Arena Riga, Lativia - In the first semi-final bout of the cruiserweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series tournament, Aleksandr Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) won a twelve round majority decision over previously undefeated Mairis Briedis (23-1, 18 KOs) to unify the WBO, WBC cruiserweight titles in a very exciting contest where both boxers had their moments. The scores were 114-114 for the draw, 115-113, 115-113 for Usyk.
Usyk will now moved forward to the final fight of the WBSS, and faces the winner of next Saturday's semi-final unification between WBA champion Yunier Dorticos and IBF champion Murat Gassiev - which takes place in Russia.
A very hot crowd, mostly for Briedis, was loud from the every start as both boxers were giving their best to control the pace of the fight. Usyk was working a very good jab, but it appeared that Briedis landed the more effective punches in the first round.
Briedis continued to push the pace with the harder punches in the second round and was really taking the fight to Usyk. The Olympic gold medal winner was starting to warm up and was landing some solid shots of his own.
The aggressive attacks of Briedis continued to come in on Usyk, who was still having some trouble making the right adjustments. He continued to work a solid jab. There was an accidental clash of heads, which saw Usyk take the brunt of the damage. Usyk was controlling the action at the start of the fourth, but then Briedis came roaring back with a rally of hard shots.
Brieidis was rally with hard shots at the start of the fifth, going forward and unloading hard shots to the head and body. Usyk came firing back in the second half. Briedis began to bleed from his nose, from the sharp jab of Usyk, who landed a very hard combination in the closing moments.
The sixth round was close, but Briedis closed very strong with solid combinations. Usyk was going down to the body in the seventh, looking to slow Briedis down. Briedis was now going mostly to the head, but not landing as soften with Usyk connecting better.
Usyk came out in the eight with a flurry of punches to push Briedis back. Usyk was controlling the action with his jab and landing punches off that jab, with not much coming back from Briedis. A much closer ninth, but Usyk still had the edge and the momentum on his side as the action played out. They were trading away the final minute of the tenth with both landing, but Usyk controlled most of the round. There was a cut, although not that bad, above the left eye of Briedis.
The eleventh saw Usyk come out with a lot of pressure, looking to close out strong on the final two rounds. Briedis would eventually let those hands go and they were back to trading hard shots. This time it was Briedis who had the edge with some solid hits. Usyk came back out with the pressure in the twelfth, but then it was Brieidis who was pushing him back. Usyk returned fire with some solid combinations. Usyk was really controlling things, until it appeared that Briedis may have stunned Usyk and then rallied hard for the entire final minute.