usyk winning by a 116-112 score. Usyk dominated most of the fight with jabs and pressure. Briedis looked exhausted in the last portion of the fight, and appeared to be hurt on one occasion in the 10th.
Briedis was outworked through most of the contest, but he landed the harder punches in many of the rounds. The closeness of the fight reflects the judges being impressed with Briedis’ hard shots. That’s the only reason it was close, because Usyk was landing more shots in every round.
Briedis got the better of the action in round 1 in nailing Usyk with hard right hands to the head. After the bell, Usyk hit Briedis with a hard left to the head.
In round 2, both fighters continued to punch after the bell sounded to end the round. It looked like Briedis didn’t trust Usyk to reframe from hitting him again after the round ended, so he kept fighting to make sure he wasn’t fouled again. The referee Robert Byrd looked like he’d lost control of the fight.
The 3rd round was closely fought with both guys trading. Usyk out-landed Briedis, but his punches weren’t as powerful. Usyk was cut from a head-butt over his right eye early in the round.
Round 4 was close with a lot of two-way action. Usyk threw a lot of punches, but Briedis continued to land the harder shots.
Usyk turned up his offense a notch in the 5th round. Usyk, 6’3”, was much busier than the 33-year-old Briedis, and that seemed to make the difference. When Usyk was throwing punches, Briedis was hesitant to let his hands go as much. If he was a counter puncher, he would have had a lot of opportunities to nail Usyk, because he was there to be countered with all the punches he was throwing.
In round 6, Briedis nailed Usyk with a big right uppercut when the two of them were in close. Usyk took the shot well, but he continued to get hit with heavy shots in the round. This was not a good round for Usyk, because he couldn’t get out of the way of Briedis hard punches.
Usyk hurt Briedis with a left hand in round 7, and worked him over with a lot of slapping shots to the head. Usyk wasn’t hitting Briedis with big punches, but it didn’t matter. He throwing so many shots that it really bothered him. Briedis didn’t have the gas tank to match the constant incoming from Usyk, especially with the jabs that he was throwing.
Rounds 10 and 11 were largely one-sided rounds with Usyk taking the fight to Briedis and hitting him with a lot of nice hooks and jabs to the head. The shorter Briedis gave ground to the larger Usyk, and wound up on the ropes. Usyk flurried on Briedis in the last seconds of round 10 in a futile attempt to knock him out, but it wasn’t going to happen. Briedis was good at getting out of the way of many of Usyk’s slapping shots in the final moments of the round. The southpaw Usyk had hurt Briedis earlier in the round with a left had to the head that had sent him staggering to the ropes. Usyk didn’t have the power or the accuracy to finish him off despite trying hard.
Briedis fought well in round 12 in taking the fight to a tired looking Usyk in the final 60 seconds of the round. Usyk had controlled the first 2 minutes with his pressure and combination punching. However, Briedis turned things around after nailing Usyk with a hard right hand to the head in the final minute of the round. That shot got the pro-Briedis boxing fans into the fight, and this seemed to motivate him to go on the attack.
With the victory, Usyk moves forward to the final of the World Boxing Super Series where he’ll await the winner of the February 3rd fight between IBF World cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs) and WBA ‘regular’ champion Yunier Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs).
After the fight, Usyk said, “This was the hardest fight of my career.” It definitely was the hardest up to this point.
Usyk will need to with the harder punches from the winner of the Gassiev vs. Dorticos fight. If he’s lucky, he’ll get Dorticos as his opponent, because he looks to be the more vulnerable of the two. Gassiev is dangerous because he’s tall at 6’3”, and he hits so hard with his body shots. That’s an area where Usyk looked vulnerable tonight against Briedis. Usyk couldn’t get out of the way of Briedis’ body shots. He was lucky that Briedis was mostly head-hunting in the fight. Gassiev mixes his punches up better, and he’s very dangerous when he goes to the body.