Last year when the World Boxing Super Series concept was announced it was described as going to be for boxing what the UEFA Champions League is for football (soccer if your one of my American readers) which at the time seemed like a massive claim but my god they have delivered it . Over the past two weekends we have been treated to the Cruiserweight Semi-Final’s , where all of the boxers where undefeated World Champions . In the space of seven days we seen two unifications featuring the four best in the division fight it out in two fantastic fights which see’s both winners go on to battle it out in the final , to see who is the undisputed champion …..this is exactly what boxing has been needing.
This was a fight that i had been excited about for months , so much so i made the journey over to Riga , Latvia in the middle of winter . The Riga Arena was a fantastic venue for boxing but when you add in the very distinct set up of the WBSS and the electric atmosphere in the arena , it was like nothing i had ever experienced before at any boxing event . A lot of pundits had predicted a snooze fest of a fight , but they couldn’t have been more wrong if they tried . From the start the local lad Briedis was there prove that Usyk was in for the toughest night of his career . Landing some fantastic shots on the Ukrainian throughout the full fight Mairis Briedis showed why he is an elite level fighter . There is no doubt in my mind Oleksandr Usyk had to dig deep within himself to start answering the questions being asked of him . This fight was a masterclass in technical boxing as we seen two men try to out skill the other whilst keeping the action coming fast . Usyk finally took the fight on the cards which i thought was fair , but the same score for Briedis would have been fine in my book , that is how close this fight was , a fight i would love to see happen again.
The dust had hardly settled from the fantastic semi-final in Riga when we had the second semi-final , this time in Adler ,Russia . Murat Gassiev vs Yunier Dorticos had big shoes to fill going into there fight at the Bolshoy Ice Dome and my god did they fill them . Both men were classed as knockout artists so no one really thought this fight was going to go the distance . From the opening bell the Cuban Dorticos was stalking his Russian prey , with Gassiev choosing to back off and go for quality shots rather than quantity . Countless time throughout the fight Gassiev caught the Cuban with beautiful counters which were getting round Dorticos guard , showing exactly how tough this cuban was . The longer the fight went on the more the tide was turning toward the Russian . Time and time again Dorticos was eating shot after shot but all the time hanging in there like a true champion . That all came to an end in the 12th Round when Gassiev timed Dorticos coming in with a beautiful left hook which seen the Cuban go down . Dorticos tried in vain to fight on but the punishment he had took over the 12 rounds had finally caught up with him and as he went down a further twice before the ref stopped the fight .
After the fight in the post match press conference there was a touching moment of humility and sportsmanship . As Dorticos broke down whilst answering a question Murat Gassiev rose from his seat and made his way across to his opponent to embrace him . It was so refreshing to see two warriors keeping boxing a gentleman sport .
On To Jeddah
Now i for one cannot wait for 11th May to see Usyk vs Gassiev fight it out in the final . Two men who have came through very tough matches as Unified Champions of the world go to battle it out in Saudi Arabia . It really does promise to be a fantastic end to and extraordinary tourniment .