Fightful Boxing Newsletter (8/30): Jose Pedraza, Curtis Harper Situation, Wilder vs. Fury, WBSS

Fightful Boxing Newsletter (8/30): Table of Contents:

  1. Jose Pedraza Punches Ticket To Vasiliy Lomachenko Showdown (Page 1)
  2. Curtis Harper: The Walk Heard Around The World (Page 2)
  3. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury Official? (Page 3)
  4. Wanheng Menayothin Reaches 51-0 (Page 4)
  5. Details on WBSS Cruiserweight 2: Electric Boogaloo (Page 5)
Fighters Predict Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson | UFC 259

Jose Pedraza Punches Ticket To Vasiliy Lomachenko Showdown:

On August 25, we saw the crowning of a new WBO lightweight champion in Jose Pedraza, but more importantly, we have Vasiliy Lomachenko’s next opponent for a planned Top Rank card in Los Angeles on December 1.

Pedraza fended a rally by the now-former champion Raymundo Beltran in the main event of the August 25 Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card from Arizona to win the title by unanimous decision. Pedraza defeated Beltran by unanimous decision (117-110, 117-110, 115-112) to win the title, his second world title.

The Puerto Rican star should be commended on a well-deserved world title victory, but it should also be noted just how lucky Pedraza is to even get the opportunity to fight for the WBO title. Pedraza was not Beltran’s original opponent for August 25 as it was supposed to be WBO European champion Roman Andreev who was set to fight Beltran. Andreev underwent an appendectomy in early July and so the fight, which had Top Rank win a purse bid for, was changed to include Pedraza in the main event.

But even then, a fight against Andreev was actually not even Top Rank’s original plan as the idea of Beltran fighting on August 25 was actually going to be against Lomachenko, but since Lomachenko needed to have surgery on his shoulder for a torn labrum, the unification fight was put off until December.

However, if you were to go even deeper, Top Rank’s original intentions to have a Puerto Rican fight Beltran before Lomachenko was not even Pedraza. It was supposed to be former top prospect Felix Verdejo.

For two years, Verdejo was being groomed by Top Rank to eventually challenge for the WBO lightweight title that was held by Terry Flanagan. Unfortunately, Verdejo had a motorcycle accident in 2016 that stopped a potential Flanagan vs. Verdejo title bout that was close to being made official. It was hoped that even in 2018, Verdejo could fight for the WBO title if a unification fight doesn’t come first, but after Verdejo suffered a shocking upset loss against Antonio Lozada in March, Verdejo’s title chances have all been dashed as he is now damaged goods which Top Rank has absolutely no idea what to do now.

But now Pedraza can enjoy his world title win, joining four other Puerto Ricans who are current world champions (Jesus Rojas, Angel Acosta, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Alberto Machado).

Pedraza has the rare opportunity to become Puerto Rico’s next superstar for the next generation of boxing fans in the island. Miguel Cotto retired last year and he was Puerto Rico’s biggest star in the last 15 years, just like Felix Trinidad was the island’s superstar in the 1990s. The only thing Pedraza has to do is beat Lomachenko, which is a highly improbable feat, but the shortest route for any of the five current champions.

The thing about the aforementioned four other world champions in Puerto Rico is that they all have roadblocks that would make their roads to superstardom extremely difficult and very long. Acosta, the WBO light flyweight champion, suffers from being in a weight class that won’t give him any fights that will get him over with the crowd as this generation’s Cotto or Trinidad or Wilfredo Benitez. Rojas, the WBA “regular” featherweight champion, isn’t even the top WBA champion at featherweight and after losing a non-title fight to Joseph Diaz, Rojas does not have any momentum going for him. Machado, the WBA “regular” super featherweight champion, might just be the odd man out in making fights in a division featuring the likes of Tevin Farmer, Gervonta Davis, Miguel Berchelt and Masayuki Ito.

Finally, Emmanuel Rodriguez, the IBF bantamweight champion, has perhaps the highest ceiling among all five champions, but his involvement in the World Boxing Super Series means that he will have to likely fight Naoya Inoue and Ryan Burnett before winning the entire tournament.

