What Klitschko/Briggs Means to the Heavyweight Division

09.08.06 - By: Troy Ondrizek: Hasim Rahman and Wladimir Klitschko is indeed the most meaningful heavyweight fight out there. In fact Wladimir is ranked number one in The Ring rankings, and Rahman holds down the number two spot. This means the winner of that fight can be called the true champion of the division and will restart the lineage that ended with Lennox Lewis’ retirement three years ago. Not only is the Ring title at stake, but so is the credibility of the division. I have argued against the naive notion that the heavyweight division is poor in talent. The talent is there, hell it’s all over the world in the division; the problem is that the top fighters don’t meet in the ring against one another. That is the fault of fighters, promoters and T.V. execs alike. So we all know that Rahman and Klitschko needs to happen, but truth is we could be nine months to a year away from that fight, so why try to deny the fans an exciting fight by torpedoing Shannon Briggs’ chance at a title against Wladimir Klitschko?

The fight between Shannon and Wladimir isn’t signed yet, I have been informed on a few occasions exactly how close they are, but it is still in the works. However, why are HBO and Larry Merchant trying to take away my enjoyment of seeing two colossal men trying to decapitate the one another? Shannon hasn’t fought top competition, that is a fact, but Shannon is a very skilled fighter and carries “oh my God did you see that” power in both hands. Wladimir is the man in the division and is showing that skilled power punchers, defensive technicians, and crude sluggers pose no threat to him and his title. Wladimir is powerful and immensely skilled, his chin is a little shaky, but his determination to prove he is the best isn’t. In a not near as exciting title fight Hasim Rahman is fighting his mandatory Oleg Maskaev this coming Saturday, and then he must face the winner of the September 2nd fight between James Toney and Samuel Peter, but Rahman doesn’t have to fight them for eleven months. Rahman gets an optional defense of his belt; most likely in China, and most likely not against Wladimir Klitschko. So why deny Klitschko his opportunity to shine in November by trying to force a fight between Rahman and Klitschko early next year. The fight with Rahman could still happen, but let Klitschko get his optional title defense out of the way first.

As much as we complain about the caliber of Nicolay Valuev’s opponents at least Valuev fights fairly often. Valuev took the WBA crown from John Ruiz last December and has fought in June and is looking to fight again in October. Between last October and this October Klitschko will have fought only once, and in that same time frame Rahman will have fought twice and Valuev three times. So a defense for Wladimir in November is exactly what he and we need, even if it is against Briggs and not Rahman. Shannon Briggs is a far bigger name than Monte Barrett and Oleg Maskaev. As for Briggs himself, Shannon is a more dangerous fighter than the other two challengers combined, and Briggs is hands down far more fan-friendly of a fighter and his charisma and ability to self-promote outshines any heavyweight in the game. Sure purist can complain about Briggs only knocking out 11 straight opponents and the biggest names being an old Ray Mercer, an old Dickey Ryan, and a fat Chris Koval, but Barrett lost his last fight to Hasim Rahman in which Barrett forgot to fight the first eleven rounds and seemed like he was just posing for pictures the entire time. Meanwhile Maskaev is on a nice little winning streak himself, but does a victory over Sinan Samil Sam really deserve a mandatory title shot? Lets be honest, none of the recent title challengers deserved their shots, and that includes WBO titlist Sergei Liakhovich and WBA titlist Nicolay Valuev.

I appreciate Larry Merchant and his agonizingly slow rants just as much as the next man, but he can leave his personal agenda out of it. Rahman and Klitschko will not be nearly as exciting as Briggs and Klitschko, and damnit; I want excitement right now in the heavyweight division. Excitement should be just as important as defeating a top ten fighter for a higher ranking when it comes to getting a title shot. Not being an exciting fighter has cost the likes of Calvin Brock a shot at the title. It all boils down to these men being entertainers and us fans shelling out our cash for their services. I would much rather see Briggs and Klitschko relive Briggs/Lewis than I would see another installment of Calvin Brock and Timur Ibragimov. Plus a victory in a thrilling slugfest can do wonders for the winner. For if Wladimir emphatically defeats Briggs, and then we’ll have a champion to get behind. If Briggs capitalizes on his better than a punchers chance against Klitschko, then we have a champion we can get behind. Rahman just needs to focus on beating Oleg Maskaev right now, and then the winner of that fight can face the winner of Briggs and Klitschko.

I am a fan of a unified division, I am a fan of the best and most deserving fighters fighting one another, but every once in a while a Lyle/Foremen style fight is a great thing to experience, and Klitschko/Briggs could be just that. So I say; bring Briggs on and let the two slug it out. For in this era of much talent, but with watered down defenses, at least this title fight can give us something to cheer about. I also want to leave you with this, remember when Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster didn’t deserve their shot at Klitschko’s title?

Article posted on 09.08.2006

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