Mairis Briedis considering a move to heavyweight
By Allan Fox: WBSS cruiserweight tournament winner Mairis Briedis says he’s considering moving up to heavyweight following his 12 round majority decision victory over IBF champion Yuniel ‘The KO Doctor’ Dorticos last Saturday night at the Plazamedia Broadcasting Center, in Munich, Germany.
If Briedis moves up to heavyweight, he needs to capture the WBO cruiserweight title first before doing so. Winning that title will allow Briedis to be installed at #1 heavyweight without toiling away for years before getting that ranking.
That’s how Oleksandr Usyk got his #1 ranking at heavyweight. The WBO cruiserweight title is currently vacant, with Krzysztof Glowacki ranked #1 and Lawrence Okolie ranked #2. If Briedis were to beat the winner of that fight to get his hands on the WBO strap, then he can use the title as a launching pad to move up to heavyweight with WBO #1 mandatory being given to him.
The money is at heavyweight
It makes sense for the 11-year professional Briedis (27-1, 19 KOs) to move up to heavyweight to go after a big payday. It’ll be a lot harder for the 6’1″ Briedis to find success at heavyweight than he did at cruiserweight because of the massive size of the champions and the top contenders.
The 6’9″ Tyson Fury and 6’6″ Anthony Joshua will have a tremendous height and reach advantage over Briedis. If Briedis bulks up to around 225 lbs, he could be competitive against the top heavyweight.
To make the most amount of money with the little time that Briedis has in his career, he’s got to move up to heavyweight to earn a big payday against Joshua or Fury. Staying at cruiserweight would leave Briedis relatively low compared to the wealth that he could achieve in the heavyweight division.
Look at Dillian Whyte, who has made a lot of money, just a contender without ever fighting for a world title. Whyte has a net worth of $7 million, according to Sportekz, and he’s been fighting on pay-per-view against guys like Dereck Chisora, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin, and Oscar Rivas.
If an average heavyweight like Whyte can make that kind of money, Briedis can make a lot of dough as a contender in the next two years while he waits for a title shot.
It’ll be interesting to see if Briedis can find the same kind of success at heavyweight as he did in the cruiserweight division. In Briedis’ fight against former heavyweight world title challenger Manuel Charr in 2o15, he knocked him out in the 5th round. Briedis weighed 213 lbs for that fight compared to Charr’s 245 lbs.
Assuming that Briedis’ performance against Charr wasn’t an aberration, he could make big things happen in moving up to heavyweight to go after the money fights.
Briedis needs to bulk up
Former WBA heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin weights in the mid-220s, and he’s one of the top fighters in the division despite being 41-years-old. However, Povetkin is an excellent puncher, and he hits harder than Briedis. To get to the level where Povetkin is in the power department, Briedis will need to work hard and put on size.
At heavyweight, Briedis would be following the footsteps of former undisputed IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who recently moved up in weight in October 2019.
“I am considering a move to heavyweight,” said Briedis. “But right now, I will rest a bit before I make any decisions.”
If Briedis does move up, it’ll add another exciting fighter to the heavyweight division, which is sourly lacking in name fighters. The addition of Usyk has brought a new sense of vitality to the weight class that has been missing in recent years.
We still haven’t seen yet whether Usyk has enough size and power to compete at the highest rungs of the heavyweight division, but we’ll have a pretty good idea if he can live with the best when he takes on former world title challenger Dereck Chisora next month on October 31. If Usyk can beat Chisora, then that’s a clear sign that he can present problems against the top fighters Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
The fact that Briedis fought Usyk to almost a standstill in their fight in 2018 suggests that he’s capable of achieving the same success as him at heavyweight.
Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) was automatically given a #1 ranking and a mandatory status with the World Boxing Organization upon moving up to heavyweight. Briedis’ only career defeat came at the hands of Usyk in a narrow 12 round majority decision loss in the World Boxing Super Series tournament on January 27, 2018, in Riga, Latvia.
Usyk just barely won the fight after Briedis gassed out in the championship rounds, and couldn’t keep up with the fast pace the 2012 Olympic gold medalist set. That was a fight that could have gone Briedis’ way, but the judges were more impressed with Usyk’s energy at the end.
He looked like he had more left the tank at the end than Briedis did. The judges scored it 115-113, 115-113 for Usyk and 114-114. Boxing News 24 had Usyk winning narrowly 115-113 [7 rounds to 5]. Where Briedis went wrong is the fact that he couldn’t sustain the pace that he needed for him to beat Usyk.
If Mairis been able to fight as hard in the last six rounds as he had in the first, he would have beaten the Ukrainian fighter.
Usyk would later win the Ali Trophy in defeating IBF/WBA cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev by a 12 round unanimous decision in the final of the WBSS tournament on January 21, 2018, in Moscow, Russia.
Mairis will need to earn his title shot
Unless Briedis goes the WBO cruiserweight route, he’s not going to be given the same comfortable ride that the 33-year-old Usyk got in going up to heavyweight to get a #1 ranking. Briedis will have to earn his mandatory spot at heavyweight unless he’s picked out by one of the champions and given a world title shot.
As talented as Briedis is, he probably won’t get hand-picked by IBF/WBA/WBO champ Anthony Joshua or WBC belt holder Tyson Fury.
With Briedis now having recently turned 35-years-old last January, he doesn’t have much time left in his career. Going up to heavyweight is an excellent idea.
Briedis used his boxing skills to defeat the much harder-punching Dorticos (24-2, 22 KOs), who has the hitting strength that heavyweights do. Mairis did a superb job of taking away Dorticos’ right hand and neutralizing his left hook as well.
Briedis was leaning back through the fight, ready to move away from Dorticos’ power shots, and it worked well. Briedis also did a fine job of picking off many of the talented Cuban fighters’ shots by blocking them with his gloves and arms.
“In the first rounds I felt how dangerous Dorticos is, but I got used to his style, and in the later rounds we didn’t risk too much, we just boxed what we had prepared. I’m very satisfied with my performance,’ said Briedis.
The cruiserweight division is barren of stars
There’s nobody left at cruiserweight for Briedis to fight that will bring him the kind of money he can make fighting at heavyweight. If Briedis stays at cruiserweight, he can take on WBC champion Ilunga Makabu, and he can face Dorticos and Krzysztof Glowacki in rematches.
There’s also Lawrence Okolie, but none of those fights will bring in big money for Briedis. They’re all compelling match-ups, but the money won’t be there for Briedis, and he knows that.
Moving up to heavyweight now will mean that Briedis will have to prove himself against several top fighters before earning a shot. With both WBC champion Tyson Fury and IBF/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua busy in 2021 with them set to fight twice, Briedis might not get a title shot until 2023 at the earliest.
If the winner of the Joshua-Fury fights chooses to hold onto all their titles, then they’ll be busy in 2022 defending the belts against mandatory challengers. Briedis will need to win against top heavyweights for the next two years before he can potentially fight for a world title in 2023, and that’s only if he wins all of his fights. If Briedis loses to someone, then he can forget fighting for a world title.
If Briedis held the WBO title at cruiserweight, then he would be given a world title shot on a silver platter when he moves up in weight.
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