Former heavyweight title holder Shannon Briggs adopted the catchphrase “Let’s Go Champ” a few years ago to create interest in his career, which most boxing observers believed was over. Nothing was funnier than Briggs stalking Wladimir Klitschko, who was the reigning champ at the time, and more recently former cruiserweight and heavyweight title-holder David Haye, chanting “Let’s go Champ” while trying to shame one of them into fighting him. Finally, after more than a year of flying back and forth between the U.S. and the U.K., it looked as if Briggs had secured a fight with Haye when they fought on the same card promoted by Haye’s promotion company back in May, in Greenwich, London. However, that fell through and Haye is weighing other options and hoping to line up a title shot.
Until the arrival of IBF champ Anthony Joshua, Briggs’ antics were more fun to watch than most of the top-10 ranked heavyweights, fight. Briggs developed quite a following on Twitter and Instagram, and through those social media vehicles, his personality shined and he became an easy guy to root for. His Muhammad Ali-like antics were light and fun, and they kept a modicum of interest in him. No, I don’t believe anyone really viewed Shannon as a serious title threat, but he can punch, so regardless of whom he fought, with him rushing out for the first round like a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby, the possibility of him winning in a shocking fashion certainly existed.
After stalking some of the contenders at the top of the heavyweight food chain, Briggs is on the brink of finalizing a big fight with a title on the line. Sometime late next month, Briggs, 44-years-old, will fight 37-year-old Lucas Browne, 24-0 (21), for the vacant WBA “Regular” heavyweight title. Browne was stripped of the title earlier this year following a failed drug test. The least regarded title-holder in the heavyweight division, he has defeated only one fighter of note, that being Ruslan Chagaev this past March. Browne came from behind to stop Chagaev, but he did not look good; Chagaev gassed out. However, Lucas is doing his best to boost interest in the upcoming bout with Briggs, via him telling the press at every turn that he’s fighting the guy that David Haye ducked.
Unfortunately for Briggs, 60-6 (53), it’s doubtful that he’ll earn anything close to a million dollars for fighting Brown who really isn’t anything close to an upper-tier heavyweight. Sadly for Briggs, his antics only parlayed him into a fight with a guy like Browne, who is willing and tough, which is a far cry from the intended goal. But Briggs had no choice because Browne and the WBA “Regular” title were the only game in town available to him.
Now Briggs is really in a must-win situation. A loss to Browne, and there’s no return to the big time, I don’t care how funny his act is. Browne is dangerous to Briggs, not so much because he’s a good boxer or a big-puncher, but because he’s very determined and tough — which translates into the fight probably going rounds. Granted, Browne isn’t a guy known for his stamina, but neither is Shannon. And that’s what’s scary for Briggs. He might punch Browne from pillar to post and have the fight completely under control – then gas out and not be able to finish!
For a few months it looked as if Briggs was going to fight Haye, and that would’ve been a blast to follow during the run-up to the fight. But that’s not going to happen, which is surprising. And the reason I say that is because David Haye, along with Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather, is one of the smartest fighters in the sport regarding the business of professional boxing. Had Haye fought Briggs in the U.K., the fight would’ve been a monster success. Haye hasn’t fought any legitimate contenders since he iced Derek Chisora back in July of 2012. However, in his two bouts since then against Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj, he has filled out even more and is punching harder than he ever has.
Haye most likely would’ve stopped Briggs in a fight that was thrilling while it lasted and used that as a springboard to fight the winner of the now on-again Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko IBF title bout for a king’s ransom. But Haye, for reasons unknown, went silent regarding Briggs and passed up what many saw as easy money for him with very little downside. Briggs, who had limited options, was forced to go in another direction. When the bout with Browne for what amounts to a paper title was proposed to him, Shannon had no choice but to jump at it. If he can beat Browne, which certainly isn’t a given, Briggs, because of his personality, will become a player in the heavyweight division…which suddenly has become worth watching due to a few interesting match-ups on the horizon.
The sand through the hour glass has all but passed for Briggs. In 1996, he was perhaps the most talked-about prospect among the young heavyweights. But in March of that year Briggs suffered his first defeat when he was upset by Darroll Wilson on a card that he headlined in Atlantic City titled “Night of The Young Heavyweights.” Since then Briggs has had his ups and downs, but he did win the WBO title in 2006 versus Siarhei Liakovich. He’s also fought former title holders George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Frans Botha, Ray Mercer, Sultan Ibragimov and Vitali Klitschko. Now he’s basically fighting for a lottery payday. He’s re-invented himself over the past few years and that’s led to him getting his current shot at a vacant fringe title against Lucas Browne.
Briggs must now beat Browne to hit the real lottery, or it’s over. No, the fight between Briggs and Browne won’t be contested at the skill level of Frazier-Ali I, or even Foreman-Lyle for that matter – but it should be a fun, action-packed fight for as long as it lasts.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com