Briggs-Ibragimov: The scale will tell the tale!

shannon briggs28.05.07 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: On June 2nd a potential slugfest of titanic proportions awaits anybody adventurous enough to purchase the PPV WBO title fight between champ Shannon Briggs and his #1 contender Sultan Ibragimov. From the opinions that I have read and seen most fans and opinion makers believe Briggs will be too much for Ibragimov and the champ will retain his title more then likely by a quick and quiet-less KO. While there is no denying that this sensational result is a possibility I believe there is more to this fight then meets the eye.

Most of the predictions I have seen are based on Ibragimov’s weak showing against Ray Austin with whom he fought to a draw in his second to last bout. Though I understand why most think this will be a factor as I have kept reminding readers and re-writing over and over:

Briggs is not the invincible force most make him out to be. In his career he has been both defeated by a third rate punching bag in Sedrick Fields, and knocked out by unknown Darrol Wilson.

He has also lost a clear decision to Jameel McCline a fighter who lost to Zuri Lawrence who was in his time an Ibragimov victim. The point of bringing this up is not so much to justify my reasoning for how the fight will go but to point out that judging fighters on a single fight or a single opponent is not a good way to gauge future results. After all before Briggs fight with Lyakhovich did not the same reasoning make most say, “Briggs is going down?”

The more important determinant should be to look at recurring styles and characteristics of each fighter throughout a few different fights to see where less glaring ( not overtly obvious ones a guy can quickly fix in camp before a bout) but more important weaknesses can be exploited. For Ibragimov the fact that he was out of shape for Austin cannot be a determinant factor because that has only been a weakness for one single bout. With a different camp, and visible results in his previous bout against Mora, it seems unlikely that the Ibragimov team will make the same blunder. If Ibragimov does come in heavy Friday night then it might hinder him in the one area where he must have a clear advantage, that of course being stamina.

For Briggs part though he claims he will be in good shape (and I don’t mean muscle but rather ability to fight well over a longer period) only the weigh in can give us a clue regarding how true that is. Throughout his career, though there have been understandable, and I stress this word, reasons, why the man had issues, the problem is he still had them. On Saturday I had the pleasure of watching Soviet great Victor Rybakov provide in-studio commentary for the Arthur Abraham vs Sebastien Demers fightcard. He pointed out very correctly that all fighters always have some sort of issues in each fight and while it makes their situation understandable it is their job to minimize those issues especially if they keep recurring.

After all, even if Bernard Hopkins never let those issues affect him they probably still existed in some form. However, since he did a good enough job to minimize them we believed there were none. I am sure if some nosy reporter would ask him about say the second Allen fight he will tell us he had a temperature that night or perhaps that his shoulder was busted for the Trinidad bout.

The point is that throughout certain fighter’s careers those problems are none-issues while with Briggs they have always played a more significant role. Early on there was mention of Briggs going to a fat farm to shed excess weight and better increase his stamina for this bout. While that sounds good by itself, remember the promises and claims made by the tag team duo of James Toney and Bill Blanks and the type of phenomenal shape they had “Lights Out” in. This example is precisely why the weigh-in will give us a better understanding of what we can expect when these guys get in the ring.

Now what happens in there will depend on the fighters themselves but I do have some idea of what we can expect. While Briggs will of course try to make himself more effective his “ace” ultimately has to be his quick lightning counterpunching. I Doubt Shannon will try to dictate the pace and jab his way to a points win and instead will look to set up Ibragimov like he did Lyakhovich. If Sultan plays that game early, then while he does have good speed and power himself, mass will not be on his side against an opponent who can match him in both aforementioned departments.

If the fight comes down to an early exchange, Briggs should hold the edge. Of course there are a few nuances where if Sultan can make Briggs miss or take a shot or two and take a knee, he might trick Briggs into gassing on trying to finish him and take it to him, but this is a very risky bet to bank on.

More then likely, however, I don’t think Jeff Mayweather and Sultan will base their primary game plan on going in wide open and loose handed. Sultan will try to make Briggs move and attempt to outbox him the way Lyakhovich did. While that gameplan was successful on Sergei’s part for the first part of the fight the reason he ultimately failed was that when the going got tough, and he had to stamina it up, he lost his patience and started lazily lingering on the inside with the Cannon. Even so had he had the experience to take a knee or rush to the center of the ring to fall over he would retain the belt by draw. This is why Sultan’s weight and conditioning are so imperative for him in this fight. Though he does have a very hot temper when fighting, the question is, can he stay composed and conditioned enough to listen to his trainer who knows what it takes to get the W and the WBO title.

Briggs for his part, if he does not get to impose himself real early, must force Sultan to lose his cool and do what Shannon needs him to do. The better the shape Shannon is in, the less weight that is hanging off his frame, the more opportunity and longevity he will have in doing this effectively. He must also consider what counter approach he can take against a trainer, in Jeff Mayweather, who knows his career inside out and the most likely approach he will mentor his opponent with.

I know people love final and conclusive predictions but I have never had the nerve to impose die-hard convictions on readers and then get embarrassed if they don’t come true. All fights are 50-50 but in the end only the fighters in the ring, after the bell sounds, know who has the better chance. The fight has the opportunity to repeat as a technical affair, much like the Lyakhovich vs Briggs bout, or it can turn into a blazing slugfest that will leave somebody laid out on the canvas. However, the direction should be more clear come weigh-in.

While I can definitely and clearly see how Briggs would win by KO, my gut tells me Ibragimov will steal it on points. Although hey maybe that is just my bias leaking through and convincing me the guy I am acquainted with will grab the belt. In any case, I predict that we will have a good fight whose outcome will be clearer seen once somebody reads the results off the scales.

Article posted on 29.05.2007

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