By James Slater: Though 39-year-old WBC heavyweight king Vitali Klitschko won in dominant, commanding style over 38-year-old challenger Shannon Briggs last night in Hamburg, Germany, the game – very game – challenger deserves a ton of respect from the boxing world. “The Cannon” also deserves an apology from this writer, (one I now give him) due to the way he hung in there and refused to quit against the punishing fists of Vitali.
Upon seeing the official weigh-in, when Briggs tipped-in at a too-heavy 262-pounds, I felt disappointment and was sure Briggs would either be KO’d last night, or he would run out of gas and opt to remain on his stool when his tank was empty. Boy, was I wrong! Instead, in one of his gutsiest performances in years, if not of his entire career, Briggs sucked it up, showed amazing resiliency and bravery and made it to the 12th and final bell. He may not have won a round, but the former linear champ won the respect of the fans, and of Klitschko.
Showing the kind of chin I never knew he had (how impressive does Lennox Lewis’ 5th -round stoppage over Briggs look now?), Briggs ate right hands from hell without falling. For doing that he earned his paycheque. Briggs also earned the right to retire with his head held high, knowing he gave his all in his final fight. For surely, after taking the punishment he took last night, Briggs has nowhere to go but into retirement. He’ll never be a Hall of Famer, but Briggs – during an era where fat, out of shape heavyweight title challengers enter the ring intending only to either get out as unscathed as they can or to look for a soft spot on the canvas – should be remembered for his October 16th 2010 bravery and heart.
The big question is, what next for “Dr. Iron Fist?” Odlanier Solis and (former Wladimir Klitschko victim) Ray Austin meet in December, with the winner to face the WBC boss. That should be the huge Cuban, and a Solis challenge of Vitali would be interesting. But could the unbeaten 30-year-old take the kind of bombs Briggs took last night? One man who surely would not be able to take those type of hard shots, but maybe wouldn’t have to due to his speed and agility, is WBA ruler David Haye. Will “The Hayemaker,” finally, after he’s taken care of Audley Harrison in November (as he surely will, in a round or two in my opinion – for what it’s worth!) agree to get it on with the elder Klitschko brother?
Solis and Haye aside (and maybe Tomasz Adamek), there aren’t too many interesting fights out there for the superbly-conditioned 39-year-old. I was right about one thing when making my prediction for last night’s title fight: when I wrote how the era of Klitschko dominance would not come to an end against Briggs. At this rate, both Vitali and Wladimir will go out only when they are good and ready, never having lost another fight!
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