Can Briggs & Klitschko Survive Stern Challenges?

By Francis Walker
Updated: May 28, 2007

Shannon Briggs

Shannon Briggs

NEW YORK — WBO heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs (48-4-1, 42 KOs) is scheduled to make his first title defense against No. 1-ranked, Sultan Ibragimov (20-0-1, 17 KOs) on June 2nd at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City , NJ .

IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (48-3, 43 KOs) looks to avenge his stunning knockout loss to Lamon Brewster (33-3, 29 KOs ). The two will meet in a rematch on July 7 in Cologne , Germany.

It will be very interesting if Briggs and Klitschko will receive an opportunity to fight each other in what could be the biggest heavyweight title fight in 2007.

At 6-feet-4 and 270 pounds, Briggs has the size, power, and overlooked hand speed that could give Klitschko a very tough fight. The two were supposed to have fought at Madison Square Garden in November, but according to Briggs that was only a ploy by Shelly Finkel to block Don King from bringing Nikolai Valuev’s October 2006 bout against Monte Barrett to the Garden. For months, Briggs never received a contract to fight Klitschko because it was never sent.

Instead, Briggs knocked out Sergui Liakhovich at 2:59 seconds of the final round to win the WBO heavyweight championship in November 2006. It was Briggs’ 12th consecutive knockout victory. Ibragimov could be lucky number 13.

Ibragimov was originally scheduled to fight Briggs on March 10, at the Theater in Madison Square Garden , but the champion pulled out after having been diagnosed with having pneumonia.

“We were training for the first fight,” Briggs said during a recent conference call. “I had difficulty breathing. We went to see two doctors, two specialists. We still felt like we could KO this guy regardless, but I couldn’t train.

“There will be no change in strategy,” Briggs added. “I look forward to a fast-paced fight. If [Ibragimov] wants to box, we can box. If he wants to slug, we can slug.”

Instead, Ibragimov fought and knocked out a stuffed 257-pound Mexican heavyweight named Javier Mora in 46 seconds of round one.

De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions along with Seminole Warriors Boxing will promote Briggs vs. Ibragimov which will be shown on Pay-Per-View. The CSI Sports telecast begins at 9:00 pm ET/ 6:00 pm PT.

“We’re confident that Sultan Ibragimov is the next heavyweight champion of the world, and we’re eager to see him beat Shannon Briggs and put the championship belt around his waist,” Oscar De La Hoya said in a recent statement.

“I’ve seen [Ibragimov] fight man, he’s a bum,” Briggs said. “I’m a vicious puncher. When I hit this kid, He’s gonna wish he never touched gloves.”

Ibragimov’s more notable victories throughout his career were TKOs against faded contenders Mount Whitaker , Alfred Cole, and Zuri Lawrence. Ibragimov also fought a 12-round draw with Ray Austin.

Should the 35-year-old Briggs, of Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY surpass the challenge of Ibragimov, an unbeaten 32-year-old southpaw from Russia, an IBF/WBO heavyweight championship unification fight with Klitschko will be a highly anticipated encounter between two of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division.

At 6-feet-7 and 245 pounds, Klitschko, 31 Kiev , Ukraine , has worked on improving his improved balance and technique through legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward. Klitschko’s punching power and accuracy has also improved immensely.

Make no mistake, Klitschko has always had punching power, but the difference is that “Dr. Steel Hammer” has the type of combination punching power that very few heavyweights can withstand.

“After my fight with Lamon it was a rather long and hard process to become a champion again,” Wladimir said. “And now not only do I have a chance to rewrite an unpleasant chapter in my professional career, but also prove that all the critics that they were wrong about me. For me this rematch fight is a dream comes true.”

Since surviving three knockdowns en route to a decision win against Sam Peter in September 2005, Klitschko is currently on a three fight knockout streak. Klitschko ended the near three-and-a-half year reign of Chris Byrd (TKO 7) in April 2006. Since winning the IBF title, Klitschko has knockout previously unbeaten Calvin Brock (KO 7) and Ray Austin (KO 2).

Klitschko-Brewster I Revisited

Klitschko’s third title defense will be perhaps the most important bout of his career. Klitschko will try to beat the man that survived his power and knocked him out.

“I consider the upcoming fight as of grave importance for my professional career. Lamon is the last fighter who has beaten me. And even though he lost in his last fight, he still remains one of the strongest fighters in the heavyweight division. I am glad that we will meet again in the ring,” Wladimir said.

Brewster, 31, Indianapolis , IN , was losing the first four rounds against Klitschko. Brewster looked terrible, but was extremely determined and relentlessly fought Klitschko back.

Brewster caught Klitschko with a solid right hook to his chin, followed by a barrage of punches that floored Klitschko and ended the fight.

Brewster won the WBO heavyweight title, but lost it in March 2006 in a dramatic 12-round contest against Sergui Liakhovich. Brewster suffered a detached retina during his loss to Liakhovich and has not fought since.

The idea is that Klitschko will avenge his loss to Brewster in stunning fashion, but history can repeat itself.

Klitschko Duo Eyes Undisputed Crown

With the return of Wladimir’s older brother Vitali on the horizon for later this year, the Klitschko Brothers goal of unifying the world heavyweight championships has been revived. It will not be easy.

The Klitschko’s plan to become the only brother duo to hold world heavyweight championships simultaneously. Although both Wladimir and Vitali are two-time heavyweight champions, they never held the titles together.

If Wladimir surpasses the challenge of Brewster this summer, it would make sense for him to fight Briggs. Especially since Briggs has called Klitschko out repeatedly for nearly one year.

Vitali, who retired in 2005 after a mandated WBC heavyweight title defense against Hasim Rahman was cancelled three times due to injury, will return as WBC “Champion in Emeritus.”

Vitali will have the privilege (granted by the World Boxing Council) to challenge the winner of the upcoming heavyweight title fight between WBC champion Oleg Maskaev and No. 1-ranked Samuel Peter in September.

World heavyweight championship contenders Nikolai Valuev, Tony Thompson, James Toney, Eddie Chambers, and a resurging Evander Holyfield are on the path of earning a heavyweight title shot.

The road toward having one unified world heavyweight champion will be very difficult.