Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Briedis went at it for 12 rounds of their Super Series semi-final at such an unrelenting pace that it made for brilliant viewing.
Well, brilliant viewing for everybody but Irish fight fans and one Mike Perez [23(15)-3(1)-1].
While plaudits were reigning in for the Ukrainian and Latvian, the Cork-based Cuban and his following on these shores, and indeed further afield, were left frustrated.
Perez admits he watched on frustrated and almost rueful as the man who outpointed him in the quarter-final put it all on the line and went all out against a fighter who is now just one win away from becoming undisputed World champ at the weight.
Briedis was as negative as they come against ‘The Rebel’ and, perhaps in a bid to prevent Perez from getting a foothold into the fight, constantly held and smothered en-route to a points win.
He was a changed fighter against Usyk and, while a return to a more attacking approach delighted TV viewers and neutrals, it left former world-level heavyweight Perez wondering ‘what if?’
“I got frustrated [watching the Usyk fight] because the guy Briedis was saying that he thought I wasn’t stronger. I watched the interview and said to myself ‘if you didn’t think I was strong in there, why did you just keep holding me? Why didn’t you fight?'”
“Then I watched the fight with Usyk and he fought, in fairness, he fought well but I was thinking ‘why didn’t he fight with me like that’, but it is what it is I learnt from it and I will keep working.”
Perez addressed the Super Series semi-final and his Briedis loss, but only when asked to reflect. The Watergrasshill-based talent, for the most part, seems to be looking forward and is determined to do what he can to secure another shot at a World title.
Considering titles won’t be fragmented in the division for a while due the fact all the belts are on the line when Usyk and Murat Gassiev meet in the final, Perez like every other cruiser will have to survey the lay of the land later in the year to see if he can either face the tournament winner or fight for any vacated belts.
However, the 32-year-old has no issue doing what he has to do in the interim and, speaking after he destroyed Argentinian Pablo Matias Magrini on the Ring Kings card in Waterford on Saturday, he was adamant he can still do real damage in the division.
“I am just back after my loss in the World title fight and the idea is to just keep active and keep looking for opportunities. I was back training straight away. I just took this fight and hopefully I can work my way back to a World championship fight again.”
“Hopefully next time I can get a fair fight next time, so I can fight and show people what I can do,” he continued,
“There is not much you can do plan-wise because whoever wins the Super Series will have all the belts so we have to see when it’s my turn again. I have to keep working and hopefully I get my shot.”
“It’s hard to find good opponents so anything that comes my way I have to take it. I know I can do a lot of damage in the division.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)