There are very few heavyweights that are marketable. Most of the men in the division do not draw the fans, as evident by the very low PPV rentals of the WBC Heavyweight Championship bout between Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev. The recent news of Mike Tyson putting on exhibitions in Las Vegas is everywhere, proving that he is still the biggest name in the game, despite the fact that he hasn’t been at his best in nearly twenty years. It is a sad reflection on the division. There are a few heavyweights that have that that “it” factor. They have the ability to draw fans and get people excited. One of those men is Shannon Briggs.
Briggs emerged on the boxing scene with 25 straight wins, 22 by knockout, before losing to the unheralded Darroll Wilson. He would rebound with four straight wins before the most controversial win of his career over “Big” George Foreman. It was a victory that looms over the head of Briggs, referred to most boxing writers as the worst decision of the year. The biggest win for “The Cannon” was dismissed by the press, but was enough to place him into a WBC Heavyweight Title shot against Lennox Lewis. This bout showed the talent as a left hook in the first round shook Lewis badly, but he would rebound and stop Briggs in the fifth round. It was a great moment in the Briggs’ career as he stood toe to toe with the best heavyweight that the world has seen in years.
The career of Shannon Briggs seemed to hit rock bottom as Sedreck Fields, sporting a record of 9 wins, 9 losses, would win a majority decision, and Jameel McCline would dominate him over the course of 10 rounds, apparently erasing him from serious title contention. Here we are, 4 years after the McCline defeat, with Shannon Briggs ready to challenge once again for a heavyweight title. On November 4th, with eleven straight knockout wins, and a record of, 47-4-1, 41 KO’s, Briggs will challenge Serguei “The White Wolf” Lyakhovich for his WBO Heavyweight Championship. This bout came as a surprise to some, as many believed that “The Cannon” would be facing the IBF Heavyweight Champion, Wladimir Klitschko, for his crown.
RSR caught up with the heavyweight contender to discuss his career, his feelings about the current heavyweight champions, and his feelings about the media coverage of his career.
GM: You are signed to fight Serguei Lyakhovich for the WBO Heavyweight Title. What sort of fight do you expect from him?
A great fight. I think that this guy is one of the most talented heavyweights around right now, and I picked him to beat Brewster. In fact, I was the studio analyst on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights the night before he fought him, and I picked him to win, and he did, and Brian Kenny said: “are you kidding me,” and I told him to trust me. I saw Lyakhovich in Vegas, after the fight…after the championship win, and he wanted to fight me. He is a very skillful guy, so I have a very tough fight on my hands. He is one of the toughest, if not the toughest champion…a much harder fight than Klitschko, and we don’t know much about Valuev yet, and I think that Barrett is past his prime and it showed during the Rahman fight. It looked like two old guys fighting in there.
I think that Lyakhovich is the toughest guy, and being Shannon Briggs, I’m not going to get it easy, so they give me the toughest guy. I’m happy for the challenge.
GM: Against Brewster, Lyakhovich was knocked down and rallied back to win. Considering that you are a knockout specialist and hardly ever go beyond 5 rounds, are you concerned that he might become a problem as the fight goes on?
No, but it’s something that I’m working on. I don’t see it as a problem, but it is just going to take some work on my part to improve my endurance and stamina, and I’m looking for a grueling fight. If I get a knockout, which I’m going for, in the first round, then great, but I will be trying to knock him out from round one to twelve, without saying. After his knockout loss to Maurice Harris, he took some time off and fought his way back. Now he’s a better fighter and I know that I have a tough fight on my hands…a grueling tough fight, and I think that this fight, will be fight of the year.
GM: You were originally going to challenge the IBF Champion, Wladimir Klitschko. Why did that fight fall apart?
Shelly Finkel and Wladimir Klitschko @$#@$#ed me. In my opinion, Shelly Finkel is a scumbag, and it’s guys like him that ruin boxing. People always talk about Don King and he gets the bad publicity, but what about guys like Finkel and all of these other promoters and so called managers, that don’t get the bad publicity. Don gets the bad press because he is a black promoter and is the most successful, but these guys are then thousand times worse than Don King.
GM: Do you think that Wladimir Klitschko avoids the bigger punchers because of his questionable chin?
