Can Brooklyn’s Shannon Briggs Lead the Way?

BY David A. Avila ON May 30, 2007
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Brooklyn seems to be a breeding ground for talented boxers and heavyweights like WBO titleholder Shannon Briggs but they tend to under perform when put to the test.

Not since Mike Tyson has a Brooklynite actually walked the walk of a real bad to the bone heavyweight. Now it’s mostly talk.

“I’m going to decapitate this kid,” said Briggs (48-4-1, 42 KOs).

It’s time for the brash talking to end as Brooklyn Briggs defends his title against silent Sultan Ibragimov (20-0-1, 17 KOs) at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Saturday June 2. It’s also time to see if the big talking champion can clear the heavyweight glut.

Since Lennox Lewis retired in 2003 a slew of heavyweights have laid claim to the heavyweight world title with most emanating from the former Soviet Union where Wladimir Klitschko, Oleg Maskaev and Ruslan Chagaev hold three versions of the title belts. The lone American is Briggs.

During fight night on one corner will be Briggs whose nickname “The Cannon” seems to epitomize the blasts he hurls verbally at opponents and their teams. On the other corner will be quiet and sullen Ibragimov, a former Olympic silver medal winner who hates talking probably more than taking a punch.

Inside the boxing ring all of the talking evaporates.

Briggs, 35, won’t be talking once the bell rings mainly because he has asthma and he needs all of the oxygen he can spare to go 12 rounds. A few months back he was accused of being “a coward” by his opponent’s management. It sticks to his craw.

During training Briggs fell ill and was sent to a doctor who advised him to rest and forget about his title defense against Ibragimov earlier in the year. The Russian fighter’s team accused Briggs of looking for a way out of the fight. They called him names via various Internet boxing web sites and demanded that he see a doctor of their choice to confirm it was indeed a real malady.

It was worse.

“The doctors diagnosed me with pneumonia,” said Briggs during a telephone conference call. “Asthma is one thing but pneumonia is another thing.”

Now Briggs is well and looking to avenge the name-calling.

Few fight fans saw Briggs take the WBO title from a Belarussian named Sergei Liakhovich last November. For 12 rounds the two circled each other and fired punches as if stuck in a muddy lagoon. It was a torturously boring affair.

Liakhovich had earlier beaten knockout puncher Lamon Brewster in a 12-round fight that was called the best heavyweight fight of 2006. He was knocked down in the seventh round but mustered up the courage and willpower to out-point Brewster and grab the WBO title.

Seven months later, Liakhovich defended his newly captured title against Briggs but seemed to realize that those cannonball punches fired could quickly end his consciousness. He picked and pecked his way through Briggs defense and seemed on his way to a win. With just a few seconds left in the entire fight, Briggs let loose with a howitzer and sent the Belarussian through the ropes and out of the ring for the count.

“It was a good punch,” said Liakhovich.

It was the most dramatic win in the year 2006 as Briggs seemed to have not an ounce of energy left in his large 268-pound body.

“He has good hand speed,” said Art Carillo a local boxing trainer who specializes in heavyweights. “Not a lot of stamina but good hand speed and hits hard.”

Just those two ingredients have kept the asthmatic Briggs atop the heavyweight pile with the WBO belt strapped around his waist. He’s brash he’s bold and he’s willing to let you know it.

Ibragimov is quiet.

Though the Russian recently disposed of California tough guy Javier Mora in just 46 seconds, you won’t hear about his knockout power or plaudits from him. You have to go to his management to get any kind of answers.

“I do my talking in the ring with my fists,” said Ibragimov, unwillingly at that.

Ibragimov, 32, is a typical no nonsense fighter from Eastern Europe who battled in club fights in far away regions against rugged opponents. They don’t understand about bragging and they don’t like talking about themselves. It’s bad manners to them.

“He don’t want to talk trash he’s a gentleman,” said Boris Grinberg who manages Ibragimov.

“I’ve never said bad things about Briggs,” said Ibragimov.

But Briggs has all this Brooklyn in him and that’s what they do.

“This is boxing homie this isn’t ballet,” warns Briggs.

The last time a Brooklyn heavyweight backed his talk was during Iron Mike Tyson’s heyday when the miniature-looking heavyweight terrorized the division with his pile driving fists.

Since then numerous Brooklyn heavyweights and boxers from other weight divisions have failed to measure up to the tough talk. Remember Riddick Bowe?

On Saturday, Briggs attempts to prove that the Brooklyn talk has more oomph behind it when he defends against Ibragimov.

“When I hit this little kid the kid is going to wish he never touched (boxing) gloves a day in his life,” said Briggs. “I’m serious man.”

Ibragimov, who’s never lost but drew with Ray Austin last year, pulls no punches when predicting the outcome of his title bid.

“It will be a tough, tough fight,” Ibragimov said.

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