Of course doing so would definitely turn Rodriguez into a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter and this generation’s next Puerto Rican megastar, but there’s two problems: The first being that the WBSS is going to be on DAZN in the United States and Canada and there’s no telling at this point if Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, will even be able to access DAZN when it launches September 10 and if Puerto Rico cannot access it, then Rodriguez’s exposure for the next year will be severely hampered. The second being that the tournament field is so stacked, unless you’re Inoue or Burnett, you’re going to come in as an extremely heavy underdog to win the whole tournament. I personally have Inoue winning the entire tournament and winning each fight by knockout, so I don’t believe Rodriguez has much of a shot to reach the WBSS finals next summer, much less win the whole thing.

August 25 Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Results:

1. Isaac Dogboe defeated Hidenori Otake by TKO, round 1, to retain the WBO super bantamweight title: This brief fight proved that Dogboe is the top star at 122 pounds since Guillermo Rigondeaux is MIA with no timetable for his return. Otake was brought in as someone whom Dogboe would really have to punish right from the start in order to stop knock him out and he did.

2. Mikaela Mayer defeated Edina Kiss by RTD (corner stoppage), round 3: Kiss looked like a complete amateur compared to Mayer who has much less experience as a pro. Mayer towered over Kiss and punished the former title challenger with a series of combinations early. Kiss pretty much ran throughout the fight and it did not look like there was any chance she would win. Mayer is a potential star in the making even among all the other women’s boxing stars in the sport today.

3. Jose Pedraza defeated Raymundo Beltran by unanimous decision (117-110, 117-110, 115-112) to win the WBO lightweight title: The story early on in the fight is that Pedraza has been able to utilize his jab and keep Beltran from making the fight a rough and scrappy skirmish. Beltran suffered a cut near his right eye, but it didn’t seem to affect him, but as the fight progressed, Beltran started to get more and more chances to work the body and Pedraza started losing rounds. Pedraza then got back to outboxing Beltran late in the fight and retook the lead starting in the 10th round. The fight seemed to be over as far as the scorecards are concerned when Pedraza landed well-timed uppercut to knock down Beltran late in the 11th round. Pedraza unleashed a flurry of punches in the last 10 seconds of the fight that seriously hurt Beltran and if it were to continue for another 10 seconds, the fight would have surely been stopped in Pedraza’s favor. Now that Pedraza has the WBO title, he’ll likely be unifying titles with Vasiliy Lomachenko at the end of the year.

Curtis Harper: The Walk Heard Around The World:

Perhaps the strangest story in boxing from this weekend, and maybe in recent memory, came in Minneapolis on the televised portion of a Premier Boxing Champions card.

In one of the fights, heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba was supposed to fight 18-fight veteran Curtis Harper in a six-round bout. After both men got final instructions by the referee, the two boxers went to their respective corners to start the match and when the bell sounded to start the match, Harper walked out of the ring and into the locker rooms for seemingly no reason, causing mass confusion in the Armory as no one could make out what was going on.

It was then shortly revealed by PBC reporter Jordan Hardy that Harper walked out in protest due to what he believed was disrespect towards him and was unhappy toward the amount of money he was paid.

Fightful reached out to the Minnesota Office of Combative Sports and was given this short statement regarding the matter. The commission told Fightful that Harper has not been paid and that the commission is still investigating the matter. A decision on whether or not Harper will be suspended will be decided "within the next week," according to a commission representative. Harper’s purse for the fight would have been $6,000.

“Where we’re at is that, as far as we know, the promoter withheld the payment. [Harper] was not paid for the fight. What the Minnesota Office of Combative Sports is doing is gathering info. We’re reviewing the details and we’re going to make a decision regarding his license within the next week,” a commission representative told Fightful.

Fightful then reached out to Rick Glaser, a veteran promoter who is representing Harper in this case with the Minnesota commission. Glaser had already been interviewed by the Minnesota commission by the time Fightful had chatted with him and Glaser would detail some of Harper’s concerns and issues with the last couple of weeks and why Harper believes he is in the right.

Now there is one growing theory among the boxing community that Harper was scared to face Ajagba and so he walked away and made up the excuse about his purse being low. According to Glaser, that is not the case at all.

So why did Harper leave?

Well, it all stemmed from general lack of disrespect stemming back to the last couple of weeks before the fight. Glaser said Harper was not happy with a number of things that included but not limited to: supposed refusal from the promoter and company to pay his medicals from this fight, flying him over to Minneapolis on Wednesday, August 22 in the morning, one day before the weigh-ins and two days before the fight, as well as the purse figure.

But to be more specific, Harper was upset, not at the purse figure itself, but the purse for a television fight, which Glaser claimed was never told to Harper. Harper was supposedly led to believe that his fight was going to be untelevised and if that was the case, then Harper would have not had an issue with $6,000. But since it was televised, Harper felt he deserved more and that his resume demanded more money.

