Cruiserweight world titleholder Mairis Briedis will have the home-turf advantage for his title unification showdown with Oleksandr Usyk in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
The 200-pound world titleholders will square off on Jan. 27 at the Arena Riga in Briedis' hometown of Riga, Latvia, World Boxing Super Series organizers announced on Wednesday. It is the same arena at which Briedis won a unanimous decision against Ireland-based Cuban defector Mike Perez in the quarterfinals of the eight-man tournament before a capacity crowd on Sept. 30.
"The standout atmosphere in the quarterfinals was the noise the fans made in the sold-out Arena Riga," promoter Kalle Sauerland said. "We are very excited to bring the Ali Trophy to Latvia on Jan. 27. Usyk is (an) Olympic champion, world champion and the No. 1 seed in the tournament, but when he collides with national hero and world champion Briedis he will meet by far his toughest challenge in his career. This is the biggest unification fight in the division since many, many years."
Briedis (23-0, 18 KOs), 32, who will be making his second title defense, said he is excited to fight at home again in the biggest fight of his career.
"I had a gut feeling that the World Boxing Super Series might return to Riga because of the incredible crowd at the Arena Riga in the quarterfinal bout against Mike Perez," said Briedis, the No. 3 seed. "I'm really happy with how it has turned out. I am thankful to the Latvian fans who made it possible by being so passionate and devoted. Now it's all about preparing for Usyk and putting on a great show when January comes."
Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs), 30, of Ukraine, is no stranger to the road. The 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist is 4-0 in world title bouts and has fought each of them on the road. He won the title from Poland's Krzysztof Glowacki in Gdansk, Poland 15 months ago. Usyk's first two defenses came in the United States and his third came in the WBSS quarterfinals on Sept. 9, when he traveled to Berlin and knocked out hometown hero and former longtime titleholder Marco Huck in the 10th round.
"I do not care where I fight," Usyk said. "In Riga, there will be 10,000 fans and that's great. The fans should expect a beautiful and interesting battle between two world champions."
The Usyk-Briedis winner will advance to the final for another title unification fight against the winner of the semifinal between Russia's Murat "Iron" Gassiev and "The KO Doctor" Yunier Dorticos, a Cuban defector fighting out of Miami, Florida. Gassiev (25-0, 18 KOs), 24, and Dorticos (22-0, 21 KOs), 31, are scheduled to fight on Feb. 3 at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia.
The WBSS final, which will net the winner the Muhammad Ali Trophy and recognition as the world's best cruiserweight, is slated to take place on a date to be determined in May in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.