Yeah. He has a china-chin and he knows it, and he stays away from guys that can punch. He’s an excellent boxer. He’s a terrific offensive fighter, but defensively and mentally, he’s not there. He’s not as mentally tough as even his brother, and he avoided me. They led me to believe for months that the fight was going to happen. I turned down three championship fights and possibly two HBO dates that were offered to me to fight Wladimir. The contract that they sent me to fight Wlad was so thick and had so much red tape that it would have put me into slavery. It was basically given to me that way just so I would have so much to go through, in my opinion, so they could find out who won between Rahman and Maskaev.
That in itself shows you the morals of Shelly Finkel, and they type of people that they are. People talk about boxing and it’s guys like this that people don’t know about. You never hear about the dirt with these people. Believe me, these guys pull a lot of strings and bull$#%#$, and the only times that you really hear about the negative stuff is when it comes to Don King.
GM: How are things going with Don King?
You know, Don King has been my savoir in this situation. I’m 34 years old and my entire career, even since my amateur career, people have been against me, and I fought this battle on my own, but I had to go to Don. Don put his hand out and helped me out because I couldn’t fight the fight no more. I did a campaign on the Internet, trying to expose Shelly Finkel and Larry Merchant for who these guys really were…how they were treating me. There’s a reason why people don’t see me on national television and worldwide television anymore and it is because people have tried to put me on the blacklist and blackball me for no apparent reason. It’s because I guess that they just don’t like me. Half of these people don’t even know why they don’t like me. It’s just media propaganda that is put out there, and you can say what you want, but I have never quit in a fight. If I lost a fight, I lost. If I got knocked out, I got knocked out. Every time that I came to the dance, I did what I had to do to try to win the fight.
GM: Arguably your biggest win was against George Foreman, but many sportswriters considered it a bad decision. What did you think of that fight and do you think that the win has haunted your career more than a loss would have.
In the Foreman fight…it was a great fight, and many people thought that he had won. Many people thought that I had won. I had nothing to do with it. I’m not the judges. I’m happy that I got the decision. Had they given that fight to Foreman, I wouldn’t have argued with them. It was that close of fight. I thought that I boxed very well. You want to talk about Foreman fights…how about talking about his bouts with Alex Stewart and the one where he fought Lou Savarese. I thought that he lost that fight. What about Axel Schulz? I thought that he lost that fight. They didn’t give the decision to those guys. With me, it was a close one that I was lucky and fortunate enough to get, and guess what, it’s a black eye for the sport and everyone wants to kill Shannon Briggs. The fact that is that I’m a very talkative guy. I’m not one of these punchy fighters that can’t speak well and I hustle hard for mine. I get out there and make it happen. I came into this game with only thirty amateur fights, but you would have thought that I was an Olympic star. You hear people talk on HBO that Rahman had very little amateur experience, but he had more amateur fights then me, but they made a big deal out of it when he fought Maskaev.
I started boxing when I was eighteen and had only thirty amateur fights and nobody cried about it. I do what I had to do. They said that I lost to George Foreman and I lost to Lennox Lewis, but I gave my all. He beat me. He was a better fighter than me that night. I didn’t cry. The fight was stopped, not because I was knocked out. I slipped…I missed a punch, and the referee stopped the fight. I moved on and lost to Sedreck Fields…I felt that I won. I came into the fight out of shape and got what I deserved, but at the same time, I thought that I won the fight. They gave it to him and I have to live with it. Against McCline, I went into the fight with a bad back, weighing 280 pounds and lost a decision, and I have come back with eleven straight wins. Everyone is against Shannon Briggs, but that’s OK…I went to Don. If you watch Star Wars, they have the dark side and I had to go to the Don Side. They wouldn’t accept me as a fighter. I can’t even get on television.
GM: So, you don’t think that the Wladimir Klitschko offer was ever serious, do you?
They used me because I’m a New York City guy, and I promote very well. I’m the type of a fighter that if you’re my promoter and say: “Shannon, I’m putting you on my card,” I’m going to promote the card. I have five thousand people on my email list and I keep in touch with my fans. My number is on the Internet man: 954-465-5152 is open for everyone to call me. I’m out there. I’m in the public. I’m on the train. I’m on the bus. I walk Times Square. I’m a public person, and they used me. They went to the Garden and told them that they had me in the contract just to get the date just to screw Don King, and then they don’t end up using me, and replace me with Calvin Brock. They were first trying to get Maskaev, Sultan Ibragimov, and everyone else but Shannon Briggs because they knew that I was going to knock him out.
