Renowned Cuban coach, Pedro Roque, believes Muhammad Ali is watching over IBF champ Yuniel Dorticos in the WBSS Cruiserweight Ali Trophy final against Mairis Briedis on March 21 at the Arena Riga.
With a little over two weeks until the final, how would you describe Yuniel’s shape and the vibe at training camp in Miami?
“The vibe has been amazing and Dorticos has been in camp with newly crowned two-time world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, two-time world champion Rances Barthelemy and two-time world champion Erislandy Lara. He has been training hard and is in superb shape.”
You came in before the Tabiti semi-final and helped Yuniel become world champion again and qualify for the Muhammad Ali Trophy. How do you see his chances of going all the way?
“Dorticos has progressed and learned a whole lot from his last fights and the new version of the champion will showcase his ring IQ boxing skills from the Cuban school and of course his extraordinary power.”
Briedis has told that they are focusing on Yuniel’s punching power and avoiding his big punches. What are you looking at in Briedis’ boxing for your fighter to avoid?
“We don’t look at anything other than Briedis’ dirty tactics in which the whole world has seen in previous fights. Dorticos is a clean fighter and every time he gets into the ring he wants to put up a show and give boxing fans around the world the best of him. His boxing skills are on a different level and he can box or bang if need to so don’t blink come fight night because the lights might be off.”
How do you see the fight going? Yuniel has mentioned a KO, but could there be another scenario for a winning game plan?
“When the bell rings we are ready to fight 1 round or 12 rounds. The champion has mentioned a KO and that might just happen anytime. And if a knockout happens it will be a brutal one just like his last one or even better.”
You are a highly decorated trainer with Olympic gold medalists and world champions under your wings. Where would you put winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy among your triumphs?
“It will be the first time in history a Cuban trainer wins the Ali Trophy with his fighter. It will be an honour when our champion Dorticos picks up the Muhammad Ali Trophy and lifts it up in the air and no other Cuban trainer in the history of Cuban boxing has accomplished that.”
And where would you put Yuniel among Cuban greats if he takes the trophy to Miami?
“I will put him right next to Muhammad Ali because when he wins it will be in the memory and legacy of the all-time greatest. Ali’s spirit is with us and we are blessed to have him watching over our champion, his team and his family.”
You have been there and seen it all in a five-decade career, but how excited are you to be part of this final?
“I am humbled to be part of this historic moment in boxing history and the excitement is like never before in my boxing career. I can’t wait for fight night and the bell to ring!”
Briedis’ trainer: Team Dorticos give us extra fuel and motivation
With just two weeks to go, Maris Briedis’ trainer Dmitrijs Šiholajs says bold statements from Team Dorticos have not gone unnoticed at Team Briedis ahead of the WBSS Cruiserweight Ali Trophy final on March 21 at the Arena Riga.
The confidence level from IBF champ Yuniel Dorticos and his team have been through the roof in the build-up proclaiming a KO and a spiritual tie to the greatest of all time. They are on a quest to write history and bring the Muhammad Ali Trophy to Miami, Florida.
“We see how Dorticos’ team is trying to convince themselves and everybody else on how strong they are but it only gives us extra fuel and motivation to train for the bout!” said Dmitrijs Šiholajs who became Briedis’ trainer after the semi-final loss to Aleksandr Usyk in January 2018.
“The history of boxing has proven that the less you talk, the more time you have to get ready and be better.”
And Team Briedis declares ready for one of the biggest sporting events ever on Latvian soil.
“The camp is going well, we’re working towards being ready for a full 12 round final. Only God will decide who’s worthy of having the Muhammad Ali trophy in his possession. But Mairis Briedis is ready to fight for it!”
Tabiti: Dorticos only has a punchers chance against Mairis Briedis
Andrew ‘The Beast’ Tabiti is ready for a comeback and believes Mairis Briedis will take home the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the WBSS cruiserweight final against IBF champion Yuniel Dorticos on March 21 at the Arena Riga.
“I see this final going the distance with Briedis winning unanimously,” said Tabiti who was stopped by Dorticos in the 10th round with a one-shot, right-hand finish in their semi-final in June in Latvia’s capital.
“The only thing Dorticos has is a punchers chance. He tries to be aggressive but Briedis needs to stick to boxing and apply pressure. I wish both fighters good luck.”
Tabiti outpointed Russia’s Ruslan Fayfer in the quarter-final in Ekaterinburg in Russia before Dorticos destroyed his dream of winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
“I do want to thank the WBSS for the opportunity. I had an amazing experience during the tournament,” said the 30-year-old American residing in Las Vegas.
The brutal defeat has not dampened the ambitions of a man once considered one of the division’s most exciting prospects. Tabiti still sees a bright future for himself.
“The Beast’ will be back in the ring soon and I’m staying ready so I don’t have to get ready!
“Whoever I’m in the ring with will see a new and improved ‘Beast’! Taking a loss was a humbling experience but it only made me better and more confident and dangerous! I’m going to be world champ without a doubt! I want all the belts and I’m coming for them.”
Tickets for the incredible Mairis Briedis vs Yuniel Dorticos Ali Trophy showdown on March 21 are on sale from €29 via bilesuserviss.lv.
The final will be broadcast live on DAZN in the U.S. Fans can visit DAZN.com or download the DAZN app to their preferred connected device.
The road to Riga:
Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos took parallel routes to the cruiserweight final of the WBSS. Briedis beat Noel Mikaelian on points in his quarter-final in Chicago and stopped Krzysztof Glowacki in Riga via TKO in the third round of a dramatic semi-final. Dorticos claimed a points victory over Mateusz Masternak in Chicago and a 10th round knockout of Andrew Tabiti in Riga – a KO that earned the ‘KO Doctor’ the ‘Knockout of the Year’ prize across multiple media.
Muhammad Ali Trophy champions:
2018-19: Naoya Inoue, Bantamweight
2018-19: Josh Taylor, Super-Lightweight
2017-18: Aleksandr Usyk, Cruiserweight
2017-18: Callum Smith, Super Middleweight