Almost as if they’re being rewarded for enduring the Mayweather vs McGregor circus a couple of weeks ago, diehard fight fans are in for a treat over the coming months as tournament boxing returns to the big time.
For the first time since the Super Six ended in 2011 with the likes of Carl Froch, Andre Ward and Mikkel Kessler, the frustrations of fighters and promoters resisting the bouts that fans want to see will be evaded by the World Boxing Super Series, a pair of eight-man single elimination tournaments.
The tourneys, at cruiserweight and super-middleweight, include world champions whose belts will be on the line every step of the way. The winners will receive the Muhammad Ali Trophy as well as cementing their status as the top competitor in their weight class. And it all begins on Saturday.
At Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin, native veteran Marco Huck will have his work cut out for him against Ukraine’s Olympic star and current 12-0 WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Huck, no doubt feeling he has something to prove as an underdog in the country he has called home since the age of eight, shoved Usyk during the final press conference this week.
A furious Usyk stormed out of the venue, being quoted as saying he would “bury” Huck on Saturday.
Before tempers flared, the London 2012 heavyweight gold medalist was far more philosophical with his words as he explained why, when he had the opportunity to select his quarter-final opponent as a seeded boxer, he went straight for what he perceived as the toughest option.
“Marco Huck is the most famous and prestigious opponent I could have chosen,” Usyk explained to World Boxing News. “He has accomplished most title defenses in the history of the cruiserweight division, an extremely experienced man.
“Huck does not fear anything or anyone and goes for the victory through the fire. He marches constantly forward and tries to determine his fights by all means.
“But I have a tactic specifically aimed at Huck. This is necessary because in my opinion he is one of my toughest competitors in this tournament. But why should I talk about it now and give Huck an advantage that he does not deserve? The surprising moment is on my side now, and I will take this advantage with me in the ring.
“Huck, by the way, has an advantage because he is at home in front of his audience in Berlin. This definitely makes him stronger, but I love this challenge.”
Like the other 15 participants in the Series, Usyk knows precisely what appealed to him about the concept.
“I can fulfill my dream of unifying all the belts in cruiserweight,” he said. “I had previously thought about how it would be possible to achieve this goal. Fortunately, the door is now open for the road to glory.
“In this tournament all the world champions participates and the winner can rightly be described as the best cruiserweight in the world.
“On top of that the winner gets the Muhammad Ali Trophy. I admire Ali, because he is the biggest role model in boxing. I will thank God if I win a trophy with his name on it.”
On top of the huge bout next weekend between Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, boxing fans will get a WBSS card every weekend for the next couple of months.
After Usyk-Huck this weekend, Britain’s Callum Smith and Sweden’s Erik Skoglund will kick off the super-middleweight brackets on September 16 at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, serving as a lead-in for GGG-Canelo courtesy of the time zones.
It’s back to the cruisers on the 23rd, as Yunier Dorticos of Cuba meets Russian fighter Dmitry Kudryashov in San Antonio’s massive Alamodome. And Mairis Briedis of Latvia will be the home hope when he welcomes another Cuban, Mike Perez, to the Riga Arena on the 30th in what will determine the semi-final opponent for the Usyk-Huck victor.
Chris Eubank Jr heads to Stuttgart the following Saturday, October 7, to take on Avni Yildrim in super-middleweight action and the winner of that will take on the winner of the all-British last-eight war between George Groves and Jamie Cox.
If Eubank Jr wins in Stuttgart, there will be a domestic representative in the super-middle final, as there was in the Super Six when Froch lost to Ward.