Harper came in to the fight with a 13-5 pro record with his biggest fight being a decision loss to former heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola. Harper also had previously sparred with current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.

There’s also the issue that Harper was promised that out-of-pocket expenses would be paid for, which included airfare for him, Campbell and Harper’s wife, hotel accommodations and meals, which would have come out to perhaps around $3,000, maybe a little less.

Now the other question about this situation would then be: was this stunt premeditated or was this an action committed in the heat of a moment with no prior thought?

The short answer is yes, Harper was thinking of not fighting well before the stunt.

The long answer is this: according to Glaser, Harper was debating whether or not to even come out and fight Ajagba, but ultimately decided that he should begrudgingly go through with the fight in order to get paid at least something.

When Harper walked to the ring, he saw Ajagba and his team chatting with the event’s matchmaker right before. Seeing that was completely unfair to Harper, Glaser said, and it became the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was at that moment that Harper had decided to leave the ring and go home. As such, due to the fight having technically started when he walked off, Harper was disqualified and given a loss on his record, now 13-6 as a pro, while Ajagba moves to 6-0.

After the fight, Harper was given a pro forma suspension, which according to the commission, meant that all fighters on the card was given automatic 14-day suspensions from the day of the fight, regardless of the result. So this current suspension, which runs through September 7, is not the disciplinary action the commission has taken against Harper for his stunt and the commission will then decide on it in a hearing on September 7.

But according to a report by Sporting News’ Thomas Hauser, there’s another layer to the story regarding Harper and that is Harper’s ability.

Prior to Wilder's March 3, 2018, fight against Luis Ortiz at the Barclays Center, there was an issue in regard to Ortiz's blood pressure, and the promoters feared that Ortiz might be pulled off the card at the last minute by the New York State Athletic Commission. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that were to happen as the commission had previously considered pulling Antonio Margarito out of his 2011 rematch against Miguel Cotto.

It was then that former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin was brought in as a backup opponent for Wilder. Martin was ranked by the WBC at the time and as the March fight against Ortiz was a voluntary defense, Martin would have been approved as a potential opponent for Harper.

That left open the issue of what to do with Martin in the event that Wilder vs. Ortiz proceeded as planned. According to Hauser’s report, the decision was then made to match him in an undercard fight against Harper, who had yet to fight in 2018 as his last fight was in August 2017.

But the NYSAC refused to grant Harper a license to fight because Harper had undergone cataract surgery in 2017 and treatment for a retinal tear in 2015. The commission was further advised that, if Harper continued to fight without additional corrective surgery, it was "just a matter of time" before he went blind in one eye. The commission’s medical staff also believed that even if Harper had the corrective surgery, it would be too dangerous for him to continue fighting. Harper then said that the necessary corrective surgery was a minor procedure that was performed in Jacksonville in early July.

On July 26, Dr. Robert Schnipper, an ophthalmologist, filled out an ocular examination form that was transmitted to the Minnesota Office of Combative Sports. In it, Schnipper referenced Harper's 2015 retinal tear and 2017 cataract surgery but found him fit to fight.

It was then that Fightful would reach out to Nate Campbell, a former world champion who was working in Harper’s corner that night. Contrary to what some may believe, Campbell was not training Harper throughout the entire fight camp and brought in on Monday, August 20.

Regarding the information about Harper’s eye, Campbell confirmed the info and even went a step above as to say that this was all some elaborate scheme to get paid without ever throwing a single punch or get hit once.

Campbell said Harper’s eye was not in a good condition and questioned whether the examination that eventually allowed Harper to fight on the PBC card to be 100 percent legitimate. Campbell then said it was then at that point that Harper thought he could walk away from the fight as he thought he would be owed the $6,000 for just showing up, instead of actually fighting Ajagba.

Regarding the purse figure, Campbell said $6,000 is enough for someone with his career credentials up to this point, even if the fight were to take place on television.

Some had called out Harper and said he should be banned for life. Both Campbell and Ronnie Shields, Ajagba’s trainer, concur with that sentiment, calling it disrespectful to the entire sport and all the fighters past, present and future.

