Going The Distance, Down The Sinful Mile

BY Phil Woolever ON October 11, 2010
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I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg

---John Lennon

ALONG THE REEPERBAHN, HAMBURG- Some might say that since boxing isknown as the red-light district of sports, sweet scientistsshouldfind themselvesquite at home for the Vitali Klitschko-Shannon Briggs affairnear Europes largest red light district itself.

Hamburg is a high-finance harborwhere privilege and perversion have intersected like thefast flowingAlster andElberivers more than once or twice. In the colorfulSt.Pauli district the Reeperbahn, or Sinful Mile (Der Sundige Meile) is a heralded trail of funky bars, sex shops andmany strange, questionableencounters.

Since returning from a four year layoff in the winter of 2008, 39 year old Klitschko has heard his heavyweight campaign criticized as yet another sinful, sluggingtrek through the scum land of present day heavyweight boxing.

Many critics considerBriggs latest opportunityan obscenity in itself, proclaiming the 38 year old barnstormer unworthy.

Here, no stones are cast. Fate, the grand hustler, smiles many ways.

Photogenic and physically imposingBriggs, 51-5-1 (45),hyped enough threats and provided enough hoopla to help make anothersuccessful, blueprintpromotion for the Klitschko brothers K2 company.Either Klitschko may be able to carry a huge boxing event by themselves around here,but it doesnt hurt if theres an interesting looking opponent to put on the poster.

Hamburg is listed by many tourism toutsas one ofthe hottestglobal party spots, and the exceptionally scenicinternational port has maintained a profitable profileamidst heaping helpings of old money and new euros. Manydoses of disposable incomewill be spent this weekend in the suburban stretches ofthe Altona zone, where O2 World arena hosts Klitschkos WBC heavyweight title defense against resilient recycled challenger Briggs.

It will be a big surprise if Briggs can make a two-way rumble out of the bout, while the told ya theyre bums chorus will resumeshould Klitschko fail to drop him hard. If the North American challenger takes the belt back to Brooklynit would probably be boxings upset of the year.

I wont make the mistake of taking Briggs lightly, promised Klitschko witha serious, shadowedgame face on. He is a former championcapable of giving a very tough fight. I have prepared for thatwhether I get the chance I hope for to stop him early or if I must box for 12 rounds. Either way, I am ready for whatever challenge he presents and I will show I deserve to hold the same title as many other great fighters.

Im going to knock the ignorance out of him, mocked Briggs, playing off his recent theme accusing Klitschko of insulting his asthmatic condition.This has been my best training camp ever. Right after I beat Vitali they can bring on Wladimir.

There did not seem to be any deep resentments as thepair posed closely for publicity shots.Whatever his prior unevenmotivation or current ability level, Briggs is often atop quality pro. Not manyboxers have faced George Foreman, Lennox Lewis,and Ray Mercer.Add Klitschkos name to the list and Briggs has quite a resume.

Briggs is persistent. If hes persistent enough withthe allout assault hes bragging about, we could have a fine Saturday night. Thats something like a one-in-five chance.Whatever happens inside the strands, the Klitschko road showshould play well again as the K2 principals wind down a busy 2010 season in which each brother scheduled three appearances.So far theyre 4 for 4 in KO attempts, not the worst marketing strategy.

A few days before the contest around 500 or so of the 16,000general seats remained available.Briggsprobably flexed his musclesand showed hisgoldendreads more than enough atMondays final press conference to propel the walk up gate intosold out status. A public workout Wednesday about 48 hours before the weigh-inprovided a freeopportunityfor photo ops and the chance to glimpse both fighters inside a ring.

Imprecise percentage probabilitiesfor the fight shape up something like this :

50% probability: Briggs stands firm behind a burly cross armed defense until Klitschko, in less than two frames, adjusts his looping leather leadsto catch Briggs along the ear, triceps and ever popular kidney borderland. Briggs huffs and puffs and doesnt go anywhere for five or six rounds, but he doesnt throw any punches back either as the usually polite crowd jeers. Klitschko occasionally clobbers him with a right, but Briggs absorbs punches without wear or wobbling. It drags on and on. Klitschko wins 120-108 on all cards.

25% : Briggs misses with occasional hooks while Klitschko grazes him with pawing probes over and under, fired from knee and shoulder level. As the 2nd round winds down, Klitschko lands an overhand right. By the time Briggs lands a decent counter heneeds a knockout to win, and seems to be waiting for a repeat of his last secondwin over Sergi Liakovich. Klitschko wears him down at the stretch and scores a debatable TKOgoing into the finalframes, withBriggs holding on but not in serious trouble.

10% : Briggs shows more steam than he has inover a decadeand gets the crowdscreaming as he reddens Klitschkos face and nicks his left eye.Still, Klitschkos jab has the challenger blinking in pain as they trade bombs inside. Kliitschko throws awkwardly leveraged uppercuts, with his elbows lockedstraight, and Briggs starts to implode as he eats the stiff slaps again and again.He is stumbling drunklike a hoochied, harbor side tourist dancing the sailor time shuffle when either his corner or the refwaves it off.

10% (numbers based solely on hopeful optimism): The bell. They charge, boththrowing everything theyve got. Both land. Both drop. One doesnt beat the count. Pick em.

5%: Briggs lands a straight cross or uppercut between Vitalis gloves and busts the champions lip. Kliitschko hesitates to regroup,but Briggs jumps on him like a rhinoceros going after treed booty.Five clubbing right handslater the referee steps in with Klitschko slumped semi-consciouslyacross the strands before a previously rocking arena stunned into silence.

Atrepeated points during prefightinterviews Briggs said almost the exact same thing almost every fighter facing either Klitschko has echoed for years now, justbefore they get harshly pounded around the ring and into the loss column.

I wont be afraid like the others. Ill keepbringing the fight to him.

Briggs may still have one punch KO power, but against Klitschko hehas to landthat big punch clean for it to matter.

Big punch or not, the fadedBriggs isnt as formidable as Klitschkos other foes during thisrecentrun. Unless the sometimes wacky Briggs can make something crazy occur, count on seeing belted big boy business as usual while Klitschko hammers out a monotonous victory.

The most intrigue will probably involve whether or not Klitschko can join Lennox Lewis (TKO 5 in1998) and Darroll Wilson (TKO 3 in 96) as the only men to knock the talkative,tank-like Briggs out.

Statistically, Klitschkoshould scuff and lumpBriggs up enough tonotch another TKOaround the 9th or 10th round.Stats can lie more than dance hall girls.

If Briggs fights hard and comes up short, its no fistic sin.

If he takes a couple shots then trespasses intomeek submission like most recent challengers, hes just another cheap hooker.

Any port in a slugging storm, the saying goes.

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