We’ve seen him interrupt the training camp of the best heavyweight in the world. We’ve seen him follow and show up at the same restaurant and eat the man’s pasta. And just this week we saw him in a power boat and purposely create enough wake to cause the heavyweight boxing champion to fall off of his water-board, only to surface cursing and saying you’ve crossed the freakin’ line.
The line they may have drawn in the sand together.
It’s amazing how former WBO heavyweight title holder Shannon Briggs 56-6-1 (49) has a better read on where WBA/WBO/IBF title holder Wladimir Klitschko 62-3 (52) is going to be than his fiancee Hayden Panettiere does. Briggs seems to know where and what time Klitschko trains, he knows where and when he’s going out to eat. And if you had any questions whether or not these comedy skits were engineered by both fighters, your doubt had to be erased when Briggs showed up on the water in a motor boat to harass Wladimir while he was standing on a paddle board off the waters of Hollywood, Florida.
I believe that Klitschko is in on the act to some degree and is also enjoying sitting back and watching Briggs play the role of a WWE heel. And would anyone be surprised if these comedy skits, which sometimes are very funny due to Shannon, are parlayed into a heavyweight title fight? One that could be potentially, while it last, be more exciting than most of the other ones that Klitschko could have had.
Everyone knows that Briggs needs Klitschko much more than Wladimir needs him. Klitschko is clearly the alpha heavyweight in the boxing world and has amassed a fortune. Wladimir has made 16 successful defenses of the title and only trails Joe Louis and Larry Holmes in that department. His problem is nobody really cares about watching his bouts and conquests outside of Germany and Europe. Briggs, with his antics and personality, could provide him with more attention and media coverage than he’s garnered in quite some time. Add to that Briggs is big and strong and has legitimate knockout power in his right hand, coupled with the fact that most perceive Wladimir as being no more than one heavyweight bomb away from losing the title. Most believe that to beat Wladimir it’ll just take the right heavy-handed fighter who isn’t afraid to let his hands go. Could that be Briggs? Who knows, it depends on what night it is. But it is a fight that could attract a decent sized audience on either Showtime or HBO.
Surely Klitschko must be thinking to himself this would be easy money and I’d look like a destroyer knocking Shannon out. However, Briggs threatening to enter the ring like a wounded animal and promising to nail Klitschko on his not so sturdy chin, that would stimulate interest in the fight. The biggest fear for the fans watching would be their worriment that if the bout is made, will Briggs actually try to win it or will he take his couple of million dollars and go home early once he realizes that he’s in over his head?
Many boxing fans are mocking and laughing at Briggs as he goes through the motions along with Wladimir in trying to stir interest in a potential fight between them. But Shannon is a decent guy who squandered away much of his ability as a fighter along with his ring earnings. Briggs’ career got off to a fast and promising start in 1992 before being upset by Darroll Wilson back in 1996 on “The Night Of The Young Heavyweights” in Atlantic City. Remember that night? David Tua destroyed John Ruiz in 19 seconds and Andrew Golota stopped Danell Nicholson in the eighth round before Briggs was stopped by Wilson in the third round. Shannon was a huge favorite over Wilson, and used asthma as an excuse as to why he lost the fight. He went onto win four fights after that and fought George Foreman in what turned out to be George’s last fight. Briggs was awarded a very dubious decision over Foreman back in November of 1997 and parlayed that into a title shot against WBC title holder Lennox Lewis four months later.
Briggs was a riot at the last press conference before the fight with Lewis. His antics and threats were so funny and outrageous that Lennox couldn’t keep a straight face. The next night Shannon, who was a very fit 228 pounds, gave it his all. Briggs wobbled and hurt Lewis in the first round and by the time the bell rang to end it, Lennox was holding on. Briggs hurt Lewis again in the second round, but Lennox survived and by the middle of the fifth round Briggs was hurt and couldn’t survive the round. After that, Briggs was up and down. He drew with Frans Botha, lost to Sedreck Fields and Jameel McCline. After losing to McCline he went on an 11 bout win streak, with his most impressive victory being a seventh round knockout over tough and durable Ray Mercer. Five fights after beating Mercer, he stopped WBO title holder Sergei Liakhovich in 2006 with one second remaining in the last round to win the title. At the time of the stoppage he was trailing on all three scorecards. Seven months later in his next bout, he turned in another stinker and lost the title to Sultan Ibragimov via a 12-round unanimous decision.
Since fighting Ibragimov, Briggs has had one meaningful fight, and that was against Wladimir’s older brother Vitali Klitschko in 2010. Shannon was beaten from pillar to post by Vitali enroute to losing a lopsided decision. He absorbed such a terrible beating that it looked as if he’d be lucky to live a normal life after that, let alone fight again for the heavyweight title. Briggs was inactive for three and a half years after losing to Vitali. But here we are four years later and Briggs, 42, has scored four knockouts in five bouts and shows up wherever Wladimir is, taunting him and promising to knock him out if he gets a chance.
It’s painfully obvious that Briggs realizes that he wasted a lot of his career and ability and longs for one more big payday. And if he got lucky and actually beat Wladimir, Briggs would get another payday and Wladimir’s legacy wouldn’t live down a loss to the old version of Briggs, and he knows it (especially if you take into account Shannon’s fight with Vitali). And that more than anything else just might be the reason why Briggs vs. Wladimir never happens.
Briggs has probably put more effort and work into getting attention for an eventual fight with Wladimir than he may have training for his bout against Vitali. It’s hard to say if Briggs’ antics along with Klitschko’s willingness to play along will actually lead to them fighting. But it sure has been funny and entertaining if nothing else. And would anyone be surprised or shocked if Briggs squeezes out one more high profile bout due to his theatrics with Wladimir? Not me!
One thing is for sure, whether or not they ever fight, Wladimir has helped Briggs become somewhat relevant again.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com