MUST DO BETTER
Briedis beats Perez but now Usyk looms, writes Daniel Herbert
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’
GET KNOTTED: Briedis [left] and Perez prepare to tangle up again