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WALKING THE GAUNTLET: A QUEST FOR GLORY IN THE WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES CRUISERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT

By “The Commissioner” Alan J Kindred – The much anticipated World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight Tournament, is offering boxing fans something they rarely get, and that is a contest in which the fighters do not get to pick and choose their opponent. It is true the top seeds will pick from the lower seeds at the very beginning, but after that, they have no control of who they will face. This is an exciting prospect for boxing fans who are used to diva behaviour from many boxers, who pick and choose who they will fight, and at what time they will fight them. To put it bluntly, there is no ducking in a tournament format. This tournament, which features 4 world titlists, will crown a true lineal world champion at Cruiserweight. The tournament winner will receive many other accolades including the Muhammad Ali trophy, great financial gain, and the sporting glory of winning such a remarkable tournament.

First and foremost, I think it is important to applaud the eight men who agreed to enter this single elimination tournament, not knowing who they may end up facing, but just agreeing to face whoever is put in front of them. It shows a lot of guts and hunger for glory in attempting to become the true lineal Cruiserweight champion of the world. We will now take a look and profile all eight competitors in the tournament.

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#1 Seed: Oleksandr Usyk, 12-0, 10 KOs

Usyk has built a strong following after an outstanding amateur career where he went 335-15, capped off with an Olympic gold medal in 2012. He captured an alphabet world title in only his 10th fight against Krzysztof Glowacki, winning a decision. He has been featured on HBO a couple of times now, a rare feat for a Cruiserweight, who are regularly shunned by many networks. He is trained by Anatoly Lomachenko, Vasyl Lomachenko’s father, and is said to represent that highly skilled style as a Cruiserweight. He does have a well-schooled southpaw style with an excellent jab, movement, and combination punching, which is one of the reasons for his #1 seeding. With talks of an eventual move to heavyweight, he will be looking to claim supremacy of the Cruiserweight division first by winning this tournament. In his first and quarterfinal bout of the tournament, he will face former longtime world champion, Marco Huck.

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#8 Seed: Marco Huck, 40-4-1, 27 KOs

Marco Huck may be on the downside, but he is probably a hall of fame fighter regardless of what happens in this tournament. He is tied with Johnny Nelson as the all-time record holder for the number of Cruiserweight world championship defences, at 13. In his nearly 13 year career, he has fought such Cruiserweight notables as Steve Cunningham, Victor Emilio Ramirez, Ola Afolabi (4x), Denis Lebedev, Firat Arslan (2x), Krzysztof Glowacki, and Mairis Briedis. He once even challenged for a heavyweight world title Vs Alexander Povetkin, in a close fight that went to Povetkin, even though many felt Huck should have gotten the verdict. After his long reign ended in 2015, getting stopped against Krzysztof Glowacki, he has gone 2-1 since, losing a world title challenge to Mairis Briedis by decision. While he has seen better days, Huck is still one of the best Cruiserweights in the world. We will see what he has left as a huge underdog against Oleksandr Usyk, who many feel is the very best in the division. It would be a monumental comeback, to say the least, if Huck were able to pull it off.

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#4 Seed: Yunier Dorticos, 21-0, 20 KOs

Dorticos is a former Cuban international standout, having competed in over 250 amateur fights. While he didn’t make the Olympic team as an amateur, as it can be hard to do in the talent rich Cuba, he has found success as a pro. He had beaten former contenders Eric Fields and Edison Miranda before challenging tough interim alphabet world titlist Youri Kalenga for an interim world title, which he won by scoring a 10th round stoppage. Kalenga had gone 12 full rounds with the powerful Denis Lebedev, so Dorticos stopping him is a nice feather in his cap. While he is little known and has only a few notable opponents on his resume, he looks to be rather skilled and powerful on film, he possesses a nice record and has an alphabet world title coming into the tournament. We will find out how well he can take a punch, and just how good he is when he battles the Thunder punching Dmitry Kudryashov in the quarterfinals.

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#5 Seed: Dmitry Kudryashov, 21-1, 21 KOs

Diehard boxing fans, who follow the Cruiserweights, first noticed Kudryashov in 2015 as one of the biggest punchers in the game, when he scored wicked back to back first round knockouts over former world champion Juan Carlos Gomez, and two-time world title challenger Francisco Palacios. These highlight reel knockouts had the diehard boxing fans buzzing about this guy and had them wondering just how far he might go. He then suffered an upset defeat to tough fringe contender Olanrewaju Durodola when he seemed to gas out, getting stopped on his feet in the second round still. It was a fight of the year candidate, with both men getting rocked regularly. Kudryashov then turned up his game, and rattled off 3 more KO wins, including a stoppage win over Durodola, avenging his lone defeat. He is now poised to battle Yunier Dorticos in the quarterfinal, in what figures to be a fight of the year candidate.

