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Briggs Returns Home In Defense Of Heavyweight Crown
By Francis Walker
Updated: January 16, 2007
NEW YORK– WBO heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs (48-4-1, 42 KOs) returns to his hometown of New York City for the first defense of his world title against undefeated, No. 1-contender Sultan Ibragimov (19-0-1, 16 KOs) on March 10, at the Theater of Madison Square Garden.
The event, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, Seminole Warriors Boxing, along with Madison Square Garden, will be televised on HBO at 10 PM/EST.
Briggs, originally from Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY, has been a headline attraction many times throughout his career and has also been in the main event of world heavyweight championship fights.
However, no one in boxing ever thought that Briggs would headline a Madison Square Garden venue as a heavyweight champion.
“Sultan Ibragimov is an exciting young fighter and he’s earned his title shot,” said Briggs, “but there’s no way I’m giving up my belt, and absolutely no chance of me losing in front of my hometown fans”.
“I’m here to stay, and Ibragimov’s gonna have to chase after another belt, because he’s not getting mine.”
Ibragimov is a southpaw who turned pro in May 2002 after winning an Olympic silver medal for his native Russia. Although Ibragimov, 31, Rostov-na-Donu, Russia, has a knockout victory over former heavyweight contender Lane Whitaker, he fought Ray Austin to a 12-round draw in July 2006.
Ibragimov is an unknown, but 84% of his victories have occurred by knockout and Briggs is not taking him lightly.
“I worked the corner for Ray Austin when he fought Austin so I know how tough he is,” Briggs, 48-4-1, 41 KO’s said of Ibragimov. “It’s going to be a great fight. It’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my talent at home”.
“When I come to New York I get nervous because it’s my home. It’s a dream come true speaking to you as a champion instead of just a challenger,” Briggs explained.
Briggs knows what its like to fight in front of small venues in non-televised fights. Briggs has come up short and has suffered disappointing losses that many believed crushed his chances of ever becoming a dominant heavyweight.
But Briggs never really complained. He simply went back to the drawing board by working in the gym, training, and fighting hard.
Briggs has a lot of momentum heading into his fight with Ibragimov. The champion has knocked out 12 consecutive opponents, including Sergui Liakhovich at 2:59 of the twelfth and final round to win the WBO title.
At 35, Briggs is at the highest level he could possibly at this point in his career. Briggs is a heavyweight champion, a thought no one really saw coming at the start of 2006.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as Briggs, Klitschko, WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev and WBC champion Oleg Maskaev all appear headed toward unifying the world heavyweight championship.
Valuev, Maskaev, and Klitschko generate a lot of money through German television and have a huge European following throughout the world. Briggs’ fight against Ibragimov is so important because this is an opportunity for the boxing community to recognize Briggs as a superstar.
If Briggs can sellout a famous landmark such as The Theater of Madison Square Garden then he will eventually have an opportunity to sellout the Garden. But only as long as Briggs remains WBO heavyweight champion.
As the year 2007 unfolds, all eyes will be focused on Briggs’ success toward turning away title challengers.
“The road to get here wasn’t easy,” Ibragimov said. “I made a lot of sacrifices, but on March 10th I expect that all my hard work will pay off when I get to put the WBO heavyweight championship belt around my waist.”