Vitali Klitschko to fight Shannon Briggs
For years, former heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs has called for a fight with one of the Klitschko brothers. Now, he'll have his opportunity.
Vitali Klitschko will defend his title for the fifth time when he meets the New Yorker on Oct. 16 at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany, Klitschko adviser Bernd Boente told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
"Contracts are signed, everything is done," Boente said, adding that there will be news conferences to make the formal announcement in Klitschko's native Kiev, Ukraine, on Aug. 30 and another in Hamburg, his adopted hometown, on Aug. 31.
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"I am very happy that I am finally fighting in Hamburg again. I started in Hamburg as a pro [in 1996]," said Klitschko, who hasn't fought there since a 1999 knockout of Obed Sullivan. "The O2 World is a fantastic arena and the fans in Hamburg know their boxing, and a great atmosphere is guaranteed."
Klitschko (40-2, 38 KOs) has been dominant since exiting a nearly four-year, injury-induced retirement in 2008, beating Samuel Peter to reclaim the belt he gave up when he retired.
He stopped Juan Carlos Gomez and Cristobal Arreola before shutting out Kevin Johnson in a decision in his first three defenses.
In his most recent fight, Klitschko, 39, dominated Albert Sosnowski en route to a 10th-round knockout on May 29.
"Shannon Briggs is an unbelievable trash-talker, but he is definitely a very strong challenger," Klitschko said. "He has huge experience, has way more professional fights than I have and is one of the hardest punchers in the heavyweight division. I know I will have to prepare myself with my coach [Fritz Sdunek] very intensely."
Said Boente: "It's a very interesting matchup. Vitali has to be prepared very well because Briggs is very dangerous for the first six or seven rounds and you can't underestimate the guy. Vitali knows this not a walkover. You know Briggs. He can show up as a really good fighter and perform on world-class level, or he can show up like he did in the [Sultan] Ibragimov fight and just walk around the ring."
Briggs, 38, claimed the lineal championship with a controversial decision win against George Foreman in 1997 before losing his claim when Lennox Lewis knocked him out in his next fight in 1998.
In 2006, Briggs trailed on all three scorecards when he knocked Sergei Liakhovich out of the ring with one second left in the fight for a dramatic comeback to win an alphabet belt.
Briggs made his first defense against Ibragimov in June 2007 and sleepwalked through a desultory decision loss.
After a 2½-year layoff following the loss, Briggs returned and has gone 3-0 with a no contest. The no contest was originally a first-round knockout against Marcus McGee in December, but Briggs later tested positive for a banned substance and had the result changed in addition to being briefly suspended and fined by the New York commission.
With such a dearth of opponents to fight, Klitschko, the older brother of fellow heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, is giving Briggs (51-5-1, 45 KOs) the shot he's wanted for years.
"I tried for a long time to get into the ring with one of the Klitschkos. Now it's time to write history," Briggs said. "Most of their opponents [expletive] in their pants before they enter the ring. But I will put a lot of pressure on Klitschko. Klitschko can look at his WBC belt for a couple of more weeks. After Oct. 16, it belongs to me."
Boente said plans for American television coverage have not been finalized, but he said he has been in touch with ESPN, which is covering Wladimir Klitschko's Sept. 11 defense against Samuel Peter in Germany.
"I have been in touch with [ESPN programmer] Doug Loughrey and hopefully we can work something again for Vitali's fight," Boente said.
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer. Follow Dan on Twitter: danrafaelespn.