Shannon Briggs defeated Sergei Liakhovich last year to become the only American heavyweight champion in boxing. Was Briggs able to keep one belt stateside or did Sultan Ibragimov make sure the fourth belt was brought back to a Soviet country?
Shannon Briggs vs. Sultan Ibragimov
Sultan Ibragimov was on a fast track to a world title shot until he fought Ray Austin to a draw in a #1 Contender fight. Austin went on to get embarrassed by Wladimir Klitschko a few months back in his shot at the belt but Ibragimov matched up with an easier opponent in Shannon Briggs. Honestly, any heavyweight champion not named Wladimir is a favorable matchup in today’s heavyweight landscape.
Shannon Briggs has never been known for his work rate, which is why it was no surprise to see another uninspired performance from the Brooklyn-native against Sultan Ibragimov. Briggs imposed his will early, which would be easy to do when you are 6’4″ and 273 lbs. Ibragimov was hesitant to engage allowing Briggs to control the center of the ring. Briggs caught Ibragimov with a left hook in the fourth round but the challenger was able to shake it off. Ibragimov didn’t have as much respect for Briggs’ punching as he did in the early rounds and was now able to become more aggressive.
With Briggs’ stamina dwindling quickly, Ibragimov outboxed the champion for the second half of the fight. Briggs could do very little to combat Ibragimov from round six on and frankly didn’t seem interested in trying to stop him. The result was a unanimous decision victory for Ibragimov. The scores were 119-109, 117-111, and 115-113. With the win, Sultan Ibragimov becomes the new WBO Heavyweight Champion.
Shannon Briggs thankfully announced his retirement after the fight. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come out of retirement to fight John Ruiz as an attempt to cure insomnia. Briggs was classy in defeat stating, “I had to do what I had to do, but I was hurting, and he was running. I proved someone with asthma can become heavyweight champion. For two weeks, I couldn’t train. I had been taking all kinds of antibiotics. I didn’t want to fight. They made me fight.”
Sultan Ibragimov’s win brings all four heavyweight titles back to residents of the former Soviet Union. Ibragimov plans to unify his WBO title with all the others but every champion for the past 20 years had said that. He wants to have his first title defense in Moscow but it is too early to speculate on his opponent.
Meanwhile, IBF champion and current Heavyweight kingpin, Wladimir Klitschko, will defend his title against Lamon Brewster on July 7th. Brewster was the last person to defeat Wladimir but has been out of action for over a year after his loss to Sergei Liakhovich.
Current WBC champion Oleg Maskaev is tied up in legal battles over his next opponent. It was supposed to be Samuel Peter after his beat James Toney twice in eliminator bouts, but Vitali Klitschko’s return put a wrinkle in those plans as he was promised a shot whenever he returned to the ring. The bottom line is that Maskaev will lose either one of those fights so don’t expect him to be on this list of champions by the end of the year.
Finally, the WBA champion is Ruslan Chagaev. Chagaev became champion by defeating the 7’0 320lb Nicolai Valuev. A rematch with Valuev may be in the works but with a nickname like “White Tyson”, Chagaev could draw up a lot of interest. He is undefeated with a 23-0-1 record and 17 KOs. Chagaev is 28-years-old.