GM: Do you give Calvin Brock any sort of chance to beat Wladimir?
I don’t know. This guy doesn’t have a chin and maybe if he hits him and gets lucky, although I don’t think much of him as an offensive fighter. I think that he is very basic. I think that if he’s lucky and can get something in, and Wlad doesn’t keep him on the outside, but you see with this guy, Wladimir, you have to take the fight to him. You have to fight a street fight. He doesn’t like that. He wants to fight a nice and easy, clean fight. He doesn’t want to get nasty. He doesn’t want to get funky. He doesn’t want to get gritty. If this guy can take this to the street, then he’s got a shot, but this guy is a banker. He’s a @$@#$ nerd. He’s the biggest nerd in boxing…I can’t believe it. So, if he can put down his tap dance shoes and make it a brawl, he’s got a chance, but if he goes in there with his corporate suit on, he’s going to get killed. If he boxes from the outside, he’s going to get murdered.
You see, I’m dirty. I’m from Brownsville. I was homeless as a kid and I will fight dirty. I’m going to take it to you. I’m going to street fight and do whatever I have to do. I fought in K-1 and with 20 million people watching at home, I went in there and fought a street fight and knocked out the champion. That’s the type of fighter that I am.
GM: Not too many people know about the fact that you participated in mixed martial arts. What did you think of it?
It was OK, but if you go to www.youtube.com, it’s there and you can see the vicious knockout. I tell you man. I’m not a bad guy. I’m a little upset because I’m thirty-four years old and I’m always trying to be polite to the public and be a people person, but it’s the politricks of the game that have hurt me over the years. I just realized that. You become a Mike Tyson. You have no other choice. Like I told you, I was forced to go to the dark side. You know, I was trying to fight for good, but then, all of a sudden, I’m the bad guy. I was treated like @$#@# and all I can do now is fight nasty and be the bad guy that they wanted me to be.
GM: Now you mentioned Larry Merchant. Is he doing anything outside of just negative press on the HBO broadcast, or are there more inside things that the general public doesn’t know about?
In my opinion, I don’t have a clue what this guy is. When I fought Foreman, they said that I was picked from a list of thirty people and Foreman picked me, thinking that he could beat me. When I was coming from the dressing room to the ring, Merchant said: “This guy was homeless and was hustling playing chess a few years ago in the park for money.” I sent him an email and said, what was the purpose of that? I was homeless. My mother was a heroin addict. My father was in prison, serving life at the time. So, I was a fifteen year old kid, playing chess for money, and putting myself through high school, sleeping in the street, sleeping on the train. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He went to college. He has parents. Why did he have to make the discouraging remarks about me? What did I do to deserve to be crucified on national television with Larry Merchant acting as if it was my fault?
Then to say that Foreman picked me out of all of those guys is disrespecting George and he was working for the network at the time. Over the years, this guy has proven that he doesn’t like Shannon Briggs. Every time that there is a bad decision in boxing, he says that: “This is almost as bad as the Shannon Briggs-George Foreman debacle.” Let it go all ready. I’m trying to feed my family.
Larry Merchant thinks he is boxing. He also feels like he created the sport, and he’s at the controls. He wants you to listen and do what he says, and what hurts me about that is that I’ve seen men degrade themselves. They kiss up to him because they know that he’ll say something. We all know that it was him or Tyson and HBO stuck with him, and they showed that Tyson was just a @#$@% and that’s all he will ever be.
Mike Tyson is what brought Showtime to its prominence. When him and Don King were forced to Showtime, it proved that they look at you as just a bunch of #%##$%$# and that they are still in control. With that being said, Larry Merchant knows that and he treats people like that. I have seen fighters kiss his ass left and right because they know that if you don’t, you won’t be back. Just like Shannon Briggs. You won’t be back.
