Boxing

Liakhovich vs Briggs Nov. 4 on Showtime

NEW YORK (Sept. 14, 2006) – With all four world heavyweight champions hailing from the former Soviet Union, much has been made of America’s lack of heavyweight mettle. Can Brooklyn’s Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs crash the Eastern-bloc party when he challenges World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight titleholder Sergei “The White Wolf” Liakhovich on Saturday, Nov. 4? You will have to tune in to the sensational match up, a Don King-promoted fight card airing live at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING from Chase Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks.

When Oleg Maskaev knocked out Hasim Rahman recently, the United States – a nation that spawned such greats as John L. Sullivan, the two Jack's, Johnson and Dempsey, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali among others – found itself without a world heavyweight champion for the first time in memory.

“My day is coming, and I am going to give my all,” said Briggs, the WBO No. 3 contender (47-4-1, 41 KOs). “I respect Liakhovich. He is the man. I regard him as the true champion because he beat Lamon Brewster, who beat Wladimir Klitschko. I am in a tough fight, but I am going in there to knock Liakhovich out.’’..

The heavy-handed Briggs has incorporated a “seek and destroy” mindset during an 11-fight winning streak (all by knockout) dating back to March 2003. The days of Briggs feeling out a foe or pacing himself are over.

“The people want to see blood. They want action,” Briggs said of his newfound method of operating. “I hate to sound barbaric because I am not barbaric outside of the ring, but this is a job and I treat is as a job. The customers are getting what they want.”

The heavy hitter also has become heavy. Bleached-gold dreadlocks and all, Briggs weighed 273 pounds when he scored a third-round TKO over Chris Koval in his last start on May 24, 2006, in New York. Briggs was 269 pounds when he knocked out Dick Ryan in the fourth round on March 18, 2006, in Fort Smith, Ark. Scales have been banned in Briggs’ home. He will not step on one at the gym.

“I hate scales,” said Briggs, best known for taking a 12-round decision over George Foreman on Nov. 22, 1997. “I do not weigh myself anymore. I am simply trying to perfect the art of the one-punch KO.”

Liakhovich (23-1, 14 KOs), of Scottsdale, Ariz., by way of Vitebsk, Belarus, will make the first defense of the title he won on a 12-round unanimous decision over American and then-WBO champion Lamon Brewster in an excellent scrap April 1, 2006, in Cleveland, on SHOWTIME.

In what is sure to be a candidate for Fight of the Year, Liakhovich entered the bout as a huge underdog having remained inactive for the previous 16 months. The surprisingly light-footed and quick Liakhovich won the last five rounds on one scorecard, the final four on another and three out of the last four rounds on the third card to win the championship bout 117-110, 115-112 and 115-113.

“I answered Brewster every time,” said Liakhovich, who went down in the seventh round of a see-saw brawl. “Then, he felt my power.

“Brewster was a great champion. He hits real hard with power and has a lot of will. But, after the fourth round, I knew I was controlling the fight. Brewster hits like a mule. I felt like I did the right thing when I took a knee at the end of round seven. I almost sent him down twice, too.

“I am not looking past Briggs. I said after my last fight I would give Brewster a rematch after he had time to recover. If we fight again, it would be an easy win for me. But my main goal is to unify the titles.”

Liakhovich has won seven in a row, including a 10-round unanimous decision over Dominick Guinn on Dec. 3, 2004, in Atlantic City. A big and physically strong boxer-puncher with first-rate talent, Liakhovich outpointed the then-highly regarded Guinn 97-93 and 96-94 twice.

Little was known about Liakhovich entering the Guinn bout. However, following his unrelenting throw-down with the hard-hitting Brewster, he has been acknowledged as a naturally athletic, patient, yet tough and durable guy. Liakhovich possesses nice range and size to go along with thudding power. He proved his heart by participating in perhaps the most exciting, and vicious heavyweight match of 2006.

In his last two starts, Liakhovich also has displayed impressive overall talent and skills. Not easily discouraged, he appears to wake up when hit. He prefers to shoot combinations from all angles, but may be at his best when he can press forward with a ramrod left jab and work the inside. An excellent body puncher, Liakhovich surprised some fans in the Guinn match by effectively moving off of his combinations and exhibiting nimble footwork for a big man. At six-feet, four-inches tall, Liakhovich is the same height as Briggs.

One of four European heavyweight champions, Liakhovich is a quiet, soft-spoken individual, but does not shy away from speaking his mind.

“Nobody wants to fight me, and that is a problem,” Liakhovich said. “This is not about a belt. Everybody saw what I did to Brewster. The heavyweight division is not bad. It is not great but it is good. It has pretty good fighters, but not great fighters. Somebody needs to step up and show everybody who the real heavyweight champion is. That is what I am trying to do. I want to unify.”

“Right now, there are no U.S. champions in the heavyweight division,” Liakhovich continued. “But, all of us who own world titles deserve them. All of us work hard and we are smart.”

