George Groves vs Jamie Cox
There were rumours on the day that Groves would pick fellow Englishman Cox, but it was still a surprise when the top seed chose him over the likes of Rob Brant and Erik Skoglund.
With three UK fighters in the tournament – and a fourth if Chris Eubank Jnr beats Arthur Abraham next weekend – domestic clashes were inevitable but Groves is going straight for one. It’s an interesting fight and certainly an upgrade for Cox, who was supposed to be fighting for the British title before he signed up to the Super Series, and now has himself a WBA shot.
Whoever wins gets the Eubank Jnr/Abraham vs Avni Yildrim winner – another tough fight.
Callum Smith vs Erik Skoglund
Smith – a surprise entrant into the tournament and one of the favourites – went for Skoglund, who is coming down from light-heavy and though has an impressive CV at first glance, is as yet relatively untested.
‘Mundo’ says he made the choice because they should match well stylistically, which looks likely to turn out correct when they meet later this year. It’s a chance for both men to make a real splash in the division, and could be a smart strategic choice for Smith.
Chris Eubank Jnr/Arthur Abraham vs Avni Yildrim
Yildrim is very much the dark horse of the super-middleweights. Tough, strong and with a fearsome reputation – helped by many sparring stories – he is just the sort of fighter a top seed would want to avoid.
So, it was a surprise when Chris Eubank Snr, in Monaco in his son’s stead, selected ‘Mr Robot’ over little-known American Rob Brant. That being said, his come-forward style could be well-suited to Eubank Jnr – who still needs to get past Abraham if he wants to take part in the Super Series. This particular quarter-final could be explosive.
Juergen Braehmer vs Rob Brant
Braehmer is another moving down from light-heavy – but, at 38, it could be a real struggle for him. He didn’t have a choice with his opponent, but seemed happy enough with Brant, who is moving up from middleweight.
The American has a fan-pleasing style and has impressed in gyms across the US. He’s not had much of a stage as a pro but, like Andre Ward did in the Super Six, could he prove to be another misjudged underdog?
It’s a tough fight to call, given the unknown factors surrounding it.
A few surprise picks but some very interesting bouts have been made. The landscape of the tournament could shift massively after just the quarter-finals.
Oleksandr Usyk vs Marco Huck
What a fight this is, and kudos to Usyk for going straight for the former long-time holder of the WBO belt he now currently holds himself.
The unbeaten Ukrainian is fancied to win the tournament but clearly he doesn’t want to do it the easy way – not that there are any soft touches in the stacked cruiserweight pool.
Huck was beaten by Krzysztof Glowacki, who Usyk then dominated, but Marco is still a force in the division and their aggressive styles should make for an excellent fight.
Murat Gassiev vs Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
This fight was mandated by the IBF, whose title Gassiev owns, so it wasn’t an actual pick but that doesn’t detract from how good of a fight this is. Murat is Usyk’s biggest threat on paper but Wlodarczyk is a former IBF and WBC cruiserweight champion; the pedigree is there.
Both can bang and both can also box when required to, though Gassiev is certainly in better form having just dethroned Denis Lebedev.
Mairis Briedis vs Mike Perez
Perez – new and improved at cruiserweight – is a dangerous pick for anyone. Both stand at 6’ 1’’, making them two of the smaller entrants into the cruiser tournament, so perhaps facing each other first makes sense.
Briedis had been searching for a break for years, even moving briefly to heavyweight, and now with the WBC title round his waist he can look to make a statement in this tournament.
Perez only recently ended a lengthy hiatus, having previously been at heavyweight, but he looks lean and motivated and with his skillset he is a real handful for anyone.
Yunier Dorticos vs Dmitry Kudryashov
It was no huge surprise that Kudryashov was picked last. A hellacious puncher who, despite his limitations, regularly drags opponents into firefights. He is guaranteed excitement – and so is Dorticos. The tough Edison Miranda is the only man to have taken the Cuban the distance as a pro.
This could turn out to be one of the best fights of the Series.
As expected, all of these fights are excellent and will all but guarantee fireworks. This cruiserweight tournament is jam-packed and looks to be pretty special.