The World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament field was already loaded with big hitters, but now perhaps the best puncher in the division has joined the party.
Organizers made official on Wednesday what was expected, that Dmitry Kudryashov, the “Russian Hammer,” will participate in the eight-man single-elimination tournament that features a who’s who of the 200-pound weight class.
“I am the ‘Russian Hammer’ and I will hammer my way to four titles and the Muhammad Ali Trophy,” Kudryashov said. “The tournament is loaded with champions and former champions, but nobody has a better KO ratio than me. I have a lot of respect for my fellow participants, but whoever gets in my way will be knocked out.”
The 31-year-old Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs), who has had all of his bouts in Russia, is a devastating puncher. He has never been taken deeper than the seventh round in a fight and has faced solid opponents in recent years.
Kudryashov is coming off a fifth-round knockout of Nigeria’s powerful Olanrewaju Durodola on June 3. That knockout avenged a second-round knockout loss to Durodola in 2015 that was controversial because after the fight he tested positive for a banned substance but was never punished because of questions about the legitimacy of the test results. Kudryashov has won three fights in a row since the loss.
Kudryashov joins an absolutely stacked field that also includes world titleholders Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs) of Ukraine, 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), and two highly regarded former titleholders, Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs) and Germany’s Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs). Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki (27-1, 17 KOs), a former world titleholder, is expected to be announced as the final participant later this week.
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 drama begins live on stage at the famed Grimaldi Forum [in Monte Carlo] when these warriors will [go] eye-to-eye with their biggest rivals and try to select the easiest opponent,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said. “However, between four world champs, two former champs, a KO king and another high-profile challenger to be announced shortly, there will be no easy opponents. It’s intriguing to debate about who will pick whom. We can’t wait for Saturday.”
Once the quarterfinal bouts have been set, the dates and venues will be announced.
Schaefer sees the tournament being filled with knockouts.
“A KO tournament for the KO machines — this is what fans have been dreaming of for a long time,” Schaefer said. “You wouldn’t want to miss a single second of the tournament, not just because of the fighters’ overall quality but especially because of their punching power. With a lineup like this, any fight can be over at any second.”
Only half of the super middleweight field has been set: England’s George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs), who holds one of the 168-pound world titles, former world titleholder Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs) of Germany, Sweden’s Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs) and England’s Jamie Cox (23-0, 13 KOs) are entered. The remaining fighters will be announced this week.