But even if the Minnesota commission doesn’t hand him a lengthy suspension, Harper will also have to deal with this hanging over his head for the rest of his career and promoters will take note of that. It’s hard for any promoter, especially in the United States, to look at Harper and what he did and still book him to fight. Campbell said he doesn’t believe Harper should be given another chance, but Glaser went out and said that not only is there going to be a promoter willing to give him another chance, but that the opinions surrounding Harper’s actions and whether it was right or wrong to be split around 50-50.

All this eventually leads to the final question: was Harper justified in his actions and is he indeed right when he said that there is an injustice regarding fighter’s pay?

Well the answer is extremely complicated and one where it won’t be found less than a week after the fight. The conversation over Harper and if he should be banned for life should just one of multiple conversations being had. The fact that Harper has reported issues with his eye and is still given the chance to fight in a televised bout after the NYSAC previously refused to give Harper a license should raise some eyebrows.

Harper wanted to send out a statement to the boxing world, but that statement is now muddied because of the way he carried himself throughout that night. Was it right? That depends on who you ask.

But in the end, Harper may have done more damage to his career than perhaps anything Ajagba could have ever done to him, but in doing so, it may have saved Harper’s damaged eye from potentially causing him to permanently lose his vision.

Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury Official?

Now that the formalities (and by that I mean a dominant and unsurprising win over Francesco Pianeta) are out of the way, Tyson Fury looks like he will get a shot at a world heavyweight title.

Deontay Wilder will defend his WBC heavyweight title against Fury later this year in Las Vegas on a Showtime pay-per-view card.

This all came after Fury defeated Francesco Pianeta in Fury’s second fight since his return at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The fight was not competitive in the slightest bit, but Fury was dominant in every round. Referee Steve Gray gave all 10 rounds to Fury, winning 100-90.

The fight saw a more aggressive Fury than what he showed in his first comeback fight, which was a stoppage win over Sefer Seferi. Fury landed his left hand well throughout the fight, which saw Pianeta attempt to land his right hand, but did not hurt the lineal champion. Fury's footwork looked better in the bout against Pianeta, with the much bigger Fury slipping under some of Pianeta's punches.

There was no commotion in the crowd that distracted Fury from the fight like in the bout against Seferi and he resembled more like the fighter who beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 in this second comeback fight compared to the first.

After the fight, Fury said his performance, "Was a calculated boxing performance as promised." Fury then called Wilder to the ring, where the WBC champion stated the fight "is on." Promoter Frank Warren said all details will be revealed the following week, but no such announcement came.

As time kept progressed, Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that Fury was starting to get cold feet and considered pulling out of the fight. This comes after Fury revealed he would have loved to have had another tune-up fight before fighting Wilder, but was not going to pass up the opportunity.

Since then, Fury, Warren and MTK Global, the company that manages Fury, have all completely reject Rafael’s report, though Rafael continues to insist that someone from Fury’s camp told him what was in Rafael’s report.

It was previously reported by Mike Coppinger of Ring Magazine that the fight will take place in Las Vegas either in November or December and that it will be shown in the United States as a Showtime pay-per-view. Fury, who has won every major heavyweight world title except the WBC title, will be fighting for a world title for the first time since that historic upset win over Klitschko at the end of 2015, is looking to complete the rare feat of winning every major title at least one point in his career, something no heavyweight has yet to achieve as prior undisputed heavyweight champions did not have their reigns in the four-belt era that we are currently living in.

But of course, Fury wasn’t the main attraction of that Belfast show from August 18.

Carl Frampton had one of his finer performances in his last couple of fights, getting him some much needed momentum for a potential British superfight against Josh Warrington.

In the main event, Frampton retained his interim WBO featherweight title against previously unbeaten Australian Luke Jackson. Frampton won the fight with a stoppage in the ninth round, his first fight to not go the distance since 2015.

The gameplan for Frampton was a simple one: repeatedly attack the body to wear down Jackson and start increasing the pace of his punches thrown as the fight progressed. Frampton started by landing short combinations to the body, but Jackson manage to fend off Frampton’s punches early on.

Jackson did have moments where he let his hands go, but Frampton was able to maneuver his way out of danger. Although Frampton had been winning virtually every round, Frampton did appear frustrated at times that he was not able to put away Jackson early on in the fight.

Frampton would get more aggressive with his punches starting in the fifth round and it eventually resulted in Frampton knocking down Jackson late in the eighth round with a body shot. With Frampton’s body shots taking its toll on Jackson, the Australian’s corner threw in the towel in the ninth round after Frampton hurt his opponent a flurry of body shots.

