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Briedis-Perez WBSS bout slated for Latvia

The World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal between cruiserweight world titleholder Mairis Briedis and Mike Perez will take place Sept. 30 at Riga Arena in Riga, Latvia, organizer AG Comosa announced on Saturday.

Briedis, 32, who is from Latvia, will have the home turf advantage as he makes the first defense of the vacant 200-pound belt he won by unanimous decision against former titleholder Marco Huck on April 1.

At the tournament draft on July 8 in Monte Carlo, No. 3 Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs), one of the four seeded fighters in the eight-man single-elimination tournament, selected former heavyweight contender Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs), who has dropped down in weight, as his opponent.

“I’m greatly honored to begin my World Boxing Super Series journey at the Riga Arena,” Briedis said. “This is my first fight of the tournament, the first defense of my WBC world cruiserweight title, and I’m really happy that I will be able to do it in front of my home crowd. There are no easy fights in this tournament.

“Mike Perez has already made his name in the heavyweight division and seems to be in the shape of his life coming down to cruiserweight. Now it’s about putting the hard work in the gym and getting ready for the Sept. 30 showdown.”

Perez, 31, a Cuban defector based in Ireland, had a 25-month layoff but lost 42 pounds and returned as a cruiserweight for a first-round knockout win on June 10 before joining World Boxing Super Series.

Perez’s career has hit hard times since he won a 10-round decision against Magomed Abdusalamov in a brutal heavyweight fight in New York in November 2013 that had tragic results. Abdusalamov suffered a severe brain injury, nearly died and is incapable walking, talking or caring for himself.

Since that bout, Perez is 2-2-1 and has not looked like the fighter he once was. But he will have an opportunity to turn his career around in the tournament.

“I’m very excited. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I can’t wait,” Perez said. “I have a chance to become world champion in my very first fight in the tournament, so I couldn’t have asked for better. Briedis is a good champion, but I can’t wait to bring the belt home. I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to fight for the Muhammad Ali Trophy [that will go to the tournament winner] and also become the undisputed cruiserweight champion in this tournament, and I have no doubt that I will do just that.

“I have worked so hard for these last couple of years and really dedicated myself to get this chance and nobody is going to take it from me. I have lots of experience as both an amateur and professional, a lot of ability and now at cruiserweight I’m much faster on my feet and can throw faster combinations so I feel like I’m a much better fighter.”

Promoter Kalle Sauerland said he looks at Briedis-Perez as one of the most intriguing bouts of the quarterfinals.

“This tournament is filled with fascinating fights and none more so than this,” Sauerland said. “Mike Perez is making just his second appearance at 200 pounds having moved down from heavyweight, and could well be the dark horse of the division while Mairis Briedis is a proven world-class operator who will be making his first world title defense. This really is an intriguing matchup, and what the World Boxing Super Series is all about.”

The date and site of the quarterfinal bout between world titleholder Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs), the No. 1 seed from Ukraine, and Germany’s Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs) has not been formally announced but is expected to take place on Sept. 9 at a location to be determined in Ukraine.

The other two quarterfinals are still to be scheduled: No. 2 Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs), of Russia, defending his title against Polish mandatory challenger Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs) and No. 4 Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs), a Miami-based Cuban defector, defending his belt against “The Russian Hammer” Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs).

No American television deal has been worked out yet.

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