Finally: A Big Night For Shannon Briggs

By Tom Donelson
Updated: November 6, 2006

NEW YORK — For eleven rounds, Shannon Briggs was playing a game of cat and mouse with Serguei Liakhovich. Liakhovich occasionally jabbed and threw combinations at Briggs to build up a lead on the scorecard but rarely did he attempt a sustained attack.

As for Briggs, he merely followed but rarely punched. It was as if the energy exerted in the first round drained Briggs and he was reduced to finding lightening in a bottle one more time.

Liakhovich pecked at Briggs and at times, it simply appeared that Briggs looked more like a 44-year-old fighter than his actual chronological age of 34. He never seemed able to pull the trigger on any of his punches.

The first round showed Briggs’ advantages when he countered with a left hook off a Liakhovich right hand to the body. For 30 seconds, Briggs followed up as Liakhovich reeled to the rope.

Unable to finish off his man, Briggs settled for occasional punching but mostly posing as he looked for one more opportunity to stop the game Belarus fighter throughout the remainder of the fight.

As for Liakhovich, he played his own waiting game being satisfied with occasional flurries to win rounds. Unlike his battle with Brewster last April, Liakhovich showed no real desire to go toe-to-toe with Briggs.

The first round left hook taught him that he could win the bout by a strategy of prudence and he nearly pulled it off.

With nearly two minutes and 30 seconds already gone in the final round, Liakhovich appeared on his way to a decision. Safely ahead on the scorecard, all Liakhovich had to do was stay on his feet and receive the decision. T

Then as the time clicked down, Briggs’ right hand sent Liakhovich staggering into the ropes and a ferocious combination sent Liakhovich down. It became desperation time for both fighters. Liakhovich rose at the count of nine, but with 26 seconds left, his legs was nothing but rubber.

Briggs went for the kill and showing aggressiveness not seen since the opening stanza of the fight. He threw a four-punch combination that began with yet another sledgehammer right and Liakhovich went through the ropes.

Lying out on the table, Liakhovich tried to get up but instead found himself stuck between the table and the ring. Too tired to maneuver his way back in the ring, the fight was over.

And just like that, what was boring fight turned into drama. This was a fight that featured posing and strategy for most of the first 47 minutes and 30 seconds. The last 30 seconds made up for the previous 11 rounds of inactivity.

For Briggs, this was vindication. Since his loss to Lennox Lewis several years ago, Briggs spent most of his career mopping up the club fighter’s cycle. When he moved up against top ten competitions, it usually ended in failure. I

n 1999, he fought a draw against Fran Botha and Jameel McCline outboxed him in 2002. There was very little done to recommend him against Liakhovich and coming in the bout at 268, Briggs looked more like a body builder than a prizefighter. The muscular Briggs proved listless throughout the bout and his endurance was questionable.

Those last 30 seconds showed the glimpse of potential that many pundits viewed in him a decade ago. When he was 25, he won a close and controversial decision to win the lineal title from George Foreman but most critics harped on the fact that maybe he shouldn’t have won the decision.

Against Lennox Lewis, he stunned the British champ early but ended up on the canvas three times before the fight was stopped. After that, Briggs was resigned to boxing purgatory. Which is exactly where he was headed if he lost to Liakhovich.

A colorful character outside the ring, Briggs style within the boxing square leaves much to be desired. Too big to maintain a steady pace for 12 rounds, Briggs depends upon his power.

A decade ago when he was a leading American prospect, he fought between 225 and 230 pounds but today, his body is built for quick, explosive fights but not for long drawn out affairs. What saved him in this fight was his left hook in the first round.

The hook forced Liakhovich into a less aggressive stance and allowed Briggs to conserve his energy to survive twelve rounds.

What if Liakhovich fought the same aggressive fight that he did against Brewster? It could be argued that maybe Briggs would have stopped him earlier but it could easily be argued that Liakhovich would have worn Briggs out and stopped the Brooklyn native by exhaustion.

Briggs won the fight and snatched victory from the jaws of impending defeat. And now, he is in the hunt for another big fight. He has the power to beat any heavyweight, but the real question; does he have the endurance?

As for Liakhovich, he is a skilled boxer and he is as good as any heavyweight. There should be a future yet for Liakhovich. But then, the boxing gods can be cruel to championship losers.

Just ask Briggs, who spent nearly a decade just waiting for a second shot at a title.