This was Frampton’s first interim WBO title defense as he had previously won the title back in April in another main event fight in Belfast. In that fight, Frampton defeated former world champion Nonito Donaire by unanimous decision to win the title.

After the win, the idea of a potential fight against Warrington, IBF featherweight champion, later this year. Both fighters are promoted by Frank Warren and it’s been a fight that has been discussed for some time. With WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez still recovering from a broken jaw, Frampton could fight Warrington and attempt to become a three-time world champion and Warren later admitted that was the plan for later this year.

As both men are currently in a division that could also have WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz face WBC champion Gary Russell Jr., the British showdown could potentially plant the seeds for a three-belt unification fight between the winners of the two aforementioned fights, especially if it’s Frampton and Santa Cruz winning those respective fights.

Frampton and Santa Cruz have fought twice already, with Frampton upsetting Santa Cruz in a 2016 Fight of the Year contender and Santa Cruz would later return the favor in January 2017 when he defeated Frampton to recapture the WBA title.

It’s interesting to note how rare of an occasion this is to have Showtime do a boxing pay-per-view where neither headliner was named Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Canelo Alvarez. The last time such a pay-per-view took place was in 2011 when Manny Pacquiao fought Shane Mosley and before that, the last Showtime PPV was in 2005 when Kevin McBride defeated Mike Tyson, retiring the former undisputed heavyweight champion.

Though this is now a bit of a long shot, but the Wilder vs. Fury fight could be a test run for not just a potential Mikey Garcia vs. Errol Spence pay-per-view, which now looks to take place in 2019, but also a potential April 2019 pay-per-view between Wilder and unified champion Anthony Joshua. But with Joshua’s deal with Showtime done and fighting next on the DAZN platform in the U.S., a Joshua vs. Wilder superfight is now once again in limbo.

Wanheng Menayothin Reaches 51-0:

In late August 2017, Floyd Mayweather reached a 50-0 record as a pro when he defeated Conor McGregor, but now in late August 2018, someone else reached a record beyond 50-0.

Wanheng Menayothin, the WBC world minimumweight champion, achieved a historic 51-0 record when he defeated Pedro Taduran in Thailand. Menayothin won a wide unanimous decision (117-110, 118-108, 115-111) to retain the title and reach 51-0.

The fight wasn't exactly a walk in the park for Menayothin, however, as both fighters traded shots throughout all 12 rounds. As Menayothin started throwing combinations from the opening round and landing the right hand effectively, Taduran did his best to answer every punch the champion threw. Menayothin landed a lot of hooks and uppercuts early in the fight and even briefly stunned Taduran in the second round, but Taduran did not back down.

Menayothin continued landing more and more combinations as the fight progressed, but there were a few moments where the Thai fighter was in trouble. Two points was deducted from Taduran for what appeared to be repeated low blows throughout the entire fight. Despite this, Taduran continued to keep the action going, but Menayothin was still able to keep mounting the pressure on his challenger until the fight was over and the champion retained.

Although Menayothin’s resume does not match up to Mayweather’s wins over dozens of world champions and future Hall of Famers, winning all 51 professional fights is still historic in and of itself. If Menayothin were to retire today at 51-0, he would be just the 16th world champion in history to retire as champion or immediately after a title reign without a single loss on his record. But among those 16 champions, Menayothin would have the most amount of wins without a draw or no contest, but both Ricardo Lopez and Jimmy Barry have longer unbeaten streaks at 52 and 70 fights, respectively.

The list Menayothin could potentially join is an all-time great list. Below are the 15 boxers to retire as champion without a loss on their record:

- Jimmy Barry

- Joe Calzaghe

- Mihai Leu

- Ricardo Lopez

- Rocky Marciano

- Terry Marsh

- Floyd Mayweather Jr. (his first retirement in 2015 came when he was a welterweight champion)

- Jack McAuliffe

- Sven Ottke

- Dmitry Pirog

- Harry Simon

- Pichit Sitbangprachan

- Edwin Valero

- Andre Ward

Menayothin’s 51 consecutive wins is still not the longest in the sport’s history, however. Perhaps the most famous win streak in boxing history is Julio Cesar Chavez’s gargantuan 87-fight win streak that was snapped in 1993 with a draw against Pernell Whitaker. Looking at Chavez’s unbeaten streak, however, that number reaches all the way to 90 fights when he suffered his first pro loss to Frankie Randall in 1994.

