WBSS quarterfinal matchups set during Draft Gala
The World Boxing Super Series is taking shape.
At Saturday’s Draft Gala, the four seeded boxers in each weight class — cruiserweight and super middleweight — all were presented to fans wearing suit and tie for the first official kickoff event for the ambitious tourney created by Richard Schaefer and Kalle Sauerland.
The seeded fighters were able to select their first-round foes from the quartet of non-seeded fighters, one by one.
There was one predetermined bout, though: Murat Gassiev, the No. 2 seed, who will defend his title against Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in a mandatory fight ordered by the IBF.
Oleksandr Usyk, the No. 1 seed, then kicked things off for the cruiserweights and chose former champion Marco Huck as his quarterfinal opponent. Given Huck’s recent string of losses, it’s no surprise the German was picked first. Usyk will be a heavy favorite to make it three consecutive losses for Huck in title fights.
Huck seemed happy with the challenge and called the Olympic gold medalist his “wish opponent” so he can prove to everyone he’s still on top.
Next up was Mairis Briedis, the WBC champ and No. 3 seed, who picked former heavyweight contender Mike Perez. The Cuban was knocked out in only one round by Alexander Povetkin in May 2015, and then returned last month after a two-year layoff 40-plus pounds lighter with a first-round stoppage of his own.
The final cruiserweight quarterfinal matchup pits No. 4 seed Yunier Dorticos against Dmitry Kudryashov.
The super middleweight field isn’t as appetizing as the 200-pounders, where virtually every top fighter is present, but there should be some exciting bouts nonetheless.
George Groves, the lone 168-pound titleholder in the tourney, had first choice and picked fellow Brit Jamie Cox.
Groves said it was a “strategic move … easy fights first,” but also that he fancied a “domestic dust-up” to create another matchup that will be highly anticipated by English fans.
Smith, who passed up a planned fight against Anthony Dirrell for the vacant WBC title to enter the tourney, picked Erik Skoglund.
“I just think stylistically, Erik’s the best fight for me,” he said.
“It’s massive … and I couldn’t be happier with the choice,” Skoglund replied.
Next Saturday’s bout between Chris Eubank Jr. and Arthur Abraham will determine the No. 3 seed, and with the fight just one week away, neither man was present. In stepped Chris Eubank Sr., who selected Turkish pressure-fighter Avni Yildirim to fight the winner of Eubank-Abraham.
The fourth matchup pits Juergen Braehmer, a former light heavyweight champion dropping seven pounds, against American Rob Brant, who is moving up from middleweight for the opportunity.
Each bracket also has an alternate in case one of the fighters is forced to withdrew from the tourney. Waiting in the wings for the cruiserweights is former champion Krzysztof Glowacki. Vincent Feigenbutz is the super middleweight alternate.
The eight quarterfinal fights — four a piece — will take place in September and October.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger