It’s Something About the Hair: Shannon Briggs Takes His Heavyweight Quest to the Norfolk Scope

Briggs vs Haye? By Neil Dennis - A lot of people over the years have been eager to dismiss Shannon Briggs. When he lost his undefeated record to Darroll Wilson, they tried to write him off. When he lost a decision to journeyman Sedrick Fields, they tried to write him off. When he lost his WBO heavyweight title to Sultan Imbragimov, they still tried to write him off. Still, at 38 years of age, Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs remains. With not one, but two fights scheduled in May, the man is eager to once again prove his critics wrong that he doesn’t have a viable place in the modern heavyweight landscape.

“They want to write me off because, I don’t know, it must be something about the hair,” Briggs says with laugh. “Yeah, it’s something about the hair they want to write off, but I’m not going for it.”

That hair of course, being Shannon’s trademark blonde dreadlocks, often tied up when in the ring. But what cannot be dismissed is the record that Briggs brings to the table. He has 49 wins out of his 56 fights, with 43 of those wins coming by way of knockout. Included in that group he’s knocked out are such elite fighters as Ray Mercer and Sergei Lyakovich. He is a two-time champion, once following his KO of Lyahkovich and once after taking a decision over George Foreman. Even at 38, he is still going after anyone and everyone willing to fight him..

“I’m a gun-for-hire,” Briggs says matter-of-factly.

On May 28 at the Norfolk Scope, Briggs faces Rob “The All-American Prizefighter” Calloway. It is the second fight in the ICB Knockout Series being held at the Scope throughout the summer. With a fairly sizable record of his own of 70-11-2 with 57 knockouts, Calloway cannot be underestimated. This is on top of the fact that just a week earlier Briggs is set to face Dominique Alexander at The Capitale in New York City. The idea of having fights so close together doesn’t faze Briggs in the least.

“I’m going to fight the 21st and I’m going to fight the 28th,” Briggs states proudly. “I’m going to have a fight in June. I’m going to have a fight in July. I’m going to take August off and then fight in September. I’m looking at fighting in [Madison Square] Garden in September.”

Of course, there was a time when fighting often against good competition was the norm, especially with Brooklyn fighters. One needs only to look at the records of such legendary names as Rocky Graziano or Al “Bummy” Davis, who would fight every few weeks. Or even flash forward to Brooklyn natives Mark Breland and Mike Tyson, who thought nothing of fighting on an almost monthly basis in mid-eighties. That’s the kind of mindset Briggs has put himself into.

“It was definitely something that coming up I aspired to be, as far as following in the footsteps of great champions,” says Briggs. “Floyd Patterson, Mark Breland,…you know, Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe. So many great fighters came from Brooklyn. I am definitely trying following in the footsteps of great fighters.”

For those unaware of Brigg’s career, those steps began in an amateur career where he won the New York Golden Gloves, Empire State Games, and in 1992 became the United States Amateur Heavyweight Champion. He did lose the finals of the 1991 Pan American games, but he lost to three-time Olympic gold medalist Felix Savon. Briggs can hardly complain about losing to Savon looking back.

“I only had 33 amateur fights, I won five or six titles, but I excelled pretty fast,” Briggs remarks. “In my eighteen amateur fight, I fought Felix Savon. [It was] terrifying. It was an experience that was the beginning of showing I had perseverance, that I didn’t give up easy. I lost though. I was knocked out in the first round on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Still, if you have anyone coming into a championship with eighteen amateur fights, that would have devastated them and they would’ve quit. But, you know I still remained. I got back in the gym afterwards. I had my doubts and I was embarrassed, but I didn’t give up. I came right back after that.”

Briggs went professional in 1992 and racked up an impressive 25-0 record before he met up with another top prospect named Darroll Wilson. Unfortunately, Briggs was the one who lost out in that test of young wills. Despite hurting Wilson early, Briggs was knocked out in the third round. Again, this was not a time for Briggs to fall apart.

“I’m asthmatic and probably I shot my load too early in the first two rounds,” Briggs reflects. “I was hyperventilating and I was out of breath, but I bounced back…I learned more importantly who your friends are, so far as in boxing or entertainment period. When you’re skyrocketing to the top like I did, you get hangers-on and ‘friends’ or stuff like that. But after that fight, a lot of people jumped off the wagon. It was a wake-up call. And again, it was one of those things for me where I bounced back. A few fights later, I fought George Foreman and I beat him for the linear heavyweight championship. Again, I didn’t break.”

