Shannon Briggs Latest Opponent – It’s old news now, but Alexander Dimitrenko has pulled out of Saturday’s match with Shannon Briggs at London’s O2 Arena. The Briggs-Dimitrenko fight was the main supporting bout to David Haye’s match with Arnold Gjergjaj. Haye, who is acting as his own promoter, anticipated the withdrawal and had a back-up plan in place. Apparently two back-up plans. In a matter of 48 hours, the opponent for Shannon Briggs went from a Russian, Dimitrenko, to a Croatian, Jakov Gospic, and then to Emilio Ezequiel Zarate, a fighter from Argentina. Gospic and Zarate are tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. And without Dimitrenko, the show degraded into an event better suited to a hotel ballroom.
Dimitrenko’s exit, by all accounts, wasn’t injury related. Earlier this year he agreed to fight Luis Ortiz, but reneged when Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, refused to sweeten the pot, pumping up his agreed-upon purse. De La Hoya classified Dimitrenko’s behavior as an attempted stick-up. His withdrawal from Saturday’s card appears to be a maneuver with the same back story.
Haye’s match with Gjergjaj, a Kosovo-Albanian resident of Switzerland, wasn’t attracting much buzz. Gjergjan is undefeated (29-0) but aside from an early bout in Hungary, all of his matches were in Switzerland where the caliber of boxing is low. The match between the 44-year-old Briggs, a former heavyweight titlist, and Dimitrenko (38-2) was the most intriguing bout on Haye’s card.
Gospic, who is now off the card, had a 17-14 record but had been stopped eight times. In his last fight, he won a 6-round decision over a boxer with a 0-1 record. Zarate, one year older than Gospic at age 34, is 20-16-3 and, like Gospic, has been stopped eight times. In his last two fights, Zarate scored fifth round stoppages of fighters with 0-2 records. U.K. fans have seen him before. In his last trip to the U.K., in November of last year, he was dismissed in two rounds by Hughie Fury, a big man without a big punch.
The good news about the 02 Arena event is that Nick Blackwell will make his first public appearance since emerging from his coma. Blackwell collapsed in the ring after his brutal March 26 bout with British countryman Chris Euback Jr. and spent seven days in a medically induced coma while doctors monitored bleeding on his skull. Haye is dedicating 10 percent of the proceeds of Saturday’s show toward Blackwell’s medical costs.
Speaking of Eubank, who has been beating the drums for a match with Gennady Golovkin, he defends his British middleweight title on June 25 underneath Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defense against Dominic Breazeale. Eubank’s opponent, 28-year-old Welshman Tom Doran, is 17-0 and has won four straight inside the distance. Eubank’s lone defeat in 22 outings came at the hands of Billy Joe Saunders who won a split decision. Saunders remains on the shelf with a hand injury.
Three of the four fighting Smith brothers — super featherweight Stephen Smith, super middleweight Paul Smith, and middleweight Callum Smith — will be in action on May 29 when Tony Bellew meets Ilunga Makubu for the vacant WBA World cruiserweight title in Liverpool. Stephen Smith looks to rebound from his setback to Jose Pedraza in their IBF title fight at the expense of Argentina’s Daniel Brizuela in a contest scheduled for 10 rounds. The other Smith brothers, Paul and Callum, appear in shorter bouts best understood as window dressing.
Callum Smith, the hottest young prospect in England, was part of the BBC television crew at the April 30 middleweight title doubleheader at the DC Armory. The Smith brothers hail from Liverpool, as does the aforementioned Bellew. The show is at Liverpool’s Goodison Park Stadium, the grand old lady of English soccer stadiums, and marks the first stadium show in Liverpool in 67 years.