After well over 15 months, the World Boxing Super Series makes a much welcome return at the Plazamedia Broadcasting Centre in Munich, Germany this Saturday evening.
It’s the final of the second edition of the Cruiserweight tournament, and it should be a cracker as the IBF World Title and Muhammad Ali Trophy are up for grabs, with a Cuban and Latvian contesting the big prize.
Riga’s Mairis Briedis (26-1, KO19) starts the final as a 4/6 best priced favourite with the bookmakers, but it’s a razor thin favouritism as he takes on the heavy handed Miami based Cuban, Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, KO22), with the IBF champion a best price 8/5. It’s such a well-matched encounter, with both boasting similar records and achievements.
35-year-old Briedis has been a professional since October 2009, and hovered between Heavyweight and Cruiserweight at the start of his career.
His first break came in 2015 in his 17th fight, when he knocked out former WBA Heavyweight Champion, Manuel Charr in five rounds.
He moved back down in weight and got a shot at the vacant WBC belt in April 2017, and a points win over Marco Huck in the German’s back yard saw him crowned Latvia’s first ever boxing World Champion.
The win gave Briedis a spot in the first edition of the World Boxing Super Series, and he defended his crown in an unanimous decision win against another Cuban in Mike Perez in the quarter finals.
His final four foe wouldn’t come much tougher though, as Oleksandr Usyk opposed him with both WBC and WBO straps on the line.
Mairis would be edged out by majority decision by the gifted Ukrainian, earning a draw on one card and being defeated by just two points on the other two in what would be his first and only loss on his slate.
Briedis returned six months later to pitch a shutout win against Brandon Deslaurier in Moscow before agreeing to take part in the second staging of the World Boxing Super Series at the back end of 2018. He began in the last eight with a win on the cards against Noel Gevor.
The Latvian’s path to the final would be shrouded in controversy, as he picked up the WBO strap in a third round stoppage of the Pole, Krzysztof Glowacki in Riga.
After being hit on the back of the head in the second, Briedis hit Glowacki with an elbow intentionally, but was only deducted one point instead of two. Glowacki also wasn’t given the usual five minutes to recover, and was stopped in the next round.
An appeal from Glowacki’s camp was lodged, and an immediate rematch was ordered. In order for Briedis to advance with WBSS business though, he was stripped of the title, and his attention now turns to the IBF title, and a tournament win.
It’s likely to be no easy battle though against the battle hardened Dorticos in Germany for Briedis, and the 34-year-old will have his own sights set on the coveted trophy in Munich.
Dorticos defected from his native Cuba to turn over in 2009, and he swiftly knocked out all of his first 17 opponents in America.
The first man to take Dorticos the distance was old stager Edison Miranda, who was thrashed on the scorecards over ten in July 2014.
His first fight outside the USA would come in May 2016, as he travelled to Paris to stop Youri Kalenga in what was a fight of the year contender. Dorticos was behind on two cards before his stunning tenth session win.
That gained him the interim WBA title, and he was upgraded to full champion ahead of his quarter final appearance in the inaugural World Boxing Super Series.
A second round hammering of Dmitri Kudryashov in San Antonio introduced him to a wider audience as he made his way to the semi finals.
There, he would suffer a first defeat in a classic, as Murat Gassiev added the WBA crown to his IBF trinket by stopping Dorticos in the final frame with seconds to spare.
Yuniel has rebounded with two wins on the bounce since, both in the second staging of the WBSS, and he hasn’t has to overcome too much adversity in the process.
Soundly outscoring Mateusz Masternak in the last eight in Orlando, and in his last outing, he knocked out Andrew Tabiti in ten to claim the vacant IBF title. It’s all set up to be a pick-em affair in Germany this weekend.
Prediction: Both men last fought on the same bill in Riga last June, so both will need to find their feet again, which should take a few rounds in their meeting in Munich.
Once the rust is shaken away, I think this will develop into a classic, and both will put it all on the line in search of victory.
I think Briedis’ loss to Oleksandr Usyk took a bit away from him, and he may find Dorticos too much to keep off for the duration of the contest.
My tentative pick is for Briedis to be ahead on the cards, but for the Cuban to outlast him, and score a stoppage win in the championship rounds in what should be a thriller.
The undercard is a prospect-filled one, with the unbeaten Denis Radovan (13-0-1, KO6) from Cologne, defending his IBF European Middleweight title against Poland’s Robert Talarek (24-13-3, KO16) over ten rounds.
Frankfurt’s Leon Bunn (15-0, KO8) continues his education with a Super Middleweight eight-rounder against the experienced Finn, Timo Laine (27-13, KO11).
Rounding off the bill is a female eight rounder at Featherweight, where unbeaten Sophie Alisch (5-0, KO1) takes on Hungary’s Edina Kiss (15-13, KO9) who has lost eight of her last nine bouts.