Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Bracketology: Breaking down World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tourney

Oleksandr Usyk (left) and challenger Marco Huck. Photo by Mark Hermenau / World Boxing Super Series

The innovative, ambitious World Boxing Super Series kicks off Saturday in Berlin with one of two tournaments set out to crown the best fighter in a respective weight class.

This weekend, Oleksandr Usyk takes on former champion Marco Huck in the first battle of the tourney. The super middleweights get started one week later.

The concept is simple: Kalle Sauerland and Richard Schaefer banded together to create two separate single-elimination brackets where one man will emerge with millions of dollars in prize money (possible upward of $10 million), and at least in the case of the 200-pounders (Denis Lebedev is the only notable fighter missing), an undisputed claim to call themselves the premiere fighter in the division.

But just who stands to emerge from the eight-man cruiserweight scrum when the dust settles in May? At the moment, American fans won’t find out because there’s no television deal in place.

Schaefer told he hopes to solve the issue soon, and said he’s in talks with two premium networks (one of those networks is Showtime, though they’re only interested in televising the semifinals and beyond.)

“You win, you move on. You lose, you go home,” Schaefer said. “End of story. … Nine months and the whole thing is done.”

Three of the quarterfinal fights are easy to pick, at least on paper,

Usyk, the WBO champion and RING’s No. 1 cruiserweight, figures to blast through Huck. After all, Huck has dropped two of his last four bouts (one by stoppage to Krzysztof Glowacki; the other in his last outing, an uncompetitive decision defeat to Mairis Briedis).

Now, Huck steps up to an even tougher opponent. With so much wear and tear on the odometer, can he even compete with the power-punching Ukrainian? The odds say no.

Murat Gassiev, the No. 2 seed and also No. 2 fighter in the RING rankings, figures to move onto the semifinals as well. He takes on Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, a former champ who hasn’t scored a notable win since a 2013 victory over Rakhim Chakhkiev.

Gassiev, a training mate of Gennady Golovkin’s, is a scary puncher who recently topped Lebedev. He should dispense of the Pole inside the distance. That bout is ticketed for October 21 in Newark, New Jersey, Schaeffer told

The other two quarterfinal bouts are a bit trickier to pick.

Mairis Briedis, the No. 3 seed (RING No. 4), battles Mike Perez, the former heavyweight contender who recently decided to chase a title at cruiser. Briedis impressed with his tremendous power in a knockout of the year candidate of Manuel Charr in a 2015 heavyweight bout.

Briedis, too, has impressed with his boxing ability, most recently against Huck. With Perez untested at cruiser, there’s no reason to believe he’ll spring the upset.

The other quarterfinal bout figures to be the most action-packed — and hardest to pick. No. 4 seed Yunier “The KO Doctor” Dorticos takes on Dmitry “The Russian Hammer” Kudryashov on September 23 in San Antonio.

The matchup of free-wheeling sluggers is a true coin-flip fight, but the pick here is Kudryashov to land first and move on to the semis.

If these picks hold up, that would pit Usyk against Briedis and Gassiev against Kudryashov in the semifinals, set for January and February.

It’s hard to pick against either Usyk or Gassiev, who appear to be the cream of the crop, and figure to meet each other in the finals in May, with cruiserweight supremacy on the line.

By then, we’ll have a better idea of just how each Eastern European puncher holds up. And soon after, we’ll know who the best cruiserweight in the world truly is.

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger