Despite coming into the fight as heavy favourite, WBO cruiserweight champ Oleksander Usyk really had to dig deep against hometown hero WBC champ Marius Breidis in Riga, Latvia.
The two cruisers set a frantic pace right from the start in the World boxing super series semi-final as they both looked to establish the jab and centre of the ring. Breidis was looking to land the heavier punches with his right hooks landing throughout as he looked to stop the momentum of the Ukrainian.
Usyk however, started picking up the pace mid-way through the fight and pressed the action with his snappy jab and fast counters. He started working the body shots more frequently as he backed Breidis to the ropes with the Latvian appearing to tire.
After a frantic pace to the fight, both seemed to make one last rally in round 12 to clinch the win. Standing toe to toe they traded heavy shots with Briedis landing a thumping right that seemed to hurt Usyk, but the Ukrainian fired back and hung on to claim a narrow points decision.
The judges scorecards were close with one judge giving the fight a draw and two for Usyk – Canada’s Robert Tapper and American Robin Taylor – scored the back-and-forth fight 115-113 for Usyk. The other judge, Craig Metcalfe, had it level 114-114.
Usyk advances to the final when he will face either Cuban Yunier Dorticos 22-0, 21 KOs or Russia’s Murat Gassiev 25-0, 18 KOs