I’m a hustler. I’ve been in movies: Transporter 2, Bad Boys 2, and I don’t have a publicist. I promote myself. I kiss babies, help old ladies across the streets, I shake hands…I do whatever I have to do to feed my family. I don’t commit crimes. I don’t do drugs or drink. I’m a positive person. These people that have gone against me and have painted me the bad guy…I could tell you stories about all of them and what they have done to myself and other fighters behind the scenes. It’s not talked about. This is why Shannon Briggs cannot get on national television.
GM: It is a shock that you haven’t been on national television. Do you believe that it’s the back room dealings that’s causing it?
I’m an exciting fighter…say what you want. Why aren’t I on ESPN? Why am I not on Fox? Why am I not on Showtime? I had to go to Don King. They wouldn’t let me on HBO…why? Say what you want, but I’m coming to knock the guy out and if I get knocked out in the process, guess what, big deal! I’m coming to give the fans an exciting fight. You know, when I fought McCline, I had the bad back and weighed 280 pounds, and I didn’t want to go through with the fight, but I knew that if I had pulled out of the fight, they would have never allowed me back on television, and they didn’t allow me back anyway. I had to go and fight in K-1.
GM: What are your recollections of the Jameel McCline bout?
The guy was terrified of me. The entire fight, he was running from me, and I couldn’t catch him because I had a bad back and he knew it, but I came to fight and I was chasing him. After the fight, they act like I was the worst thing ever to put on boxing gloves. I’m the best personality in boxing. I’m the most personable guy in boxing. I don’t have an agent, and I’ve been in two major motion pictures. I did a movie called “The Retirement” with Peter Faulk, Rip Torn, and Coolio that will be coming out soon. I don’t have an agent. I go out there and try to make it happen for my family. You hear Shannon Briggs this and Shannon Briggs that, but I’ve got a trick for them. I’m going to be Heavyweight Champ of the World and then they will have to come and talk to me.
GM: You contacted me in regards to some rather critical things that I said in my segment “Geno’s Boxing Corner.” Do you often contact writers when you believe that they haven’t given you a fair shake?
You know, I want to say that there is no disrespect to you, and I usually don’t respond to articles, but when I read your article, I thought that it was a little bit harsh. I will tell you a quick story. I met a writer that was actually in high school and it was his first boxing show…I think that it was Roy Jones, JR., versus Merqui Sosa at Madison Square Garden. He was sitting next to me and I was sitting somewhere way up in the stands somewhere, and he was like: “Oh my God, you’re Shannon Briggs. Can I sit with you?” He watched the entire card with me. We had a great time and he said that it was the first article that he had ever done and it was for his high school newspaper and he couldn’t believe that he had met me. He asked if he could interview me, and I gave him my number and said no problem. This was in like 1996 or 1997. Years later, he graduated high school, went on to college, and became a boxing writer. In about 2000, I had seen that he had written an article about me, and it was so bad. It was the worst type of article that you could imagine.
So, he sees me and he’s so different and cocky because he’s a big boxing writer now. I walked up to him and said: How are you doing, and he said: “How you doing Shannon,” in a patronizing way. I told him that I read the article that he had written about me and that it was @$#@$## up. I told him that first, he was a young, black man and what he wrote was so negative toward black people. He disrespected me, and I talked to this kid, but first, I wanted to slap him. I said: Let me explain something to you. You came to me in high school as a shy kid, and gave you an interview…sat with you, and you called me many times afterward, and I was always nice to you. You realized that if you wanted to get an article printed, you had to write a negative one about Shannon Briggs.
He said that I was 100% right and that he had no reason. He wrote that I was nothing and wasn’t ever going to be anything. It was just totally negative. He said that I was never going to be a success as a fighter. I’m already a success. I slept in the shelter. I slept on a train. I had to go without meals and eat what other people didn’t want to eat. I live in a million dollar home with a pool. I’m already a success. If I don’t make another dollar, I’m successful because I made it out of Brownsville. I have two kids, a beautiful wife…she looks like a super model. I do very well. My son goes to private school. This is all from a guy that had nothing. I would sleep on a friend’s couch or somebody’s floor, and it hurts me to see people be so negative, when I’m the true American success story. I could be in prison, could be selling drugs, or I could be dead, but I never gave up. My mother died on my birthday, December 4th, 1996, but I never gave up.