Managed by Ivaylo Gotzev and trained by the respected Kenny Weldon, Liakhovich wrestled for three years before switching to boxing at age 12. He had an outstanding amateur career (135-15) and was the 1996 Olympic Games representative for Belarus at super heavyweight. He drew a bye in his first fight, but dropped a disputed 10-9 decision to Paea Wolfgramm of Tonga in his second.

“One second I was ahead by nine points, the next second I lost by one point,” said Liakhovich, who still is befuddled by the decision. “Paea won a silver medal, after a loss to Klitschko.”

Liakhovich turned pro at age 22 on Christmas Day 1998, in Minsk, Belarus. His initial three starts were in Russia. He moved to the U.S. in 1999. Liakhovich suffered his lone loss to Maurice Harris on June 1, 2002, in his 17th start. Behind on the cards, the Russian was dropped in the ninth round and counted out at 1:31.

Before signing to defend against Briggs, Liakhovich called out the world heavyweight champions. “The guy I want is Wladimir Klitschko,” he said. “But he doesn’t want tough fights. He won’t fight me.’’

Ironically, Briggs thought his next assignment would be against Klitschko, but the fight against the International Boxing Federation (IBF) kingpin did not transpire.

“I was led to believe for months that it would happen,” Briggs said. “Wladimir is an excellent boxer and a terrific offensive fighter, but defensively and mentally, he is not there. He avoided me.

“My career has had its share of ups and downs, but I am thrilled to be in the spot I am in. It is going to be a great fight. Liakhovich is a very skillful guy. This is a much harder fight than Klitschko.”

Do not look for Briggs, a guy who moved in with an aunt in the same tough Brownsville, Brooklyn neighborhood that spawned former heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe, to back down.

“I was an only child, but I was pretty much like a homeless kid,” Briggs said. “My mom became sick and had a drug problem. I was in the streets. I would stay with relatives sometimes, friends, sometimes a train station. I would go from place to place, but I always made a way. I am a survivor.”

Despite the environment, Briggs avoided major trouble and got into boxing. He went to a gym the first time in his mid-teens and began boxing as an amateur at 18. The 1992 U.S. National amateur fighter, Briggs was talented enough to take a shot at the ‘92 Olympic Games, but a hand injury ended the dream.

“Boxing saved my life,” he said. “It got me off of the street. It gave me a place to go. It was not my own home, but it was a safe place where I found some type of structure. I was around people and not just running the streets and getting into trouble. Tough times came about, too, but I was fortunate.”

Briggs turned pro at age 20 on July 24, 1992, and won his initial 25 fights. He did not lose a single round, and scored 31 knockdowns and 20 knockouts during that span. His first loss came on a third-round knockout to Darroll Wilson on March 15, 1996. Wilson scored a spectacular one-punch knockdown and Briggs was counted out at 2:17. Briggs rebounded to win five in a row, including the controversial majority decision that retired Foreman and earned Briggs the linear heavyweight title.

On March 28, 1998, Briggs met Lennox Lewis in Atlantic City and nearly won the World Boxing Council (WBC) title in dramatic fashion. In the bout’s opening seconds, he staggered Lewis with a right hand that nearly knocked him through the ropes. But, Lewis wound up winning by fifth-round knockout.

The Brooklyn native went 2-0-1 before losing a shocking eight-round nod to Sedreck Fields on April 27, 2000, in New York. “Although I thought I won, losing to Fields was very embarrassing,” said Briggs, who came up short by upset scores 77-75 twice and 76-76.

Briggs won his next four starts by first-round knockout before dropping a lopsided decision to Jameel McCline on April 27, 2002 in New York. McCline triumphed 99-90 on all three scorecards. “I had a back injury,” said Briggs, who weighed a then-career-high 268. “I fought at 30 percent.”

Briggs, who has fairly fast hands and decent boxing skills, has not lost since. He is managed by Bonnie Nelson, co-trained by James Bashir and Milton Lacroix, and promoted by Don King Productions.

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING’s Steve Albert will call the action from ringside alongside expert analyst Al Bernstein. Jim Gray will serve as roving reporter with special correspondent Karyn Bryant. The executive producer of the SHOWTIME telecast will be David Dinkins, Jr. with Bob Dunphy directing.

For information on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and “ShoBox: The New Generation” telecasts, including complete fighter bios and records, related stories and more, please go the SHOWTIME website at http://www.sho.com/boxing.


ABOUT SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING celebrates 20 years of hard-hitting, explosive programming in 2006. In March 1986, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING was born when “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler defeated John “The Beast” Mugabi in a spectacular and unforgettable 11th-round knockout in Las Vegas. Since that time, the network has aired some of the most historic and significant events in the sport including both Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson bouts.

Always at the forefront of boxing, SHOWTIME has set itself apart by telecasting “great fights, no rights” on the first Saturday of every month. SHOWTIME is the first network to regularly deliver live boxing in High Definition. In addition, SHOWTIME continues to be a pioneer in sports television with a number of interactive features across multiple platforms making SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecasts the most enjoyable, immersive viewing experience for the boxing audience.

Article posted on 14.09.2006



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