Former cruiserweight world titlist Krzysztof Glowacki was overlooked for inclusion in the first season of the World Boxing Super Series eight-man tournament, but he was invited to participate in the second season and made a big impression in his opening bout Saturday night at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.
Glowacki powered past Maksim Vlasov by unanimous decision in a rough, physical fight to advance to the semifinals in early 2019. He also won a vacant interim cruiserweight world title by scores of 118-110, 117-110 and 115-112. ESPN had Glowacki winning 119-108.
Glowacki, the big crowd favorite thanks to Chicago's large Polish community, likely will soon be elevated to a full titleholder because undisputed cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk, who retained all four of the major belts with a one-punch, straight left-hand knockout of Tony Bellew earlier on Saturday in Manchester, England, likely will move up to the heavyweight division and relinquish the 200-pound titles.
In Saturday night's earlier quarterfinal fight, former world titlist and No. 1 seed Mairis Briedis (25-1, 18 KOs), of Latvia, won a controversial decision over Germany's Noel Mikaelian (23-2, 10 KOs), the former Noel Gevor, of Germany, in a fight Mikaelian appeared to dominate. But judges Benjamin Rendon (116-110), Steve Morrow (115-111) and Hubert Minn (114-112) all scored the fight for Briedis, who seemed surprised by the result. ESPN scored the fight 115-111 for Mikaelian.
No. 3 seed Glowacki, 32, had the unseeded Vlasov, also 32, in trouble in the opening round when he badly rocked him with a clean right hook to the chin. Vlasov was shaken up but managed to stay on his feet.
In the final seconds of the third round, Glowacki, a southpaw, dropped an off-balance Vlasov with a left hand. Vlasov complained that their feet had gotten tangled, and video replays showed that he might have had a case, up but referee Celestino Ruiz did not agree.
"He was a really tough fighter and he got up, but we persevered," Glowacki said through an interpreter.
Glowacki (31-1, 19 KOs), whose only loss came when Usyk outpointed him to win a world title in September 2016, was relentless with his straight left hand, rocking Vlasov (42-3, 25 KOs) with it often. A hard one violently snapped Vlasov's head back in the sixth round.
An accidental head-butt in the ninth round opened a cut over Vlasov's right eye. A booming right-left combination from Glowacki rocked him yet again early in the 11th round and another accidental head clash later in the round opened a bloody cut under Glowacki's left eye. In the 12th round, Vlasov, who took a lot of punches and head-butts, had large swelling raised over his right eye.
The loss ended Vlasov's 12-fight winning streak. He had not lost since a competitive 10-round decision in January 2015 to Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez, who went on to win a super middleweight world title.
The Briedis-Mikaelian co-feature was an awkward, messy fight that featured a number of clinches, head-butts and not a lot of clean punching, as their styles did not mesh very well. But Mikaelian scored often with a stiff, steady jab and appeared in control for most of the rounds, while Briedis' most effective shot was his right hand.
In the third round, referee Guadalupe Garcia warned Mikaelian for a blatant punch behind Briedis' head. When Mikaelian fired a similar shot behind his head again in the fourth round, Garcia penalized him one point.
Mikaelian, 28, coming off a 14-month layoff, rocked Briedis, who had a bloody nose, with a clean right hand to the chin with about 30 seconds left in the seventh round that forced Briedis to grab onto him.
An accidental head-butt opened a bad cut over Mikaelian's right eye in the ninth round, and it clearly rattled him. Garcia took a point from Briedis, 33, in the 10th round when Briedis, who had Mikaelian in a headlock, threw a punch for a blatant foul.
"My coach said this would be hard fight but we did it. Thank you, Chicago, thanks Latvia fans, thanks to my opponent," said Briedis, who had lost to Usyk in the semifinals of the first-season cruiserweight tournament.
Briedis advanced to the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series for the second season in a row. In the first edition of the tournament, he lost his title to Usyk by majority decision but was invited back for another shot at winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy that will go to the tournament victor.
Now he and Glowacki are looking forward to squaring off for the right to go the final.
"Mairis Briedis is a great fighter, so I'm expecting the fight will be even more interesting than tonight," said Glowacki, who stood with him for a joint interview in the ring after the main event.
Briedis was also complimentary to his rival.
"Great fight and congratulations to Glowacki," he said. "He won the fight and the next fight we are preparing for a great fight."
The other semifinal will pit former world titlist and first-season semifinalist Yunier Dorticos (23-1, 21 KOs), 32, a Cuban defector fighting out of Miami, against the Floyd Mayweather-promoted Andrew Tabiti (17-0, 13 KOs), 29, of Las Vegas. Tabiti won a unanimous decision over Ruslan Fayfer in their Oct. 13 quarterfinal fight in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and Dorticos did the same against Mateusz Masternak on Oct. 20 in Orlando, Florida.