Shannon Briggs vs. Sergei Lyakovich: Look for Sergei To Win By Easy Knockout

02.10.06 - By Derek Kelley: With Sergei Lyakovich's recent announcement that he'd be defending his WBO heavyweight title against Shannon Briggs (47-4-1, 41 KO's), the decision to fight him hasn't sit so well with me. Out of all the boxers for Lyakhovich to fight, why take on someone like Briggs, someone who hasn't fought a top level fighter since taking on Jameel McCline in 2002. Even then, Briggs was totally dominated, in losing a 10-round decision. Granted, since then, he's won 11 consecutive fights, yet only one of them, a 44-year old Ray Mercer, is against a halfway decent opponent, but come on, Mercer was hardly a top tier fighter at this point in his career. Besides that bout, I'd have to go all the way back to Briggs' fight with Botha in 1999, a fight that ended up a 10-round draw, to come up with another good heavyweight.

In my estimation, calling this fight a draw, was a gift for Briggs, as I had Botha winning by a comfortable margin. Beyond that fight, Briggs was stopped in the 5th round by Lennox Lewis in 1998, in an exciting fight, which saw Lewis briefly hurt, before coming back and knocking Briggs down three times. The year before, in 1997, Briggs won his most important bout in his career, a very controversial 12-round majority decision over a 47-year old George Foreman, who was fighting the final fight of his career. Many people at ringside, me included, had Foreman winning the bout easily.

Other than that, Briggs lost to Sedreck Fields, a journeyman type fighter, in 2000. This fight, resulted in a lot of people writing Briggs off as a serious contender. Whatever the case, after that, Briggs goes on his journeyman tour of the U.S.A., and fights average opposition, such as Russell Chasteen, to get a fight with upcoming hot prospect Jameel McCline, who had come off good wins over Michael Grant and Lance Whitaker.

The fight wasn't deserved by Briggs, in my opinion, but this was a golden opportunity for Briggs to become a top contender in the Heavyweight division, and what does Briggs do? He loses a lopsided unanimous decision by scores of 99-90 and only manages to win one round on the judges' scorecard. No doubt, McCline is a beatable opponent with a decent chin, average power, and a leaky defense, you know, nothing special as a fighter but a solid top 15 fighter, nonetheless. Once again, Briggs's shot at heavyweight stardom is ousted in a disappointing performance. For me, I'll give credit to Briggs for never giving up and continuing to fulfill his dream to once again capture heavyweight glory.

I do like his approach of staying active by fighting journeyman to build up his confidence and KO rate, but he hasn't even fought a real test to actually earn his shot at a heavyweight champion, that's my problem with him. For the most part, Mercer could be considered a fringe contender, at best, but he was no way a good to gauge to measure Briggs's performance, considering that Mercer, who previously had a good chin while in his prime, by the time he fought Briggs, he was old and had been previously badly beaten by Wladimir Klitschko, three years earlier in 2002. Other than that, Briggs has also been bulking up to near the 280 limit, which won't improve power by much, if at all, but will certainly hurt his stamina, as it will only decrease his ability to move in the ring.

Quite frankly, Briggs hasn't faced an elite fighter since his fight with Lennox Lewis. At the same time, Briggs has become accustomed to fighting easy opponents, ones that he can KO early. Against someone like Lyakhovich, who has an excellent chin, it's a not a recipe for success from what I see of the future. Of course, I'm not saying Briggs can't go the distance, but his recent history of blowing out opposition, while good for his ego, could possibly give his the false sense that he doesn't need to do the roadwork, or do the sparring that is needed to build up stamina for the fight. No, I'm not confident in Briggs, not when he steps up to the plate to face real contenders, much less an actual heavyweight champion like Lyakhovich.

To his credit, Sergei Lyakovich put on a great performance against Lamon Brewster. The fight itself was one of the most exciting bouts of all time, with both fighters going toe to toe at center ring from start to finish. Any questions about Lyakhovich having a china chin disappeared after the fight. Incredibly, Lyakovich looked to have Brewster out on his feet a few times in their fight but was unable to finish him off, perhaps due to the fact that Lyakovich smothered his own power by trying to fight on the inside. Briggs' chin, however, has seemed very suspect during his career. Most notably, losing by 3rd round knockout in 1996 to Darroll Wilson, a good puncher but certainly, not a great one, and, of course, as I mentioned earlier, being stopped by Lennox Lewis in 1998. Briggs being knocked down McCline, in 2002, doesn't indicate to me that Brigg's chin has made any substantial improvements over the years. It's clear, at least to me, that Briggs is never going to have a good chin. Am I saying it's as bad as some like Wladimir Klitschko? No, it isn't that bad, but then again, Briggs doesn't have Wladimir's over all athletic ability, youth or ring movement, either. If he had those things, it wouldn't matter, Briggs would have been a champion long ago, perhaps dating back to 1998.

Lyakovich, like anyone, can be hurt but he has a lot of heart to survive the tough times in a bout. Unquestionably, Briggs going to have to pound Lyakovich in very one-sided fashion for a few rounds, without taking too many power shots in return, to even have a shot at beating Lyakovich. Lyakovich has a very good body attack that can easily wear out Briggs. Also, Briggs isn't known for having great stamina, and is also easy to hit. Briggs already has a disadvantage coming into the fight in the chin department. Likewise, Briggs's arsenal isn't as varied as Lyakovich's. Sure, Briggs has a good jab but he tends to headhunt way too much and is open for power shots, if he doesn't land first on his opponent.

Lyakovich can box as well as brawl, if needed. He uses his jab extensively and keeps his opponent's guessing by going the body and head, sometimes in the same combo. Lyakhovich has a better workrate than Briggs, as well. Though, Briggs has very good power but so does Lyakovich. Briggs may have an edge in power but it's not likely to matter, since it'll take more than a few big punches to take Lyakovich down. Essentially, that is Briggs' biggest problem in this fight. The only way beat Lyakhovich, is to slug away at him round after round with nonstop power shots, and quite frankly, Briggs doesn't have nearly good enough stamina to do it, even for more than a few rounds.

This is a golden opportunity for Briggs, a kind of a once in a life time shot that most fighter could only dream of having. Believe me, it couldn't come at a better time in this wide open heavyweight division.

Briggs would have had a better shot at Wladimir Klitschko, in my estimation, because of Klitschko's weak chin, but I still believe Briggs would get stopped early in that fight, possibly as earliest as the 2nd round. Briggs would force Wladimir to slug, and would be ill-prepared for the kind offensive arsenal that Wladimir returns fire with. His chin maybe weak, but he still has the best overall power and offensive skills in the division by far and away. Against Valuev, Briggs would likely get jabbed to death and stopped midways through the fight. Out of all the heavyweight champions, Briggs would have the best shot of beating Maskaev, largely because of Maskaev's questionable chin and his average boxing skills. Either way, I see all 4 heavyweight title holders stopping Briggs.

As for Briggs' chances against Lyakhovich, I don't consider them good. Briggs is somewhat drunk on his own power, and will likely come into the bout thinking he can just mow down Lyakovich with a few big hooks and right hands, yet when Lyakovich is still standing by the end of the 3rd round, I see big trouble for Briggs. At that point, Lyakovich will take the fight to a badly fading Briggs, beating him at will, almost like a defenseless punching bag. In a sense, he will be defenseless, since Briggs will be too tired to hold up his huge arms and will take serious punishment.

Prediction: Lyakovich TKO 4 Briggs.

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Article posted on 02.10.2006

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