Though Menayothin stands on top of the boxing world at 51-0, there is another, much younger boxer looking to reach the 50-0 club as well. Petch Sor Chitpattana, a 24-year-old bantamweight contender from Thailand, currently sits at 47-0 and was ordered by the WBC earlier this year to fight Nordine Oubaali for the vacant WBC title, though the title bout has yet to be made.

Menayothin does not appear to be retiring soon and the 32-year-old minimumweight champion could be looking to extend his win streak even further in the coming months. Having held the WBC title since 2014, Menayothin has made 10 world title defenses.

At this moment, the only real challenges for Menayothin would be unification fights. Though there is no fight that would capture the attention of boxing fans in the United States, the two biggest fights for the WBC champion are unification fights against WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart and WBO champion Vic Saludar. The fight against Saludar is the less likely one unless Saludar agrees to fight in Thailand where Menayothin has only fought in. Of course, the biggest fight for Thai boxing fans is against CP Freshmart, who has been one of the biggest boxing stars in the country.

Details on WBSS Cruiserweight 2: Electric Boogaloo:

Though it came with no fanfare compared to previous tournaments, the World Boxing Super Series announced the full roster, seeding and quarterfinal matches for its second cruiserweight tournament.

The WBSS announced on Twitter all eight participants for the sequel to the first cruiserweight tournament, which saw Oleksandr Usyk defeat Murat Gassiev to become the undisputed WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF and Ring Magazine cruiserweight champion.

Here are the first round matches, which features a mix between returning fighters and new faces, for the WBSS: Cruiserweights 2 tournament:

No. 1 Seed Mairis Briedis vs. Noel Mikaelian

No. 2 Seed Yunier Dorticos vs. Mateusz Masternak

No. 3 Seed Krzysztof Glowacki vs. Maksim Vlasov

No. 4 Seed Ruslan Fayfer vs. Andrew Tabiti

Of the eight fighters in this tournament, only Briedis, Dorticos and Glowacki are the ones who fought in the first WBSS cruiserweight tournament. Briedis and Dorticos reached the semifinals as world champions but they were dethroned by Usyk and Murat Gassiev, respectively.

As far as the new faces are concerned, probably the two most notable names are Tabiti and Masternak. For boxing fans in the U.S., Tabiti’s name is familiar because he opened the August 2017 pay-per-view card headlined by Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor where Tabiti defeated former cruiserweight title challenger Steve Cunningham.

Masternak, a former IBO and European champion, has been on a five-fight win streak since a 2015 loss to former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew. Masternak quickly gained momentum and turned himself into a borderline top 10 cruiserweight once more. But he is paired with Yunier Dorticos, who is one of the strongest fighters in the division, but since Dorticos’ loss to Gassiev in the semifinals, we’ve yet to see the former WBA cruiserweight champion in action. If there is a time to face Dorticos, it would be now, which means Masternak is in prime position to pull of the upset and cement himself as a dark horse to win the tournament.

There are no world champions on this edition of the WBSS cruiserweight tournament as Usyk still holds all five major world titles. Usyk is currently negotiating a fight against Bellew for later this year, but beyond that, Usyk's plans as the undisputed champion are unknown. If Usyk moves up in weight after the fight against Bellew, should Usyk be victorious, all the titles would be vacated. If that is the case, then it is possible the cruiserweight semifinals or finals could be for at least one of the vacant titles.

Looking at the timing of it all, I would say that if Usyk defeats Bellew and immediately jumps up to heavyweight and vacates all five of his titles, I can see at least two of the alphabet belts being put in the two semifinal matches with the Ring Magazine possibly being at stake in the finals.

But of course this is a bit of a gamble as there is no telling when exactly does Usyk vacate the belts. Usyk’s goal is to fight Anthony Joshua, the current unified heavyweight champion and as Usyk is the WBO “super” champion at 200 pounds, he is eligible to move up in weight by vacating his title and then proceed to become Joshua’s mandatory challenger. There’s one problem: the WBO had already announced that Joshua’s fight against Alexander Povetkin on September 22 is a mandatory defense, meaning that Joshua doesn’t have to fight a mandatory challenger for another 18 months, putting Usyk as the mandatory challenger starting in March 2020 at the earliest. This may prompt Usyk to stay at cruiserweight, keep the titles and possibly face the winner of the WBSS tournament, which could very well end up being Briedis.

The cruiserweights join the bantamweight and junior welterweight tournaments as the second season of the WBSS. No dates for the first-round cruiserweight tournaments have been announced yet.

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