The eight-man field is set for the single-elimination World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament — and nearly finalized for the super middleweight field.
The final slot for the cruiserweight tournament went to Mike Perez, organizers announced on Thursday afternoon.
The 31-year-old Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs), a Cuban defector fighting out of Ireland, is a former heavyweight contender who, after a 25-month layoff, dropped 42 pounds and returned on June 10 as a cruiserweight to score a first-round knockout of Viktor Biscak.
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 of 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 am very happy to be part of the World Boxing Super Series,” Perez said. “It’s a very exciting tournament and the perfect opportunity for me to prove that I can be the best cruiserweight in the world.”
Perez was a surprise addition since it appeared as though former titleholder Krzysztof Glowacki (27-1, 17 KOs), of Poland, was poised to get the last spot in the field. Instead he will be one of the alternates in the event of an injury or withdrawal of one of the other competitors.
In addition to Perez, the cruiserweight field is loaded with a who’s who of the 200-pound weight class, including four of the world titleholders — Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs), Russia’s Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs), Latvia’s Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs) and Cuban defector Yunier Dorticos (21-0, 20 KOs) — two highly regarded former titleholders in Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs) and Germany’s Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs), and the “Russian Hammer” Dmitry Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs), a top contender.
Also announced on Thursday afternoon was the addition of two more fighters for the super middleweight tournament, bringing that field to seven members.
Added were 25-year-old Turkish contender Avni Yildirim (16-0, 10 KOs) and Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs), 26, of St. Paul, Minnesota, a rising middleweight contender who will move up to the 168-pound division to participate in the World Boxing Super Series.
“In the USA they call me the ‘Dentist’ because what I do in sparring and in fights is rearrange teeth,” Yildirim said. “My message to everybody else in the tournament: You should all hope that you don’t have to fight me in the first round because I will definitely win and go on to the semifinal, final and to the victory. There is no stopping me. I want to make my country and my people proud and I will win the World Boxing Super Series for Turkey.”
Brant has wanted exposure and significant fights and although unable to secure them at middleweight, he will now have his chance at super middleweight.
“I will be proud to represent America in the World Boxing Super Series,” Brant said. “I am young, I am undefeated, I am hungry and I am ready for the world stage. This is my time. I did not just enter this tournament. I am going to win the Muhammad Ali Trophy.”
Yildirim and Brant join a super middleweight field that will also include three Brits — world titleholder George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs), Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) and Jamie Cox — along with former world titleholder Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs), of Germany, and Sweden’s Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs).
The eighth slot will go to the winner of the fight between England’s Chris Eubank Jr. (24-1, 19 KOs) and former super middleweight and middleweight world titleholder Arthur Abraham (46-5, 30 KOs), of Germany, who are scheduled to fight July 15 in London, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.
“With 15 of the 16 spots filled, I think it’s fair to say that the World Boxing Super Series is delivering on the promise to bring together the best fighters from all around the world,” said Roberto Dalmiglio of Comosa AG, the company putting on the tournaments. “With so many champions, former champions and unbeaten challengers, the lineup is truly amazing.”
In March, Comosa AG announced plans for two eight-man, single-elimination tournaments in which 16 fighters will divvy up the $50 million prize money, with the winner of each tournament also receiving the Muhammad Ali Trophy. Comosa AG enlisted promoters Richard Schaefer and Kalle Sauerland to promote the cards and decided that the first two tournaments will take place in the cruiserweight and super middleweight divisions.
The tournaments are supposed to kick off in September with quarterfinal matches in each weight class, with the semifinals taking place in early 2018 and the finals scheduled for May 2018. The draw for each tournament will take place on Saturday in Monte Carlo with the top four seeds (which are to be determined) in each field selecting their quarterfinal opponent from the remaining unseeded fighters. The draft will be streamed live on WorldBoxingSuperSeries.com beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
“Everything is falling into place nicely,” Sauerland said. “The stage is set for the draft gala, with the 16th and final spot to be announced on Friday morning. And I can already reveal that it will be a big one.”