By Ste Rowen
On Saturday 30th September in Riga, Latvia, a country famous for ice hockey and basketball, will hold host to the third quarter final of the Cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series and it’s own rising boxing star, Mairis Breidis.
“It is a great honour for me and for Latvia to have such a big fight and tournament in our country,” said Briedis.
“I am looking forward to showing that Latvia is not only a country with singers and dancers, but also some world class boxing. There are some pressure on my shoulders fighting in front of a sold out arena, but I am sure I can handle it.”
Mike Perez: “I am ready to fight, I can’t wait for Saturday night! It will definitely be a good and exiting fight.”
Mairis (22-0-0 18KOs) was born and bred in Riga and served as a police officer until turning professional in 2009. Since then he’s racked up a record of 22-0 with notable victories over career heavyweight Manuel Charr via knockout, the Nigerian conqueror of, Dmitry Kurdryashov, Olanrewaju Durodola, and most recently Cruiserweight veteran Marco Huck.
An awkward encounter from the start, Briedis and Huck descended into a jab-and-hold battle early on but the Latvian showed his class, beating Huck to the punch and, as the rounds drew on, dominating to a clear and unanimous points decision.
Briedis appears more comfortable once he’s tested his opponent’s power. He begins to trusts in his own guard, gradually lowering his hands from the high stance he begins with to fire off more frequent power punches. His most recent outing wasn’t pretty, it rarely is when Marco Huck’s involved, but Breidis has certainly earned his Cruiserweight stripes as well as his WBC belt, which sets him up perfectly for the coming quarter final and perhaps beyond.
His opponent, Cuban Mike ‘The Rebel’ Perez (22-2-1 14KOs) has only recently made the move down to cruiserweight.
In a keep busy fight in June this year at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, his first professional fight below 200lb, Perez was kept busy for all of 28 seconds when he dropped Viktor Biscak (10-0-0), from Slovakia, who then appeared to injure his leg and forced the referee into waving off the bout.
In fact in Perez’s last three fights, dating back to February 2015, the Cuban has fought competitively for just over 5 minutes, with the other two fights taking place at heavyweight.
May 2015, Mike Perez fought a resurgent Alexander Povetkin, who was coming off a two KO streak, defeating Manuel Charr and Carlos Takam after taking his first loss to Heavyweight king at the time, Wladamir Klitschko. Povetkin rocked ‘The Rebel’ twice with a sniper right hand before dropping Perez off the break with another right. The second knockdown was the finisher as an already dazed Perez took a similar hit from the Russian and almost went through the ropes as the referee called the stoppage.
Mike’s career high so far is no doubt his impressive 2013 unanimous decision win over Russian Magomed Abdusalamov, a rising star in the US who hasn’t fought since fighting Perez. Abdusalamov sustained a large blood clot on the brain from the bout, which had previously gone unnoticed immediately after the fight by NYSAC doctors. His wife now cares for him and recently won a $22 million law suit to help with the rising healthcare costs.
From that victory Mike’s heavyweight ascent hit a road block that he’s never really put right.
Three months after the Abdusalamov bout he fought Carlos Takam (29-1-0) to a majority draw. Perez was losing on one of the scorecards 94-96, with many taking the view that the French-Cameroonian was done wrong.
However Perez’s next fight WAS his first defeat. A split decision loss to American hopeful Bryant Jennings (18-0-0). This time it was Perez who was seen to have been wronged. ‘The Rebel’ was docked a point in the twelfth for hitting on the break and it made the difference, as the scorecards came back as 114-113, 113-114, 112-115.
Perez has spoken about putting right some of the wrongs in his own career, admitting to losing his focus mentally and psychically. He now appears to be in supreme condition. But questions remain over whether he can display the same skill, power and ultimately supremacy at Cruiserweight.
Going with the two fighter’s records and what we’ve seen most recently, the evidence points to Briedis being the frontrunner and quite clearly. However, because we can take nothing from Perez’s one fight at Cruiserweight, he remains an unknown quantity at the weight. At his best he has shown a level of boxing that earnt him the praise and ranking at heavyweight. If he can bring the same power down to Cruiserweight there’s no doubt that Briedis will be up against it, power and skill wise.
For the Latvian he can come into the fight with the confidence that he is one of the top Cruiserweights in the world. He’s already shown he’s a level above fringe contenders at the 200lb limit. He’s also no stranger to fighting above 200lb. As previously mentioned, he fought and wiped out former Lebanese heavyweight contender Manuel Charr who weighed in at 245lb.
Both fighters are seasoned boxers. Both have displayed world class fundamentals as well as the exciting skill that encourages fans to come out and watch their bouts.
As well as all of this, both fighters will know that waiting beyond this fight is the World Boxing Super Series front runner, WBO World Champion Oleksandr Usyk, and impressing in this quarter final will mean giving the Ukrainian enigma something extra to think about.