Fighting words: Campbell, Briggs filling in nicely for Atlas

8/14/2008 - Boxing

I gained 180 pounds in two days last week.

Call it the Teddy Atlas fill-in carb-loading plan. With my broadcast partner off doing the Olympics, ESPN has gone in a unique direction to replace him this month.

Sitting in the Teddy throne are two men from extremely different sides of the scale. Lightweight champion Nate Campbell is on "Wednesday Night Fights" while former heavyweight titlist Shannon Briggs is doing the Friday shows.

Thus, the big 48-hour weight gain.

Briggs openly talks about the fact he has packed on the pounds in the good life since taking a break from the game. Campbell, on the other hand, is in prime shape for his title defense against Joan Guzman in September.

The fight crew has decided the pre- and post-show meals are more fun with Briggs. Just kidding Nate -- we all love iceberg lettuce without dressing!

For more than six years, Atlas and I have worked together as much as any broadcast team in any sport at ESPN. So it can be a shock to our fans, and quite frankly to me, to hear another voice at ringside. The boxing genius with the Staten Island accent is hard to get out of our collective consciousness.

Both Campbell and Briggs did very well in their first outings (on Aug. 6 and 8, respectively). Campbell is very analytical when he watches a fight. His first instinct is to break down the technique and strategy. Briggs sees more of the big picture and notices the intangibles. His analysis leans more toward the mental aspect of the fighter and the emotion of the event. Both provide strong perspective and are a joy to work with.

For me, it's a special opportunity to see how accomplished pros tackle new challenges. Briggs and Campbell had to find their comfort zones. It's hard to imagine guys who have spent their lives opposite lethal fists flying at their head finding TV lights unnerving, but calling a fight is more difficult than it looks. At least, calling a fight well is.

I give Shannon and Nate a lot of credit. They have stepped into the ultimate "hard shoes to fill" role. It seems like they have done a fine job, according to fan feedback. It helps when you have interesting fights in front of you, of course, and both benefited from that.

In case you missed it, Ali Oubaali went toe-to-toe and broke down a very determined and iron-chinned Chris Fernandez on "Wednesday Night Fights" in Brooklyn. Campbell was on the money with his commentary. He noted Fernandez's willingness to exchange as being courageous. On the other side, Campbell also saw the work rate to the body by Oubaali leading to an eventual stoppage. It did.

Then on Friday night, we were lucky to get our first glimpse of Tavoris Cloud. He is undoubtedly a fighter you will hear a lot about. Cloud is an unbeaten power puncher at 175 pounds. He wrecked former titlist Julio Gonzalez with a battering display of blistering, heavy-handed head shots.

Briggs went so far as to label Cloud a future champ. I like when a guy of Briggs' status gives an endorsement like that. Briggs also noted that Cloud's right hand is capable of doing damage to any of the current top 10 Ring Magazine light heavyweights.

I plan to push Campbell and Briggs more in their next broadcasts and fight fans will come out winners because of it. I thank you for giving both Nate and Shannon a chance, and I will assure you they will be even better this week. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."