Is Shannon Briggs Today’s Top Heavyweight?

shannon briggs23.03.07 - By Joseph Mathew: On the evening of August 12th, 2006, Russian heavyweight Oleg Maskaev completed the puzzle of Eastern European domination over the heavyweight division of professional boxing. He defeated Hasim Rahman by a 12th-round technical knockout to win the WBC title. At the time, the other three world champions were Wladimir Klitschko (IBF) from Ukraine, Nikolai Valuev (WBA) from Russia, and Sergei Liakhovich (WBO) from Belarus. Would this be a long-lasting era for the heavyweights? Were there any worthy heavyweights capable of bringing a belt back to the United States?

Just three months later, on August 4th, Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs brought the WBO title back to the United States, defeating Liakhovich by a 12-round stoppage. In what could have been the most boring eleven rounds ever, both men were reluctant to throw a combination or go in for the kill.

Somehow, by the twelfth round, Briggs and Liakhovich were extremely fatigued and could barely stand. Then, it was Briggs who gathered enough energy to land a right hook and send Liakhovich to the canvas. Although Liakhovich was able to rise back up and beat the count, he was visibly off balance. Briggs smelled blood and knocked Liakhovich out of the ring onto the announcers table, convincing Referee Robert Ferrara to end the bout.

Most boxing fans were aware that Briggs had the power to defeat any fighter. Then again, it is not easy to prove yourself by knocking out names such as Dicky Ryan, Brian Scott, or Abraham Okine. Briggs was also known for having limited skills and very poor endurance. There were few who felt that Briggs was worthy of a world title-shot. Yet, somehow, Shannon Briggs has become the WBO heavyweight champion.

On April 1st of ’06, Liakhovich defeated Lamon Brewster by unanimous decision in what was a clearly a fight-of-the-year candidate. Before defeating Brewster, Liakhovich’s greatest victory was his decision win over Dominick Guinn. Even though Liakhovich was more of a question mark than anything else, he had gained a lot of respect from upsetting Brewster. Some were considering him to be one of today’s top heavyweights. Others felt that Liakhovich was the best heavyweight, even above Wladimir Klitschko.

Since Briggs dethroned Liakhovich of the world champion status, there are many who feel that Briggs is today’s best heavyweight. Even more than those who believed that Liakhovich was the best. They believe that Briggs has the experience to defeat other big punchers such as Samuel Peter, and the power to knock out superior boxers such as Wladimir Klitschko.

In today’s heavyweight division, anything is possible. There weren’t many fans who expected Corrie Sanders or Lamon Brewster to knock out Wladimir Klitschko. No one imagined that a seven-foot giant like Nikolai Valuev would come close to breaking Marciano’s record of 49-0, let alone become the WBA champion. It was stunning to see Oleg Maskaev beat Hasim Rahman and become the WBC champion. Finally, no one would have guessed that Shannon Briggs would ever become a world champion.

In reality, pointing out today’s best heavyweight is only a matter of opinion. We have four world heavyweight champions, and there won’t be unification until the mandatory challengers are out of the way, if that is possible. The best chance is for Wladimir to wait a few weeks for the Briggs/Ibragimov fight, and face the winner in an IBF/WBO unification bout. Unfortunately, these two already planned on meeting last year but plans fell apart, with each blaming the other for failed negotiations.

If anything seems certain, Briggs is a marked man now. Before he became champion, no one wanted any part of him. Some felt he was too dangerous while others claimed that they didn’t want to bother with him. Now he is a heavyweight champion, and boxers such as Sultan Ibragimov want his title.

If Briggs can defeat Ibragimov as quickly as Klitschko defeated Ray Austin, then perhaps there is a chance that Briggs can face Wladimir Klitschko this summer. Unfortunately, a Briggs/Klitschko bout seems unlikely, especially since Klitschko would rather face Valuev. So after Ibragimov, maybe Briggs can face the WBO number two ranked contender, Samuel Peter, a match-up few boxing fans would miss. Otherwise, perhaps Briggs could give Tony Thompson or Alexander Dimitrenko a title-shot.

Regardless of Briggs’ opponents, what if he loses his title? How many boxing fans would recognize the winner as today’s top heavyweight?

Article posted on 23.03.2007

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