The longtime hue and cry over the current state of the heavyweight division has only intensified these past few months as top contenders, David Haye, Alexander Povetkin, and Thomsz Adamek have refused to fight Vitali Klitschko or his brother Wladimir.
Instead, Vitali will defend his WBC belt against a very hungry and now very lean and mean Shannon The Cannon Briggs. Briggs has managed to maneuver into a #9 WBC ranking, but is otherwise not highly ranked by the various orgs and websites. Basically, the complaint is that he has done nothing to warrant a title shot, the same complaint leveled at Vitali’s last opponent, Albert Sosnowski.
Read my previous musings on those claims here, inserting the formidably muscled up Briggs for the muscled up Sosnowski.
Typically, overemoting critics fail to understand the dynamics of leveraging a big heavyweight promotion, nor do they have any sense of the rankings or depth of the heavyweight division, preferring the easier job of bigging up the one or two names of their favored fighters as if that was all that was needed to make a prizefight, much less a title fight, the mere suggestion of personal desire.
Here are some recent Boxrec rankings as of September 5th while Vitali, Wlad, and David Haye were all putting together their fights. Keep in mind that Boxrec is the largest of the few ranking orgs that rank more than 10 or 15 fighters in a division.
The (notes) are mine of course:
3. Haye (already backed out of one signed and sealed contract and refused recent 50/50 offer by the Klitschkos, signing to defend against Audley Harrison in spite of repeated denials that he was even in negotiations)
4. Adamek (pending to allow cuts to heal, but apparently fighting Maddalone in Dec)
5. Chagaev (beat badly by Wlad and currently Haye’s mandatory)
6. Povetkin (refused to sign negotiated agreement to challenge in Wlad’s last defense, thus losing his 2 yr long mandatory ranking, not to mention his trainer, Teddy Atlas, says Povetkin is not yet ready to challenge for the title.)
7. Valuev (interesting deal was almost put together against Vitali, but out into next year with left shoulder/wrist surgery)
8. Peter (beat badly by Wlad 2x/Vitali 1x)
9. Thompson (beat badly by Wlad with no following)
10. Chambers (beat badly by Wlad and still rebuilding)
11. Arreola (beat badly by Vitali and still rebuilding)
12. Dimitrenko (new EBU champ, but turned down Klitschko offers, maybe building into a much bigger promotion in the next year of two)
13. Gomez (beat badly by Vitali and a last ditch opponent for now)
14. Sexton (busy being knocked out by Chisora)
15. Boytsov (maybe in the future, but only 24 and shaking off the rust after coming back from hand surgery, now is not his time, maybe a year or two in a bigger promotion)
16. Austin (beat badly by Wlad with no following)
17. Helenius (very promising prospect recently breaking into fringe contender. Maybe a year or two away in a much bigger promotion)
18. Solis (chubby growing into a blimp with promoter problems looking like he’s moving to challenge for the WBA cheese belt, not the Klitschkos)
19. Pianeta (who dat?)
20. T Ibragimov (The lesser talented of the Russian Iggys, his cousin already lost a shutout against Wlad)
21. Sosnowski (beat badly by Vitali and rebuilding against Dimitrenko)
22. Ustinov (undefeated Russian Bigfoot monster promoted by Ks and wants a Kbro. I’m guessing Vitali’s retirement fight if he makes it past Briggs and can’t sign Haye or Valuev)
23. Holyfield (Oh, brother, where art thou buried? Jeez…..)
24. Platov (who? See Pianeta!)
25. Johnson (beat worse than badly by Vitali……..please, watching Vitali try to stuff a giant squash into a blender would be better stuffing for a Saturday night turkey……..nevermore…….nevermore…….)
So, thusly informed, now say HELLO to one Shannon The Cannon Briggs, lifelong asthmaholic, part time wastrel, yet all while breaking the all time first round KO record first officially recorded by Jack Dempsey in his all time tear through the heavy division. Briggs has 31 first round KOs, unofficially 32 but for failing a post fight drug test, probably a positive test result for ganja. Briggs is unabashedly Jamaican after all.
Briggs is a strange one alright. He was a dynamic, charismatic young personality who won the ‘Dream’ “Lineal” heavyweight title with a dubious decision over the nearing 50 yr old Big George Foreman, then was knocked out in a ferocious slugfest against WBC champ Lennox Lewis in his very next bout. Instead of rebuilding, he partied hardy and let his training and weight go, thus was written off as a wasted talent.
In spite of all the above shortcomings, many years later he managed to renew “The Dream” when Briggs lifted the WBO title from the then highly regarded Siarhei Liakhovich with a Hail Mary last second knockout in the 12th round, a title that Briggs promptly dropped in his first defense. He then retired to hit the all you can eat buffets for 2 yrs before coming back hard with 4 straight 1st rd Kos.
Now Briggs finds himself square in the middle in his 3rd opportune “Dream ” when Haye, Adamek, and Povetkin all shut down and beat strategic retreats rather than to fight the brothers in a losing cause. As the “2x” champ with an established name, Briggs should bring in the business once the promotion starts touting his KO record.
Brigg’s may be much older and slower of hand and foot than Sosnowski, but hugely larger and stronger, remaining a danger from rds 1-12. He’s already been making the right noises about knocking Vitali out, and while his overall boxing skills may be lacking for a top contender, he has the top experience, hunger, guile, and the natural talent and power to pull off the kind of spectacular upset that nobody else in the division would be capable of.
Bigger upsets have happened in the one punch Big Boy division, that’s for sure.
Vitali is self promoted and has chosen a juicy date in Germany after all the Oktoberfest lederhosen has been put away, Saturday, October 16th, at the O2 arena in Hamburg. Apparently he will be throwing a rock concert before and after since the bout appears to be the sole fight on the card.
It was quite the slap in the face of Haye that Vitali chose a weekend of WBC boxing festivities in London to do the initial promotion of the bout, but Haye appears to be quite shameless in avoiding any true challenge to his WBA belt he acquired under dubious circumstances. He instead kept himself squirreled away in a secret bunker in London, all while exchanging bitter twitter tweets with The A-Force, Audley Harrison in the Great ’10 Tweet Street War of Sweet Nothings & Handbags.
Yet there is also much reputation and respect to be lost for Vitali if he were to lose to Briggs who is widely derided as previously mentioned in spite of his obvious danger, but Vitali had little choice given the limitations of his division that has seen the Klitschkos dominate their opposition in a fashion never before seen in the history of the division.
Both are aging fighters born only months apart for whom the wheels may go flying off without warning. Briggs has many more fights, but owing to his impressive 1st round KO record, they have logged near identical pro rounds, 196 for Vitali and 194 for Briggs.
Vitali has a very long amateur record compared to Briggs and was also a championship kick boxer for several years, so his odometer has significantly more miles on the clock, making him more vulnerable in theory.
The promotion should be a success overall with the European, ie, German public for whom this fight is being targeted.
This was supposed to be Vitali’s last year before retirement, after all, he will be 40 yrs old next year, but like Manny Pacquiao’s last year, it may prove to be impossible to walk away from all the money on the table for his fights.
We shall see what The Fates deal out in a couple of weeks. It could be a prototypical methodical Vitali beatdown, or an upset for the new age, so tune in if you want to see knockout record setting heavyweights still in full command their game.