March 28, 1998 – Atlantic City Convention Center.
Lennox Lewis, 32-1 and the reigning WBC heavyweight champion, met Shannon Briggs, 30-1 and the reigning lineal heavyweight champion. Lewis was coming off a smashing first-round taking out of Andrew Golota. Briggs was coming off a controversial decision win over living legend George Foreman.
When the two young heavies collided, the action proved memorable, of the short and sweet variety. Two big punchers going at it is always fun, especially when it’s two big men going at it, and Lewis and Briggs did not disappoint.
Both men came out with intent in the opening round, Lewis, perhaps not in the best of condition, looking for the KO that was also very much on Briggs’ mind. The fireworks began at the end of the session, as a Briggs left hook rocked Lewis, with “The Cannon” then blazing away, sending Lewis reeling with a right to the head. Lewis went back to his corner with an open mouth and a look of concern.
Round two saw Lewis unload some heft shots while he also put Briggs in a headlock as he clinched. Lennox was somewhat sluggish if powerful, while the straight-up Briggs was defiant when taking what Lewis landed on him. Then, in the final minute of the round, Briggs exploded, his head shots forcing Lewis to cover up. It was 2-0 to Briggs.
But Lewis, having a better gas tank than Briggs, took over in the third, his shots opening a cut inside Briggs’ mouth. Lewis, fatigued but ever-dangerous, dropped Briggs twice in the fourth, and the end seemed near. Briggs was surprising with his courage, bravery and ability to fight back from what seemed like doom land. Lewis finally got the win in the fifth, when Briggs, taking head shot after head shot from Lennox but managing to fire back, was dropped on huis back by another huge right hand. Once again Briggs hauled himself upright. Then, with Briggs taking more shots and with referee Frank Cappuccino hovering, Lewis got the stoppage as Briggs sent himself down with a missed left hook. The stoppage might not have been the most satisfying, but this fight was great entertainment.
Lewis went on to unify the heavyweight titles with a win over Evander Holyfield, while Briggs would go on to win the WBO heavyweight title in 2006. Briggs had some 36 fights after his losing effort against Lewis, yet it could be argued that Briggs gave us his finest effort on this day 25 years ago.
Lewis TKO5 Briggs was perhaps a poor man’s Foreman-Lyle. But we’d feel all the richer if we got such world heavyweight title action today.