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#3 Seed: Mairis Briedis, 22-0, 18 KOs

Briedis first drew the attention of the boxing world when as a Cruiserweight contender, he took a fight up at heavyweight, against former world title challenger and heavyweight contender Manuel Charr, knocking him out cold. He has also defeated Olanrewaju Durodola by stoppage and Marco Huck by decision. Against Huck he won an alphabet world title and would love nothing more than to turn that alphabet world title into a lineal world championship, provided he can emerge as the tournament victor. While he is thought of as primarily a power puncher, he has shown the ability to box technically sound and careful also. He will take on Mike Perez in the quarterfinals.

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#6 Seed: Mike Perez, 22-2-1, 14 KOs

Perez is the enigma of the tournament. It is hard to say just where he is at in his career. He has been inactive and has just recently came down to the Cruiserweight limit from Heavyweight. It is hard to say how good or not he will be. Rumours are that he has adjusted to the new weight and is in stellar form. The one thing that is for sure is he has an interesting back story and has had to overcome some obstacles. He was a stellar amateur out of Cuba who won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2005. He had over 400 bouts as an amateur and he beat heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz in that span. He eventually defected from Cuba to Ireland and began a pro career. He beat some notable journeyman such as Tye Fields, Friday Ahunanya, and Travis Walker before entering a heavyweight contender showdown against the undefeated, 18-0 all wins by knockout, Magomed Abdusalamov. Perez put on a masterclass, upsetting the heavily favoured Abdusalamov, in what was one of the best heavyweight fights anyone had seen in quite a while. Perez won a unanimous decision, but it was to be overshadowed by the tragic injury Abdusalamov suffered after the fight. He ending up having a blood clot in his brain and ended up being put into a medically induced coma to help reduce swelling on the brain. Thereafter, Abdusalamov suffered a bad stroke that left him permanently brain damaged, but he did survive. Perez, however, did not appear to be the same fighter, obviously affected by the tragedy. He ended up having a draw against Carlos Takam and a loss to Bryant Jennings in his two next fights. He didn’t seem the same. Later he ended up being stopped in 75 seconds against Alexander Povetkin (a known PED user) and didn’t fight for 2 years. Fast forward to now, he has lost a bunch of weight and has scored a stoppage win in his first bout at Cruiserweight. It was, however, against little-known Viktor Biscak, who went down and stayed down the first time Perez hit him with a good shot. Has Perez turned his career around and improved his power dropping to Cruiserweight? He certainly was a very good world class heavyweight before the Abdusalamov fight back in 2013. We will find out what is what when he takes on the world class Mairis Briedis.

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#2 Seed: Murat Gassiev, 24-0, 17 KOs

Gassiev turned pro at the age of 17 without all the lustre of an accomplished amateur career. He learned as he went, and under the tutelage of trainer Abel Sanchez, who also trains Gennady Golovkin, Gassiev has flourished, improving each fight. He has defeated fringe contenders Felix Cora and Jordan Shimmell while climbing up the ranks. His knockout over Shimmell was knockout of the year type KO and made the highlight reels in boxing circles. He then faced Denis Lebedev for an alphabet world title, and Gassiev edged out a split decision in the toughest fight of his young career. Lebedev was much more experienced having been in 9 world title fights previously, but it seemed in the end that Gassiev’s physicality and youth won out. Gassiev is known for a great left hook and for being tough and rugged. At just 23 years of age, he is still improving and learning. In the quarterfinals, he will get a chance to learn some more, and prove himself against the very experienced 57 fight veteran, and former two-time world champion Krysztof Wlodarczyk.

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#7 Seed: Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, 53-3-1, 37 KOs

Wlodarczyk is a two-time world champion, who has only lost once in the last 10 years. He has wins over such notable fighters as Imamu Mayfield, Steve Cunningham, Giacobbe Fragomeni (2x), Francisco Palacios, Danny Green, Rakhim Chakhkiev, and Valery Brudov. He made 6 defenses of his world title during his second reign until he was finally defeated by Grigory Drozd, who has since retired. At 35 years of age, and the oldest competitor in the tournament, Wlodarczyk is looking to make one last run at the world championship, and there is no better way to do that than being in this tournament. With 57 fights and a lot of miles on the odometer, can he make it through 3 tough fights to win it all? First, up will be the ultra-physical Gassiev.

So there you have it readers, a little preview and background of the tournament participants and their first round quarterfinal matchups.

If you readers are in need of some nice boxing discussion or debate, feel free to join my Facebook group, “The Commissioner’s Corner: A Face Book Boxing Group,” where I feature my own top-20 rankings in all 17 divisions.

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