He did fall on some setbacks, however. Lennox Lewis knocked him out in five rounds the very next fight. He was then given a debatable draw with Francois Botha and even more debatable loss to Sedrick Fields. It looked pretty bleak for Briggs’s career. However, once again as Briggs says, he “didn’t break”.

“Botha was a tough fight for me because we took him lightly,” Briggs says. “It was a learning experience for me because I took him lightly and he showed me what he was made of. Sedrick Fields…a guy with a terrible record. I won that fight and I was very upset with the judges and the boxing commission. It was the week of the Arturo Gatti-Joey Gamache fight, and I thought they gave me a raw deal. Worst case scenario it was a draw, but I thought I won that fight.”

Briggs took out his frustrations in the ring, winning sixteen of his next seventeen fights by way of knockout. This included a third round stoppage of fringe contender Dicky Ryan and a brutal seventh round knockout of former WBO champion Ray Mercer. All this lead to what Briggs considers his “best moment so far” in the ring: his twelfth-round knockout of WBO champion Sergei Lyahkovich.

“I haven’t always given a hundred percent, but when I have I have had great results,” Briggs admits. “I was going for knocking him out in the first round; and if you look at the fight, I had him hurt bad. But again, my asthma kicked in and I was breathing heavily after the first round until the last round. My trainer Chuck MacGregor told me I was losing on all the cards and that I had to go for the knock out or I was going to lose. So, all I could think about in my head was, ‘This is my last opportunity. This is my last chance.’ I kept saying in my head, ‘Leave it all here. Save nothing for the dressing room.’ That’s my motto.”

Now, on a renewed march toward what he sees as an inevitable match-up with one of the Klitschkos (or David Haye, as he has called him out in a recent letter on East Side Boxing), Briggs looks to build himself back up the ranks and fast. His goal is nothing less than making himself a three-time heavyweight champion. As the last American heavyweight champion, he feels it is his obligation to get the titles back.

“[The Klitschkos] are not really exciting as far as their style,” says Briggs. “They don’t put it on the line. They don’t entertain the fans. [People] want to see knockouts from their heavyweights. They want to see guys sprawled out on the ground. They don’t want to see jab, jab, hold. They don’t care about boxing exhibitions, you know? If they were devastating punchers, people would want to see them fight. They’re running from me because I am a big, strong, experienced, fast heavyweight. They don’t want that. That want guys who lack in experience, lack in speed, and lack in size.”

For Briggs, Calloway exists as a real test in getting towards his goal of securing that title fight he believes he deserves. Fighting at the Norfolk Scope, a venue best known for being the “house” of Pernell “Sweetpea” Whitaker, Briggs knows he needs to put on a show. It is called the ICB “Knockout” Series after all. That’s a tough task when you consider that one week earlier Briggs fights Dominique Alexander in the main event of a card for his own promotion company The Empire Sports & Entertainment at The Capitale.

“Hasim Rahman, a stablemate of mine, was scheduled to fight, but I replaced him on the show,” Briggs explains. “[Calloway] is a good guy though, fought with a lot of champions and former champions. It’s good for me, because he really knows his way around the ring well. At the same time, it’s great for him to pull off an upset beating Shannon Briggs. It’s my goal to stop that. It’s like I told him at the press conference, I’m on a fast track to gaining a title.”

So, when it’s all said and done where will Shannon Briggs be when his boxing days are done? With supporting roles in Transporter 2 and The Wackness, Briggs looks forward to a career in film after he’s done all that he wants to do in the ring.
“I want to break into the movies,” Briggs beams. “Not just be in them, but I want to produce them. The sports and entertainment company I started with my partners Gregory D. Cohen and Barry Honig called The Empire…that’s one of our future goals.”

In the meantime, Briggs will keep moving toward his goal of being heavyweight champion one more time. He doesn’t see it as easy, but it is something he is convinced he will do, and in the not-too-distant future.
“You haven’t seen the best of me,” Briggs says. “You know, the best of me hasn’t come out yet, but it will come out soon. When it comes back and when it happens, you’ll see the great Shannon Briggs. We’re going to shock the world when it’s going to be me in with Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko.”

Article posted on 11.05.2010

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