Briggs on New Orleans, 'Transporter 2' and his future
Heavyweight Shannon Briggs reflects on Hurricane Katrina, his role in "The Transporter 2," steroids and his suggestions for improving boxing.
Editor's note: Heavyweight Shannon Briggs recently visited ESPN's studios to serve as guest analyst on "Friday Night Fights." Briggs (43-4-1, 37 KOs) was fresh from an Aug. 26 seventh-round KO of Ray Mercer. Briggs spoke to ESPN.com's Sheldon Spencer about Hurricane Katrina, acting in the hit film "Transporter 2," women's boxing, steroid usage and how he would run pro boxing if he were its commissioner.
ESPN.com: Shannon, what's your take on what's going on in the Gulf Coast and particularly in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
Briggs: I trained there once for a fight. It was after the [Francois] Botha fight [in August 1999], I went out there and trained for three or four months, maybe five. It was beautiful city, a lot of culture there. This is devastating. A lot of American history comes from New Orleans, the whole state of Louisiana. It's a tragedy and it's devastating.
ESPN.com: Do you have any family there?
Briggs: No. My relatives that lived there at one point moved a couple of years ago.
ESPN.com: Do you have a favorite part of the city?
Briggs: Yeah, Bourbon Street. To see Bourbon Street destroyed, it was, like, amazing. A feeling came over me once this whole thing happened. On the flight here, I was on Song Airlines and I was watching [the television coverage].
ESPN.com: What's the worst weather you've ever been in?
Briggs: Actually, it's funny you'd ask that. I was in New Orleans when a hurricane was headed toward New Orleans, and we evacuated and we drove to Atlanta. This was a few years ago, maybe 1999 or 2000. We were told to leave, and so we went to Atlanta.
ESPN.com: What kind of damage did the hurricane do then?
Briggs: I wouldn't say it was a false alarm, but it wasn't as bad as anticipated. Everything then seemed OK. I'm not a fan of cold weather, so anywhere it's cold is devastating to me. One inch of snow is bad for me.
ESPN.com: On to lighter subjects. Next month, Ann Wolfe is supposed to fight a man named Bo Skipper in what is being billed as the first "legitimate" male-female boxing match? What are your thoughts about men fighting women?
Briggs: I haven't given it much thought. It's something new. I don't know if it will be a trend. I've seen her fight; I haven't seen him fight. What I've seen of her, I was actually impressed. She brings devastating power and ferociousness to the ring. So, he'd better know how to fight, I'll tell you that.
ESPN.com: Do you have any problem with the ethics of a man fighting a woman? Is there anything about that you have a problem with?
Briggs: Not really, to be honest with you. What are ethics these days? The world's crazy. You turn on television and you can watch reality TV [and see] "Who Wants To Marry A Midget?" We're going to start thinking [about ethics] now?
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ESPN.com: What do you think about women's boxing in general?
Briggs: To be honest with you, I wasn't a fan at first. As time went on, the skill level got better, I became a fan, and I can accept it and watch it now. As opposed to in the beginning, it was like a catfight. Now you see a lot of skill. It's like anything, I guess. As time went on, the fighters improve.
ESPN.com: What are your thoughts on Laila Ali?
Briggs: Impressive. She's beautiful, and she can fight. You can't beat that.
|“||If the money's right, we're going to fight. (laughs) I told somebody yesterday, I'll fight a lion in the jungle, a bear in the woods and an alligator in the water. (laughs) No, I would never fight a woman, in the ring or out of the ring. I can't disrespect my mother. [The public] wouldn't let me live it down. ”|
|— Briggs on whether he would take an offer to fight a woman|
ESPN.com: If someone asked you to fight a woman, would you consider doing it?
Briggs: If the money's right, we're going to fight. (laughs) I told somebody yesterday, I'll fight a lion in the jungle, a bear in the woods and an alligator in the water. (laughs) No, I would never fight a woman, in the ring or out of the ring. I can't disrespect my mother. [The public] wouldn't let me live it down. They won't let me live down the fact that I fought George Foreman and retired him. (laughs)
ESPN.com: What was your reaction when you heard that James Toney had been stripped of a heavyweight title for allegedly using steroids?
Briggs: I didn't care, to be honest with you. Do steroids make you fight better? I don't know. They may have made him think he was stronger. It may have made train a little harder. But I don't know if [it would have made a difference] skill-level wise. I haven't given it much thought. He's one hell of a fighter.
ESPN.com: Have you ever been approached to use steroids, or have you been tempted to use them?
Briggs: No one cares about me enough to give me steroids. I didn't pay much attention [to Toney's case]. He's a small guy to be a heavyweight. The fight before the Ruiz fight [Toney vs. Rydell Booker in September 2004], he had fought a guy and looked like a muscleman a little bit. Then he came into the Ruiz fight a fat pig. It was amazing. I was like, oh crap! He went from body beautiful to a fat pig in his next fight. He was trying to clean up his act, and I guess he had some residue left. (laughs)
ESPN.com: Do you believe there are steroid users in boxing?
Briggs: I believe there are some steroid users in boxing. You can't think there aren't.
