The first finalist of the world boxing super series was decided tonight in Riga, Latvia, as hometown favourite and WBC cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis fought WBO champion and Olympic gold medallist, Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk. It was to be a battle of two undefeated fighters.
Despite home advantage, Briedis entered the bout a 9/2 underdog, given Usyk’s performances since turning professional and his decorated amateur background, no one could argue with that, Usyk had been hotly tipped to win the tournament since it was announced.
In a competitive opening round, Usyk attempted to establish his jab and land counter punches, however, Briedis appeared to find his range early, letting his hands go with 3-4 punch combinations.
In the second round, Briedis came out aggressively taking the fight to Usyk and having plenty of success in landing clean shots but Usyk began to find a home for his left-hand counters as the round progressed.
Through rounds 3 and 4 it was back and forth, with Briedis taking the fight to the inside and appearing to hurt Usyk on a couple of occasions, causing the Ukranian to cover up, it was clear Usyk was in the toughest test of his professional career to date.
In round 5 Usyk had his best round backing up Briedis and putting him on the back foot, Usyk upped his punch output significantly and it was paying dividends.
Through round 6 and 7, it was starting to appear that this contest could become a war of attrition in the later rounds with both fighters having spells of success, asking plenty of questions of each other.
Through rounds 8 and 9 this fight was neck and neck, neither fighter had dominated the other, and there were many close, subjective rounds to score, this fight was going to come down to the championship rounds to decide the winner.
Through the enthralling final 3 rounds, these two highly skilled operators appeared to bring the best out of each other, however, it was Usyk who appeared to finish the slightly stronger, but that was taking nothing away from Briedis who still had plenty of success. The final bell sounded and this was a close fight, neither fighter could be assured of victory, but neither deserved to lose.
It was all going to come down to the judge’s scorecards and with scorecards of 114-114, 115-113, 115-113, it was Oleksandr Usyk who had his hand raised as a majority decision winner.
Oleksandr Usyk is now the WBC and WBO unified cruiserweight champion of the world and advances to the world boxing super series cruiserweight final to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the Summer, where he will face the winner of Yunier Dorticos and Murat Gassiev, who contest their semi-final next Saturday.