A new venture co-founded by Sauerland Promotions and former Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer kicks off this Saturday in Berlin, as the cruiserweights begin their campaign in search of the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the title of ‘undisputed champion’.
Let’s have a look at the contenders…
Oleksandr Usyk – WBO champion (12-0, 10 KOs)
Oleksandr ‘The Cat’ Usyk is the current WBO world cruiserweight champion and starts his campaign off this weekend against Marco Huck. The Ukranian southpaw is still unbeaten after turning professional in 2013, and with 12 wins is well on his way up the pound-for-pound rankings.
After securing heavyweight gold at the 2012 London Olympics, Usyk has all the tools to send ripples through the 200lbs division, and at 30-years-old has time to set his sights on the heavyweight division in years to come.
Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs)
Huck is up first against the above-mentioned Usyk on Saturday night, and after 45 professional fights, the German is showing signs of slowing down. Having held the WBO cruiserweight title from 2009-2015, ‘The Captain’ is looking to regain his gold in Berlin this weekend but is up against it in the shape of Usyk.
With a UD loss to Mairis Briedis earlier this year, Huck’s chances of glory have already been dented as he would most likely have to face the Latvian again if he negates the challenge of Usyk in the quarterfinals.
Mairis Briedis – WBC champion (22-0, 18 KOs)
Mairis Briedis is the first Latvian to win a boxing world title after claiming the WBC strap in April this year against Marco Huck.
At 32-years-old, Briedis has had a slow climb up the cruiserweight ranks after making his debut in 2009.
Fighting in Latvia, Greece, Germany, Russia, Poland and the USA, Briedis has shown he is willing to travel to secure the biggest fights possible, with the WBSS coming at the right time for the WBC king as he looks to land more big-money fights.
Mike Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs)
After a turbulent three years inside and outside of the squared circle, Cuban southpaw Mike Perez is looking to fast-track to glory in the WBSS.
With losses to Alexander Povetkin (inside 91 seconds) and Bryant Jennings at heavyweight, the Matchroom promoted 31-year-old is looking to rebuild his career as a cruiserweight.
Fighting out of Cork, Ireland, Mike ‘The Rebel’ Perez is a huge underdog in his quarterfinal bout against Mairis Briedis, with an even tougher task of Usyk/Huck in the semifinal if he prevails.
Murat Gassiev – IBF champion (24-0, 17 KOs)
Hailing out of Vladikavkaz, Russia, IBF world cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev is another unbeaten contender in the WBSS. With a SD win over WBA ‘super’ champ Denis Lebedev the stand-out result on his record, ‘Iron’ enters the tournament as the second favourite for the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
At 23, Gassiev is the youngest contender in the World Boxing Super Series and has a long career ahead of him after turning pro in 2011. Having fought in the USA five times already, Gassiev is becoming known amongst ‘casuals’ and ‘hardcore’ fans alike, as he starts his tournament against the seasoned Krzysztof Włodarczyk.
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs)
57 fights into a bruising career at cruiserweight, ‘Diablo’ Wlodarczyk is a real outsider to make a mark on the WBSS.
Fighting mainly in his native Poland, the 35-year-old is yet to have a breakout fight to get his name on the map, with a three-year reign of the WBC title from 2011-2014 going fairly unnoticed outside of obsessive boxing circles.
With 37 knockouts on his record, the Pole still carries power at the weight and will be relying on a ‘punchers chance’ against the skilled Gassiev in the quarterfinals.
Yunier Dorticos – WBA regular champion (21-0, 20 KOs)
After leaving Cuba in 2009, Dorticos joined the paid ranks as a cruiserweight and is still unbeaten after 21 bouts. Making his first 20 outings in the USA, the Cuban travelled to France last May, capturing the vacant WBA regular cruiserweight title against Youri Kayembre Kalenga; a win that projected him into contention for the WBSS.
‘The KO Doctor’ has a lethal right hand, and as his nickname suggests has taken 20 of his 21 wins by the way of a stoppage. He was originally pencilled-in to fight WBA ‘super’ Denis Lebedev within 120 days of Lebedev’s July 10 showdown with Mark Flanagan, however, has decided to join the WBSS instead of waiting.
Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs)
WBC Silver cruiserweight champion ‘The Russian Hammer’ Kudryashov, sits at the bottom of the draw bracket with an opening bout against Yunier Dorticos.
Without a legitimate world title to his name throughout his six-year career as a cruiserweight, the 31-year-old has a chance to put that right in his quarterfinal with the Cuban WBA ‘regular’ champion.
With all of his 21 wins coming by the way of knockout, Kudryashov is still yet to go past the seventh round as a professional, setting up his fight with Dorticos as a real 50/50 ‘pick’em’ fight.
The quarterfinal pairings were determined during the Draft Gala in Monaco in early July. In each weight class, the four top-seeded boxers selected their quarterfinal opponents from the four unseeded boxers.
The quarterfinals will run in September and October 2017, with the semifinals in January/February 2018, then the final will be set for May 2018.
There is $25 million on offer for the cruiserweight tournament, with this money being divided amongst the bouts. The expected overall purse of the winner is in the region of $10 million.
Krzysztof Glowacki (27-1, 17 KOs) and Mateusz Masternak (39-4, 26 KOs) are the cruiserweight reserves in case one of the fighters has to drop out during the tournament.
In the event of a draw, promoter Kalle Sauerland has detailed the following information to help avoid this situation.
“The World Boxing Super Series will take special measures to prevent draws. First, instead of three judges, there will be four judges scoring the fight. However, the fourth scorecard will only be used if the other three cards result in a draw. In the event the fourth card is also a draw, the winner of the final round will decide who moves ahead in the tournament. Sauerland points out that this rule change has been approved by all four world organizations. In addition, he stated that “instant replay” will be used to help assess controversial situations, and all fighters are subject to VADA testing.”
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