OLEKSANDR USYK booked his place in the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight final with an exciting and hard-fought 12-round majority points victory over Mairis Briedis while adding the WBC belt to his own WBO title.
The Ukrainian had to work every minute of every round for his triumph as the Latvian hero – roared on by his local fans in Riga – threatened the upset from the start.
Briedis was strong on the inside, catching Usyk more than he’d ever been tagged before. After six, the contest was poised, and remained so until the final bell.
Both fighters went up a gear in the second half of the showdown. Southpaw Usyk had success with his trailing left off his excellent jab, but the underdog, sporting an incredible engine, would not be dominated as he landed uppercuts and hooks in close.
Perhaps Usyk’s finest attribute is his ability to force his opponents to fight back. Relentless to the extreme, the Ukrainian – unlike his some of his previous outings – did not take a breather and in doing so, demanded mistakes from Briedis who was tagged coming in and on the retreat.
Both fighters were bruised at the end, brief souvenirs from a contest that will live much longer in the memory. At the close of 12 wonderful sessions, Usyk won via two scores of 115-113. The other tally was a 114-114 dead heat.
Bravo both fighters, and bravo the WBSS. What a wonderful advertisment for the sport of boxing.