Live Saturday night from Chase Field in Phoenix Arizona (Showtime), WBO heavyweight champion Sergei “White Wolf” Liakhovich defends his crown against #3 ranked Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs. Although Liakhovich hasn’t fought the best of the best in the division, at least not yet, he’s still riding high off of his decisive pounding of Lamon Brewster in April. Briggs has fought his way back into contention with a four-year long unbeaten streak, albeit against less than stellar opposition. Can Liakhovich take Briggs deep enough for the Brooklyn native to run out of gas? Or does Shannon the Cannon connect hard and early to bring the heavyweight title back to the States? This is how The Sweet Science writers see Liakhovich vs. Briggs
Shannon Briggs is the perfect example of why American promoters are the best in the world. Briggs is an average fighter who received a lot of publicity for getting a majority decision against a 48-year-old George Foreman. Some people even wrote that he was the linear heavyweight champion, whatever that means. Right after that, Briggs faced WBC champion Lennox Lewis and got the beating of his life: Briggs went down three times and lost by TKO 5. In 2000, Briggs lost on points to journeyman Sedrick Fields and to hyped prospect Jameel McCline (who was stopped in 10 rounds by Wladimir Klitschko, just to point out the difference between real champions and the others). In 1996, Briggs was TKOed in 3 rounds by Darroll Wilson (did you ever heard of him?). Briggs’ 11 fight winning streak means nothing because he defeated average boxers. Sergei Liakhovich has a similar record, but he is in much better shape, 4 years younger and is far more skilled. Besides that, The White Wolf is just starting to get attention from the media; he wants to become a star in America and a national idol in his native Belarus. There’s no way that Liakhovich is letting Briggs stand in his way. I say Liakhovich by KO.
Luca De Franco
Call it a gut feeling, but I see Briggs winning this fight. He's still a dangerous puncher, but he's never been a strong finisher. If he has a little self-discipline and has finally gotten himself into great shape, he might still be strong in the later rounds. If not, he could be in deep trouble. He wins by early knockout. If it goes past six rounds, he loses.
Shannon Briggs promises to brutally dispose of The White Wolf. His best bet is to get it over with early, don't give him a chance to test the rumored weak chin, and get a heavyweight title back in the United States.
We’re not persuaded that Liakhovich is the real goods, but you have to question Briggs’ credentials at this stage of his career. Had this fight been in New York, where it belonged, he might have had a hometown edge, but he’s even more of an interloper in Phoenix than the champion is. Unless he can persuade the WBO to appoint Larry Layton and Calvin Claxton (the two judges who scored the George Foreman fight for Shannon) the White Wolf should carry the night.
This isn't an easy fight by any means, and the White Wolf could have some serious trouble early in the fight when Briggs is at his strongest. The only reason I'm not calling Briggs by knockout is a weighty matter. The Cannon has been ballooning up in weight from the high 220s up to his current mass of 270+. That's not good if you may have to run a marathon. Briggs, of course, is hoping he doesn't have to run a marathon and that the sprint is to see who lands first, hardest. Neither man is better than average defensively and there are going to be some heavy blows landed by both fighters. If Sergei can pound away at Briggs midsection early I think he can stop Briggs, if Briggs catches Liakhovich early then the entire fight changes. Briggs by knockout before the fourth makes sense, but I'm calling for Liakhovich by KO sometime around the 7th as Briggs hits the gas pedal early and is stuck in neutral by the fourth round only to be used for target practice before it gets stopped. I think both men have a lot of heart and it will make for a very entertaining bout.
Shannon Briggs weighed in at a whopping 268 lbs. and considering he weighed in at 228 lbs. for his fight with Lennox Lewis, this looks to be problematic. He's never been a fighter with a surplus of stamina and this could make the difference in the fight. Once a fighter becomes a champion they tend to become a better fighter, or at least they think they are. If Liakhovich can make it out of the first four rounds he should be able to outbox Briggs over the course of twelve rounds. Underestimating Liakhovich is not going to win the fight for Briggs. Liakhovich wins a sloppy decision after Briggs runs into the wall of exhaustion in round four.
As usual Briggs is talking a good game, but I get the sense he is only trying to convince himself how formidable he is. He has always been a ball of fire for a few rounds before his asthma kicks in or his lack of conditioning gives him trouble. Liakhovich seems well conditioned and schooled enough to weather the early storm and be dominant late. He might stop him, but the more likely scenario is Liakhovich W 12.
The fact that Shannon Briggs is fighting for the title only makes a greater mockery of the heavyweight division. Even Briggs himself must be wondering how the heck he's getting this shot considering he's been over-the-hill ever since that fateful 1998 fight with Lewis when he had the title in his grasp only to let it slip away. Now, he's too old and too slow and that “great potential” argument is long gone. Look for Liakhovich, who despite his relatively unknown status has maybe the best skills of the lowly heavies, to have no problem with Briggs. “The White Wolf” doesn't exactly send you running in fear, but I give Briggs no real chance Saturday night. Liakhovich by KO in the 8th.
Shannon Briggs is next in the line of “Great American Hopes,” after Monte Barrett failed to win his challenge for Nikolay Valuev’s title. While Briggs does not necessarily represent the best of the heavyweight division, Sergei Liakhovich is no Valuev. Briggs will be able to inflict more damage and win more rounds from Liakhovich than Lamon Brewster did. Briggs by KO.
On paper I like Liakhovich-Briggs more than Baldomir-Mayweather for two-way action but only if Liakhovich has greatly improved since I saw him in recent years. I wouldn't bet on that being the case. I think it's more likely that the far better traveled Briggs backs up his promise of an early KO, and sends Liakhovich down hard somewhere in the first scheduled half of the fight, maybe even in a prime Tysonesque one round.