It is not surprising if a cruiserweight bout taking place in Latvia is failing to generate much interest in North America. But it’s worth taking note of Mairis Briedis’ clash this weekend with Mike Perez.
Briedis has been overshadowed at 200 pounds by Ukrainian sensation Oleksandr Usyk and Russia’s Murat Gassiev. But Briedis could prove to be a good opponent for one of them in the future. He picked up the vacant WBC belt this past April when he decisioned Marco Huck. Huck might not be the same fighter he was a few years ago, but he is still a pretty impressive resume line. He has consistently been among the top cruiserweight of the past decade.
Briedis has had success against heavyweight contenders, as well–in August 2015 he stopped Manuel Charr. He is now 22-0 with 18 KOs.
Still, the really interesting fighter in this bout is Mike Perez. The Cuban native and adopted son of Ireland was a top-10 heavyweight contender a few years back. He first came to professional prominence in 2011, when he cruised through the Prizefighter Tournament on Sky Sports.
But his biggest breakout fight may have also set back his career. In November 2013 he won an action-packed slugfest against Magomed Abdusalamov, in a clash of undefeated contenders. Abdusalamov had to be taken to the hospital immediately afterward and placed in a medically induced coma. He has never recovered, and Perez, who donated portions of subsequent purses to his falled opponent, has not really seemed like the same fighter since, either.
Perez drew with Carlos Takam in his first fight after defeating Abdusalamov–a generous verdict, in my view. He lost a split decision to Bryant Jennings in July 2014.
Perez stepped away from the sport for two years, from May 2015 until June 2017. When he returned to action, he had seriously slimmed down–at heavyweight, he generally came to scales between 230 and 240 pounds. It will be interesting to see if he can make a run in the currently hot division.