ESPN.com: What would make you suspicious?
Briggs: There are guys who are big and muscular. But not even just those guys. I think there are other guys who use them, too, and don't get caught. I'm an asthmatic. I take Ventolin sometimes, Albuterol. That's a steroid inhaler, you know what I'm saying. I was born asthmatic. I use them every day. Those are legal steroids.
ESPN.com: Who's the best fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world and why?
Briggs: I'd have to say Floyd Mayweather, hands down. He's never lost. You can't take that away from him. He's never lost.
ESPN.com: Who would win a Mayweather-Zab Judah fight?
Briggs: I don't know -- that's a great fight. I can't pick a winner. I'm terrible at picking fights. I always pick the wrong guy. I'm a terrible gambler.
ESPN.com: What makes Mayweather so good?
Briggs: He's never lost. Like he said, Tiger Woods has lost. You lose in baseball, football. But he's never lost. He's fought to the best of his ability. He's fought whoever has been out there and he beats them hands down. There might have been one or two fights that might have been questionable -- not even questionable, but a bit close. But this guy really kicks ass. This guy really has skill.
He's the best overall talent. I don't think he's the best, marketing-wise. I don't think he does himself justice when he goes out and has his antics. But he's young, too. But he's the best, by far.
ESPN.com: If you could be anyone else for just a day, who would that person be and why?
Briggs: Sugar Ray Robinson. He was the ultimate fighter. He had his own style. He looked good doing what he did. He put it on the line in the ring. Out of the ring, he was a classy looking guy. He was the epitome of a fighter.
ESPN.com: How did you come to appreciate him so much?
Briggs: Watching ESPN Classic all day. It's my favorite channel.
ESPN.com: If you could be another athlete, beyond Robinson, who would that athlete be and why?
Briggs: What Michael Jordan did in basketball is crazy. I'm a huge fan of Jim Brown and Michael Jordan, two guys who were devastating.
ESPN.com: We understand that you're in the film "Transporter 2" (which opened Sept. 2 and set a Labor Day holiday box-office record with a $20.25 million haul). You play a character named Max. What's Max's role in this movie?
Briggs: Max is like a psychopath on dust. (laughs) He's insane. He's a violent and vicious character.
ESPN.com: So you go head-to-head with "Transporter" (portrayed by Jason Statham)?
Briggs: Me and Jason Statham, the star of the show, we duke it out quite a few times. It's pretty neat.
ESPN.com: How hard was it for you to hold back punches?
|“||I cut my face, I cut my hand wide open. I required stitches. I hurt my back. I fell down a flight of stairs. I slipped once during a boat scene. There was not a day that I came to the set and not [sustain] heavy damage. ”|
|— Briggs on the injuries he suffered acting in "Transporter 2"|
Briggs: I got beat up bad filming that movie. I did my own stunts. It cost me. I had to get stitches quite a few times. I was really beat up. It was worse than any fight.
ESPN.com: What injuries did you suffer?
Briggs: I cut my face, I cut my hand wide open. I required stitches. I hurt my back. I fell down a flight of stairs. I slipped once during a boat scene. There was not a day that I came to the set and not [sustain] heavy damage.
I'm not famous enough to get my own stunt man yet.
ESPN.com: How did you get the role?
Briggs: I'm not the most attractive brother in the world. They say: We need somebody big and ugly. They call Shannon. (laughs)
ESPN.com: Was this your first action role?
Briggs: No, I was also in "Bad Boys 2."
ESPN.com: Did you do your own stunts in that movie, too, and how did that compare to "The Transporter" in terms of the toll it took on your body?
Briggs: Yes, sir. But [in "Bad Boys 2," director] Michael Bay spared me a lot of damage. But in this one [director Louis Leterrier said], "We gonna kill your [expletive]."
ESPN.com: Was some of the damage you suffered on "The Transporter 2" the result of Jason not holding back on a punch?
Briggs: No, Jason was cool. In one scene, I was going to throw a punch at Jason, and I actually punched the glass and got a big vicious cut on my [left] hand.
ESPN.com: Did this interrupt your training?
Briggs: I couldn't train, actually, at the time. But I got it together.
ESPN.com: When and where did you film?
Briggs: We were in Miami, South Beach, last year.
ESPN.com: Did you have to postpone a fight to take this role?
Briggs: No, I wasn't really active last year. It was one of those things that I see as an opportunity to not only help my boxing career but also my career after boxing.
ESPN.com: I read somewhere that Jason is a big fan of Ultimate Fighting and that he considers those fighters the toughest in the world. I saw where Ray Mercer says he'll never fight K-1 again. Would you consider Ultimate Fighting?
Briggs: Well, I fought K-1 [in Japan]. I'm the only U.S. boxer to win at K-1 and never lose. I fought one of the Ultimate Fighting champions, Tom Erickson. He's a wrestling champion. I fought him and knocked him out. He's doing good now, has won a lot of fights and is on a roll.
Ray Mercer, Imamu Mayfield, Vince Phillips, Butterbean, all these guys have been over there, and I'm the only [U.S. boxer] to leave undefeated in K-1.
