Briggs to battle WBO heavyweight champ Liakhovich

Originally Published: September 18, 2006
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Shannon Briggs has seen Sergei Liakhovich fight, so he knows what to expect from the WBO heavyweight champion.

Shannon Briggs

Sergei Liakhovich

Briggs will challenge the Belarus native in a title fight on Nov. 4 at Chase Field in Phoenix. It will be Liakhovich's first defense since beating Lamon Brewster for the championship on April 1.

"Liakhovich is the best heavyweight champion out there," Briggs said at a luncheon at a steakhouse in New York on Monday. "I was a guest analyst on ESPN before Sergei fought Brewster and I picked Liakhovich to win. I know what I am up against. There couldn't have been a better time for me to fight for a heavyweight championship."

Briggs (47-4-1, 41 KOs), a Brooklyn native, is ranked No. 3 by the WBO.

"I am going to bring the belt back to Brooklyn, back to Brownsville," he said. "I wanted to fight for the title in New York. Unfortunately, this is going to Phoenix."

Briggs won his first 20 fights, and was 25-1 before beating George Foreman on Nov. 22, 1997. Fighting for the WBC heavyweight title just over four months later, Briggs lost by TKO in the fifth round to champion Lennox Lewis.

"I am much more experienced now and much more hungry," Briggs said.

Liakhovich (23-1, 14 KOs) has won seven straight fights, including a 12-round unanimous decision against Brewster. He is one of four heavyweight champions from the former Soviet Union -- along with Nicolay Valuev (WBA), Wladimir Klitschko (IBF), Oleg Maskaev (WBC).

At 6-foot-4, Liakhovich is also the same height as Briggs and unfazed by the challenger's tough talk.

"This guy says he will take the title from me. We'll see," said Liakhovich, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. "I fought hard for this title, and it's just not going to happen.

"He's [Briggs] a good fighter, a strong fighter. He's got good hand speed and a good right. But if he tries to knock me out he will be in trouble."

Before agreeing to fight Briggs, Liakhovich challenged the other three champions -- specifically Klitschko.

"He doesn't want tough fights," Liakhovich said. "He won't fight me."

Coincidentally, Briggs also thought his next fight would be against Klitschko, who instead will fight Calvin Brock at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 11. Briggs believes he was used and misled by Klitschko's promoter Shelly Finkel.

"He knew I was a New York fighter. He had me waiting at home for the contract, said it was done, but it never came," Briggs said. "Guys like Shelley Finkel are the ones putting boxing on the back burner behind the NFL, NBA and other sports."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press