MUST DO BET­TER

Briedis beats Perez but now Usyk looms, writes Daniel Her­bert

Boxing News - - Action -

LO­CAL hero Mairis Briedis clinched his place in the semi-fi­nal of the World Box­ing Su­per Se­ries cruis­er­weight tour­na­ment with a unan­i­mous 12-round de­ci­sion over Ir­ish-based Cuban Mike

Perez at the Riga Arena. Briedis re­tained his WBC cruiser ti­tle and earned him­self a semi-fi­nal in ei­ther Jan­uary or February against the favourite for the Muham­mad Ali Tro­phy, bril­liant Ukrainian Olek­sander Usyk.

This bout was hard-fought and hard to watch, with far too much clinch­ing and spoil­ing. Vet­eran Ital­ian ref­eree Mas­simo Bar­rovec­chio strug­gled to keep or­der, tak­ing a point from each man as Briedis won on scores of 116-110, 115-111 and 114-112.

Early in round three a head clash cut Briedis on the left eye and as per the WBC rules, Bar­rovec­chio took a point from the boxer who was un­in­jured, namely south­paw Perez.

Mat­ters were evened up in round 10 when the cham­pion was docked a point for hold­ing – a penalty that could have been ap­plied ear­lier by a sterner ref­eree.

Briedis, who notched his 23rd win (18 early), ad­mit­ted it had been a dif­fi­cult night. He said: “It wasn’t easy but we did it. There are still a lot of things to work on. This was my first ti­tle de­fence in Latvia and the first time I was cut. I’m look­ing for­ward to my semi-fi­nal.”

Perez, who fell to 22-3-1 (14), blamed the ref­er­ee­ing, say­ing: “I only asked for a fair fight but the ref­eree was far from fair. He didn’t do his job, and that’s what I feel.”

This was the Cuban’s sec­ond fight at cruiser (200lbs) after drop­ping down from heavy­weight, but the first was a one-round blow-out and Briedis [be­low] rep­re­sented a much stiffer chal­lenge.

The cham­pion did an ef­fec­tive job of shut­ting down the chal­lenger, who had faster hands and greater va­ri­ety but of­ten found him­self be­ing tied up when­ever he got close.

Clean punches were few and far be­tween but Briedis did man­age to tag Perez on the way in and the way out of the nu­mer­ous clinches.

Perez (197 1/4lbs) won the first by be­ing more ac­tive, but round two saw a more con­fi­dent Briedis (198 3/4lbs) get down to work. Al­ready their clash­ing styles were ap­par­ent and it was no great sur­prise when heads came to­gether in round three to leave the cham­pion gashed on the left eye.

But his cor­ner did a fine job of staunch­ing the wound and by round five Briedis had found his form, open­ing up with a sus­tained burst.

Perez’s workrate was drop­ping and he was be­com­ing frus­trated at his lack of suc­cess. That only in­creased as the Lat­vian found the range for his right up­per­cut, one of which rocked the chal­lenger in round seven.

Perez sur­vived but as the fight be­came in­creas­ingly messy he spent more and more time com­plain­ing to the ref­eree. Bar­rovec­chio fi­nally acted in the 10th, tak­ing a point from Briedis but the cham­pion had ac­tu­ally done the cleaner punch­ing in that ses­sion, land­ing a solid left then a hard right.

The Cuban had a claim for each of the last two rounds, dur­ing which he at least at­tempted to work while Briedis grabbed and held, but at the fi­nal bell it was clear the pop­u­lar lo­cal had done enough.

Whether this sort of form will be enough to trou­ble Usyk is an­other mat­ter. In a non-ti­tle cruis­er­weight 10, Pol­ish south­paw Krzysztof Glowacki, a former WBO cham­pion, is now 28-1 (18) after stop­ping Leonardo Damian Bruzzese of Italy in the fifth. Bruzzese fell to 18-4 (6).

Croa­tia’s Filip Hr­govic, who won su­per-heavy­weight bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, made a suc­cess­ful pro­fes­sional de­but by stop­ping Raphael Zum­bano Love in the first of an eightrounder.

The Brazil­ian, who has boxed in the UK sev­eral times, was dropped by a right then ham­mered un­mer­ci­fully un­til ref­eree Jo­erge Milke in­ter­vened.

THE VER­DICT Briedis and Perez can­cel each other out in largely for­get­table af­fair.

‘I ASKED FOR A FAIR FIGHT BUT THE REF WAS FAR FROM FAIR’

Photo: WORLD BOX­ING SU­PER SE­RIES

GET KNOT­TED: Briedis [left] and Perez pre­pare to tan­gle up again

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