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Usyk faces Gassiev-Dorticos winner on May 11th in Saudi Arabia

By Jim Dower: WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) will have a little less than 4 months to wait to face the winner of the February 3 semifinals fight between Yunier “KO Doctor’ Dorticos and Murat Gassiev to meet one of them in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series [WBSS] tournament on May 11 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

That’s where the organizers of the WBSS tournament decided to stage the finals. They must have received a big offer to have the fight take place there, as it would seem like a more logical venue would be either in Russia or perhaps Ukraine. Usyk is from Ukraine, and Gassiev is from Russia. Dorticos is from Cuba.

Usyk defeated WBC cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18 KOs) tonight in beating him by a grueling 12 round majority decision at the Arena Riga in Riga, Latvia. The loss for the 33-year-old Latvian Briedis was his first of his career. There’s no question that the 6’3” southpaw Usyk deserved the win, but it was still a razor thin victory for him and definitely the hardest of his 5-year career.

The official scores by the judges were 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113. Usyk came into Saturday’s fight with the 33-year-old Briedis as the #1 seed in the WBSS tournament, and he showed at least for tonight that he rated that ranking.

“These are the most difficult 12 rounds I’ve ever had in my career,” said Usyk after the fight in paying Briedis a huge compliment. “I will go back to the gym and work on improving my style.”

I’m not sure what Usyk can do to improve on his performance from tonight other than to use more movement, which would make him very boring to watch. Usyk is too big to move around the ring all night long. The boxing public wants to see him stand and fight, so hopefully he doesn’t tinker with his fighting style too much.

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Some boxing fans had the Usk vs. Briedis fight scored a draw. It was definitely close. Usyk landed a few more punches than Briedis, but without same kind of punching power. Briedis was hitting with more power and that made it hard to give Usyk a wide victory. If Usyk is going to improve on this performance, he’s going to need to increase his power. Usyk had problems when Briedis was landing his shots cleanly. The thing that saved Usyk was Briedis starting to fade by round 5. Briedis got tired in the last half of the fight, and Usyk used his superior engine to win most of the crucial rounds in the 2nd half of the contest to get the victory.

Usyk was bleeding from the forehead by round 3 from a clash of head. Usyk landed well with his jabs and straight left hands to the face of Briedis. Usyk made sure that he paid Briedis back each time he would land anything of note. Usyk let the judges know that he was going to make sure he matched Briedis punch for punch and then some.

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