ESPN.com: So how many [K-1] fights did you have?
Briggs: I had one. I'm 1-0. I knocked him out so vicious, they haven't called me back yet. (laughs) I think they brought me and everybody else over there to be a victim and I reversed the roles on them.
ESPN.com: What was the biggest adjustment for you?
Briggs: I tried to prepare for kicks real well. But it did nothing. Training to prepare for kicks did nothing, I've got to admit it. I'm the only person ever, in the history of K-1, who, when I kicked, I yelled. I screamed "Aaargh." It hurt so bad.
ESPN.com: So that's tougher than boxing?
Briggs: The fight lasted [about] 38 seconds. He kicked me three times, the third kick being the hardest kick I've ever felt in my life. I yelled. I got mad. And then I knocked him out. I knew I had to get him out of there because I couldn't take another kick like that. If I had sustained one more kick like that, I would have been on the ground.
|“||In boxing, you have individual promoters, and that doesn't help the sport. Nobody's promoting the sport, just promoting fights. And rarely are they promoting fighters, just fight cards. I would eliminate that and make it more like the NFL or the NBA and make [boxing] more like a corporation. ”|
|— Briggs on how he would improve boxing|
ESPN.com: If you were a boxing commissioner, what would be the first things you'd want to change and improve?
Briggs: First things first. I would eliminate the [sanctioning] belt organizations. I would make it one champion per division. Look at the NFL, Major League Baseball or the NBA, these are corporations.
In boxing, you have individual promoters, and that doesn't help the sport. Nobody's promoting the sport, just promoting fights. And rarely are they promoting fighters, just fight cards. I would eliminate that and make it more like the NFL or the NBA and make [boxing] more like a corporation.
ESPN.com: Do you ever think a day like that will come?
Briggs: I hope so. There are guys working on that now. It's very important. How long can it go on with these independent fight nights, where no one's together? It's crazy. The promoters need to band together. Managers need to become like team owners. We need to have rules and regulations that we all have to live and abide by.
ESPN.com: Sept. 21 marks the 50th anniversary of Rocky Marciano's career ending with a perfect 49-0. How much do you appreciate that achievement? Is that an unbreakable record?
Briggs: I think so, in today's era. When Rock was around, he was a vicious fighter. But he was also what we would consider now a cruiserweight. I think nowadays, when you're fighting guys 250, 300 pounds, who knows? But you have to appreciate the Rock's work ethic. He was a guy who wasn't so much a talented guy, but he was a pure, tough guy who trained really hard. He was a tough man. They don't make guys like that anymore.
ESPN.com: Oct. 1 is the 30th anniversary of the "Thrilla In Manila." How many times have you watched those fights, and what are your thoughts on that rivalry?
Briggs: Who knows how many times I watched those fights. I wish that would have been [Muhammad] Ali's last fight. It would have been a great way to go out. It was a great fight between two men who put it all on the line. A great fighter and an unbelievable slugger. Joe Frazier was one of my top 10 greatest fighters of all time. He was just vicious.
It wasn't just his hook.I think he was a very intelligent fighter. Joe knew what to do and where to be. He was a great fighter and is a great person.
ESPN.com: Who do you root for in that series?
Briggs: I'm a boxer, so I'm always for Ali in a sense. But then I loved Frazier because of his work ethic and I loved that hook. To see him throw that left hook, it's a thing of beauty. You look at Mike Tyson and it was a muscle hook, an "I'm gonna kill you" hook.
Frazier threw a hook with ease. It was precise. And it was just beautiful. He swung that hook, and you've got to love that. The way he swung it, it was beautiful.
ESPN.com: Besides you, Tyson and Riddick Bowe, is there another heavyweight from Brownsville people should be aware of?
Briggs: Taurus Sykes is from the neighborhood. There's this new group of kids, the "Chin Checkers" that are from there. There are quite a few other kids, really good kids from Brownsville, that are unbelievable talents.
ESPN.com: What is it about the area that produces so many talented fighters?
Briggs: There's something in the water. We don't make fighters in Brownsville, we breed fighters. When you live in Brownsville it's just a rough neighborhood. You've got to fight. It's going to test anybody who doesn't know. You know that when you live there.
ESPN.com: It's been reported that Mike Tyson is considering a porno career. What's your reaction to that?
Briggs: If he's packing like that, go ahead, baby! (laughs) If you're packing, go ahead. All I'm saying is, don't go up there and embarrass yourself. But you'd better be packing.
ESPN.com: If someone offered you a role in a movie like that, would you take it?
Briggs: Nah. I'm packing, but I couldn't get on a stage like that. (laughs)
ESPN.com: What would your acting alias be?
Briggs: Wesley Pipes. (laughs)
ESPN.com: Where do you see yourself in five years? Will you still be in the ring? Selling kitchen appliances like George Foreman?
Briggs: Hopefully, I'll be sitting behind a desk. I'd like to be heavyweight champion of the world and retiring at 38. I'd like to retire then and move on to the twilight of my life. I'd like to be doing your job, doing interviews. I'm not looking forward to getting hit in the head too much longer.