WBO world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will step in to the lion’s den on Saturday as he defends his title against two-time world champion Marco Huck in the challenger’s home city of Berlin in the opening bout of the World Boxing Super Series, a prestigious new knockout style tournament pitting eight of the best fighters against each other in two weight classes.
And fireworks can be expected in the ring after Huck shoved Usyk during a stare-off following the pre-fight press conference, angering the Ukrainian world champion who had earlier spoken respectfully of his opponent.
“I will bury him on Saturday”, raged Usyk as he departed the building following the final press conference.
Usyk and Huck’s cruiserweight showdown will be the first bout in the highly anticipated World Boxing Super Series, which will also be contested within the super-middleweight division.
Eight fighters begin in each weight class, with the four victorious quarter-finalists advancing to semi-finals in early 2018 before the final next May, with the victor of each weight class receiving the Muhammad Ali trophy as well as picking up a significant cash prize.
The winner of the cruiserweight competition will also walk away as a unified divisional champion, with Murat Gassiev’s IBF title, the WBC belt of Mairis Briedis and the WBA (regular) title held by Yunier Dorticos also on the line throughout the tournament.
“I chose to enter this tournament because it is a path to achieve my dream of unifying all the belts”, said Usyk.
“If you want to be a great champion you have to beat the best. And Huck is one of the best”, added the 2012 Olympic gold-medallist and pre-tournament favourite.
But challenger Huck was in a defiant mood.
“Usyk should prepare for war on Saturday”, claimed the former WBO and IBO world champion.
“I have no fear stepping up against Oleksandr. When I am at my best I can beat anybody.
“I’m glad to be here in Berlin. I’ve given many victory interviews in Berlin”, added the 32-year-old German, who made 13 successful world title defences during his reign as WBO champion, a joint record in the cruiserweight division.
And Kalle Sauerland, one of the chief promoters behind the World Boxing Super Series, was delighted at the prospect of the opening bout of the competition.
“Usyk is an Olympic champion and world champion; Huck is the joint record holder of most title defences [in the cruiserweight division.]
“For boxing fans it doesn’t get much better than this”, he claimed.
The winner of Saturday’s clash in Berlin will meet the victor of the September 30th clash between WBC champion Briedis and former heavyweight contender Mike Perez. The other half of the draw sees IBF title-holder Gassiev take on former two-time world champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk as well as a heavy-hitting showdown between knockout specialists Dorticos and Dmitry Kudryashov.
The super-middleweight competition begins next Saturday (16th) in Liverpool, as number two seed Callum Smith faces fellow undefeated fighter Erik Skoglund. Their semi-final opponent will be either Jurgen Braehmer or Rob Brant with WBA world champion George Groves and Jamie Cox plus Chris Eubank Jr. and Avni Yildirim contesting the other quarter-finals.
–Alistair Sargent, Editor (Sport)