Most people couldn’t survive like I survived. They would have folded. Most people resort to crime or just go lay down. I’m a fighter. I may not be the greatest, but I’m the latest. That’s my motto: “I may not be the greatest, but I’m the latest.”
GM: In Teddy Atlas’s book, he mentioned something to the effect that you and he ran into some trouble in the south and you had to fight. What happened there?
Some racist guys came up to me in Mississippi and grabbed my hair and said that he didn’t like dreadlocks. He actually grabbed my hair and Teddy came to my defense and the guy ended up attacking us and we beat the $%@#$ of him. It was hell because we were in a little small town and before you know it, part of the police came out with shotguns in the backs of pick ups. It was crazy. Our lives were on the line. It was a hell of a night.
GM: I was recently watching the Bowe-Golota bout from the garden in New York. After the fight, there was that riot that had broken out, and I noticed you in the crowd. Was anyone foolish enough during the riot to try to exchange punches with you?
Not at all. I’m from Brooklyn baby. I live for a brawl. I saved Tom Hauser in the crowd. I thought that he was going to get hurt. I was a big fan of Hauser, so I ran down to make sure that he was all right, and I made sure that another brother that I knew from D.C. was all right. He was in a wheel chair. You know, that was a bad night for boxing, but you know what? People are too down on boxing. We need positive press. That is why all of these other sports are thriving. You look at the NFL, NHL, NBA, and you cannot talk or write negative about these sports. The biggest scandal was the steroids in baseball. For the most part, it brought attention to baseball and people want to see homeruns. To me baseball is boring, and you want to see homeruns. If you’re not going to see the guy knock it out of the park, what are you going for?
GM: So, what does boxing have to do to bring it back to its glory days?
In my opinion, boxing needs to clean up the writing and coverage. It has become fashionable to write negative about fighters and about fights and organizations. Forget about it. The WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, and IBO: let’s leave them alone. They are great for boxing. People want to see one world champion. It’s not going to happen. Let it go. So, let the organizations have as many champions as they want and then hopefully, the champs will get together and unify. That will be great. Don King put together a heavyweight tournament that crowned Mike Tyson the undisputed champion. They should let him do it again. I’m on the Don side now and I’m the biggest promoter of Don King ever. He is the greatest promoter that has ever lived. He has come to my rescue and I appreciate that. He’s always been good at what he does and don’t be fooled. All the promoters do the same bull#%$^.
Like I said, the writers need to change. They have to look at boxing positively, and that’s when people will come to the sport. I hear a guy like Larry Merchant say something like: “This is terrible for the sport…blah blah blah,” and people believe it and stay away. It’s like the President. Whatever he says, people believe. “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” and people believe him. They haven’t found one weapon yet!
GM: You have mentioned Larry Merchant a few times. Do you feel like many that the HBO team is biased and are cheerleaders for their house fighters?
Exactly…that’s how they are with Wladimir. Listen to this. This is how bad this sport is. They were so bad that they dying for him to fight Maskaev. Maskaev is 37 years old, was in a grueling fight with Rahman, and they wanted him to go immediately back to training camp so that Wladimir could get his belt, and unify the titles. They were offering this guy up to 3-point something million dollars just to murder his ass just to get the belt. They want Klitschko to have the unified championship. This is just how bias and heartless they are. They didn’t care that this guy had a bad back and had just fought a grueling fight and that he had a bad thumb and a bad elbow. They didn’t care. They wanted Wlad to kill this guy and get the WBC Title, and then the IBF Belt, so they can say that he is the world champion.
This guy got knocked out by Brewster. He got knocked out by Ross Puritty. He got knocked out by Corrie Sanders. He went down three times from punches from Sam Peter that didn’t even look like they landed. He was flopping on the ground like a big fish and you sit up here and say that he’s a great champion?
You know that the boxing business has got to change and you know who is going to change it? You guys. You guys are really in control right now. They say that boxing is a dying sport and it is, and it’s because the writers are not supporting the sport. In any other sport, if a commentator ragged and ragged on a player, the next day, they would have their job. Larry Merchant wouldn’t last.
GM: Do you have any final words for the fans?
You know my day is coming and I am going to give my all. I’m in a tough fight but I’m going in there to knock him out.