War of Words: Briggs vs. Ibragimov
19.04.07 - By Scoop Malinowski: A championship boxing match is in some ways like a political election to determine who is the better man to hold the office of world champion. Before election day, the combatants, in a sense, campaign for victory by talking to the public in interviews and doing press conferences.
Article posted on 19.04.2007
We were present at yesterday's WBO Heavyweight title debate between incumbent champion Shannon Briggs of New York City and mandatory candidate Sultan Ibragimov of Russia. Which man is better suited to perform and function in the role of world champion of the people? ..
WBO champion Shannon Briggs arrived slightly tardy, dressed casual in a light blue and white skeleton hooded sweatshirt, after a private jet ride from south Florida. Ibragimov was there early, attired in a conservative dark suit, after waking at 4 a.m. to catch his flight, also from south Florida.
With the scene set, we now present some of the words we heard:
Sultan Ibragimov: "...I was ready March 10th. I'll be ready June 2nd. You'll see a great heavyweight fight in Atlantic City."
Shannon Briggs: "...They prayed for this. You'll get what you pray for...They said I'm a coward...I'm looking forward to defending my title and keeping it here in America. It's a great feeling to be heavyweight champion again. I was linear heavyweight champion after I beat George Foreman...I've made a lot of friends, a lot of enemies along the way, but it's all good. It's boxing. And so I really enjoyed it...I want to thank Sultan for being patient (Briggs directs his eyes to his right at Ibragimov who is seated, but Sultan does not return the look back to the champion)...We're not letting this thing (his title) go...
[The champion then went on to thank a long list of people, including Don King, Bobby Goodman - for putting him in his first fight in MSG, Mike Marley - for discovering him at 19, LeRoy Neiman - who "came to the projects and sketched" him in the early days of his pro career, Yoel Judah, and many other various boxing people and friends in the audience.]
Then they did the stare-down for photographers. This one was brief. I really have to say I couldn't read this one much at all. Briggs is the much larger and more colorful character but the polite and rather bland.
Ibragimov seems fearless of the mountainous undertaking he will face. And though he just stands there so passively and his words don't convey much, there seems to be something indescribable in his countenance or spirit or whatever which suggests Ibragimov absolutely relishes the chance to jump in the ring with Briggs and he can't wait to tear him to bits. Whether he is severely underestimating Briggs, like so many fans and Team Liakhovich did, remains to be seen.
As is normal for many press conferences, more insightful words are usually spoken after the fighter's speeches.
"...I'm Shannon Briggs, I'm a puncher, that's what I do. I'm gonna come out there and crack. Do the best I can."
"I've fought in Cuba in front of 50,000 people. I like to fight in big pressure situations, it excites me, inspires me."
"I've been beat up in the press - underachiever, lack of commitment, a lot of different things. They say I'm a faker."
"They had a signed contract for 1.875 for me to fight this guy. They wanted to basically trash talk me, they said I was a coward, they're gonna sue me for whatever - I was like, listen, I'm sick. So they sent me to their doctor, THEIR doctor. My doctor said, listen, 2-3 months, then train. Their doctor said, 4-6 months. They didn't go back to the media with that though. This was their doctor. He took my blood, he took my (unintelligble on my tape) and everything. They swept that under the rug. And they rescheduled the fight immediately. They really want this belt, it's funny."
"Definitely have motivation, I've been killing heavy bags, sparring partners, I'm going through hell for this dude...I could box, I could punch. If for some reason I can't bang with him, I can still box him."
I spoke with Sultan directly and asked him:
Q: Shannon's a puncher, you're a puncher. You both come forward, neither will run. This can only be a great fight. What will be the difference, why will you win?
Sultan: "He punch and I punch. He fast and I'm fast. Who smarter? Who is more smarter? I am smarter. You will see everything."
Q: How do you know you are smarter?
Sultan: "Of course I've got a hundred more amateur fights. I know I can throw straight, I can throw round, I can throw plenty."
Q: What are you most concerned about Shannon Briggs?
Sultan: "He's a puncher. He's got two puncher hands. I'm ready. I work a lot on everything. I'm ready. I can fight next week. I'm ready. I work hard. I got two months and a half. I'm in the best of shape."
There just is no way this fight on June 2nd can't be a thriller. Both lefty Ibragimov and Briggs are bombers, neither man runs, the missiles and torpedoes are going to land early. Someone is going to get annihilated.
All the campaign talk is over. Unless, there's a double knockout, only one was telling us the truth. Now it's you, the reader's task to determine who is telling the truth.
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