Iron Mike's title charge
World title within grasp of Cork's 'Rebel' Perez
The Max Schmelling Halle in Berlin hosts the first quarter-final in the Muhammad Ali Trophy cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series tonight.
Each quarter-final features a reigning world champion in a super-unification tournament.
Tonight, 2012 Olympic gold medal winner and current WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs).
On September 30, Cork's Cuban rebel Mike Perez fights WBC world champion Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs) in Riga, Lativa. Briedis (32) won the vacant WBC title in April.
The Perez camp aren't concerned about fighting Briedis in his home town.
"Mike is going there to win," says manager Patrick Thomas. "We fancy our chances."
Briedis acknowledges the threat posed by southpaw Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs), who has been living in Cork since 2008.
"This is my first defence of my WBC title," says the Latvian. "Perez has made a name for himself in the heavyweight division and seems to be in the shape of his life at cruiserweight. But I'm well prepared. I've been getting great sparring from different southpaws."
Perez made a successful start in his cruiserweight campaign on the undercard of Ryan Burnett's IBF world title win in Belfast in June, when he took just 29 spiteful seconds to demolish the previously unbeaten Viktor Biscak.
"I'm much faster on my feet now," claims Perez. "And I can throw faster combinations, so I feel like I'm a much better fighter.
"I have a chance to become a world champion in my first fight in this tournament. Whatever this fight brings, I'm ready for it. I can't wait to bring the belt home."
'The Rebel's' heavyweight career went into a spin after he defeated Magomed Abdusalamov in ten rounds of concussive brutality at Madison Square Garden in 2013.
The Russian, married with a young family, developed a blood clot on the brain and is now paralysed and unable to speak. Perez had difficulty coping with his own destructive power.
Four years on, at cruiserweight Perez is like a man reborn.
And manager Thomas is optimistic. "Mike's in great shape," he says. "He has no trouble in making weight. He's walking around at 210lbs. We've been bringing in a few more sparring partners for him from the States. Everything's going really well."
The other quarter-finals will be WBA world champion Yunier Dorticos v Dmitry 'The Russian Hammer' Kudryashov (21-1, 21 KOs) and IBF world champion Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs) v Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs).