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Vitali Klitschko Vs Shannon Briggs: A New York City Showdown?

By Geno McGahee

HBO has made it clear that they are not going to broadcast the one-sided, tape-delayed beatings that the Klitschko brothers have been giving out overseas. The American audience has not been receptive and the Kevin Johnsons, Tony Thompsons, and Eddie Chambers of the world haven’t been capturing their imaginations, but “Dr. Ironfist” has plans to change the mind of the network and hopefully turn the heads of those in the states when he takes on former WBO Champion, Shannon Briggs.

Briggs, 51-5-1, 45 KO’s, has been calling out the Klitschko brothers for years, and he has been close upon occasion of landing a crack. In 2006, when he launched Sergei Liakhovich out of the ring to capture the WBO Crown, Wladimir voiced interest in a unification. Briggs would lose that chance when he allowed the smaller Sultan Ibragimov to box circles around him, dropping the title.

Since the defeat, Briggs has returned with four bouts, three of which were first round stoppages. The one no contest was actually a first round stoppage of Marcus McGee, but when a test came back containing an illegal substance, Briggs’ win was turned into a no contest.

In his last fight, Briggs stopped Rob Calloway in just over 90 seconds of the first round. Calloway is a journeyman that has seen better days, but it was still a very impressive win for Briggs because of the manner in which he won. He went right after Calloway and collapsed him with a body shot.

The big appeal for a showdown with Briggs isn’t that he’s better than any of the recent challengers to the Klitschko brothers. It could be argued that he is not as qualified as an Eddie Chambers or Tony Thompson at this point in his career, but he has charisma, size, and a big punch. The fans want somebody that can get the champion brothers out of their comfort zone. Briggs could be the man to do that.

New York City is going to be home to the showdown according to a source close to the Klitschko camp. It will be jam packed with Briggs fans and HBO is rumored to have given Vitali the OK and have accepted this fight to play prime time in late 2010. It has been said that it could be as soon as October 30th.

Vitali Klitschko, 40-2, 38 KO’s, does what a champion is supposed to do. He holds the WBC Title and has pummeled every challenger. He’s not pretty to watch and despite the high knockout statistic, he is not a Mike Tyson. He beats you into submission typically. When he returned to boxing after a 4 year retirement, he beat Sam Peter into retirement in 8 rounds, and has defended his title four times since, three of which were late knockouts. Kevin Johnson was the only one to go the distance and he elected to not fight and just survive.

At 38 years of age himself, Vitali is no spring chicken, but he fights regularly and his competition has been a world better than that of Briggs, as of late. In the recent Briggs bouts, he has looked indestructible as he devastates his opposition with ease, but now he has the tall order of Klitschko to deal with.

Briggs’ chance is a puncher’s chance, but there’s a little more than that going in his favor…

One of the best things that Briggs has is timing. His time combined with his punch make him a very dangerous person. Unfortunately, his fear of tiring hurts him and is why he will be a huge underdog going into this title opportunity.

Briggs’ battle with asthma has been well documented. In his more challenging fights, you will see him pace himself, slowing down to a snail’s pace and just looking for the shot that will end it. You saw this in his victory over Liakhovich and in his loss to Ibragimov. He stayed on the outside and waited and if he does that with Vitali Klitschko, he will be carried out of the ring.

The hope for the boxing fan and the hope for Briggs is that he can get to Vitali and make the fight interesting. The most likely scenario is that Vitali jabs and punishes the challenger from the outside until he collapses or quits late in the fight. Briggs can change that if he comes into the fight with a do or die attitude.

The extra weight Briggs has put on over the years hasn’t helped him either. He may have added more power to his punch but he’s a bigger and slower target for his opponent and you know that Vitali considers Briggs a quicker version of Sam Peter…a big and slow, powerful guy that can be neutralized.

Later on this year, we will see Shannon Briggs get his last chance to win a world title against a man that most consider nearly unbeatable. The crowd in the Big Apple will be solidly behind their man, Briggs will be motivated, and the fans in the states will watch with the hope that we will not be shown another example of the Klitschko dominance…a one-sided beating of an overmatched opponent, apparently unwilling to go for broke and try to score the knockout before they are beaten to the floor.

If the rumors are true and HBO does pick up the fight, which seems to be the case, it is a good step forward for the division and boxing. Briggs possesses what most of the heavyweight challengers do not and that is charisma and he will give an honest effort come fight night. It might be the first brick in the road to get the Klitschkos back on HBO full time.

Let’s hope so.

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