Lyakhovich-Briggs: Fundamentals vs. Strength

lyakhovich13.10.06 - By Lucas White: On November 4th, Serguei Lyakhovich (23-1, 14 KO’s) will defend his WBO Heavyweight title against hard punching Shannon Briggs (47-4-1 41 KO’s) in Phoenix, AZ. This will be the Lyakhovich's first title defense since upsetting Lamon Brewster on April 1st. In what many called the fight of the year, Lyakhovich, 30, easily out boxed the more powerful Brewster and showed poise and skill in his victory. Briggs, though, is presently holding high rankings in all major sanctioning bodies, and brings to the table eleven straight knockout victories, many of them courtesy of his thunderous haymakers. This fight offers a wonderful style match up that pits two fighters of different styles and backgrounds against each other.

Briggs, 34, is the type of fighter that is not out of a fight until the final bell has sounded or he himself is knocked out.

He has incredible experience, including fights with George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Jameel McCline and Francois Botha. True, he lost a few of those fights but he brings tremendous knowledge from those losses. The only big name in Lyakhovich’s background , however, is Lamon Brewster.

Briggs’ power is his greatest asset. Even in his fight against Lennox Lewis, after being down twice, he demonstrated that he could still throw a powerful punch and continue to be a threat until he is counted out. With 11 straight KO victories he has proven that his power is still intact and can still threaten even the top fighters in the heavyweight division.

The biggest flaw Briggs’ retains is the fact that he can be out boxed. Even in his controversial victory to George Foreman, he was taken to school on several accounts. And, I’ll never be able to forget how often he was hit by Botha’s crisp one -two combinations over the course of their 10 round draw in 1999. Briggs' latest loss to Jameel McCline, whom later lost to Wladimir Klitschko and Chris Byrd, exposed Briggs’ lack of boxing ability. Briggs also does not react well to fatigue. If he can’t knock his opponents out quickly, he tends to tire out as the rounds progress. His recent wins were impressive, yet against relatively non-threatening and unknown opposition.

Lyakhovich came out of nowhere when he dethroned Brewster, whom many had believed to be the top titleholder. Using hand speed, good footwork, a stiff chin, plus that awkward lead right hand to the body, Liakhovic demonstrated that fundamentals can still rule the day in sport with many fighters coasting on athletic ability. His lead right hand to the body, on the surface, seems to be a liability, as most would consider it easily countered by a left hook. However, countering with a left hook can even be more dangerous because Lyakhovich uses his right hand lead to cock his body and throw a fast and crisp left hook of his own. The "White Wolf" ( Lyakhovich) uses this technique with success proving the old adage, “you can’t hook with a hooker.”

Lyakhovich also brings a skill into the ring that few fighters have. He knows his own limitations. In his fight with Brewster, while leading on points, he was on the receiving end of a few great body shots. Instead of standing there only to get hit more by the violent blows of Brewster, he took a knee. He lost the round, but lived to fight the rest of the fight and continue out pointing Brewster. Initially, I was concerned about the heart Lyakhovich was representing with this move. But later in the fight, I realized this to be a calculated maneuver that led to him to the win. Again, later in the fight, Lyakhovich was scoring with some amazing combinations and was seemingly very close to stopping Brewster. But, instead he took a step back out of harms way to rest and not punch himself out. His knowledge of his own limitations coupled with excellent combinations will prove difficult for any fighter in the division. I personally think that until he fights Wladimir Klitschko, the number one heavyweight in the world can only be speculated on.

Lyakhovich's one flaw, however, comes from lack of experience. Before his fight with Brewster, he was coming of a 16-month layoff. And before his latest win, the biggest name in his background is Dominick Guinn. All teh same, his poise under fire as demonstrated in the Brewster fight can over come lack of experience.

This fight has major implications for both fighters. If Lyakhovich wins, he will have beaten two well-known Americans consecutively and will be put in line for unification. If Briggs pulls the upset, he will certainly be the premier promotable name in the heavyweight division, which also surely means unification.

Having see both of them fight many times, I sincerely doubt this fight will reach 12 rounds. And if it does, it will be because Briggs has seriously worked on his conditioning. But should Briggs make it to the final bell, he will have most assuredly lost on points to the technical mastery of Lyakhovich. The best chance Briggs has is catch Lyakhovich on the chin several times early in the fight. If he can’t do that, Briggs will succumb to the extreme boxing prowess of Lyakhovich.

Prediction: Lyakhovich by 7th round KO.

Article posted on 14.10.2006

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