Briggs-Ibragimov: You Brag, I Move - Observations on an Uneventful Heavyweight Title Fight
02.06.07 - By Brian McDonald: With his WBO heavyweight title on the line, Shannon Briggs faced Sultan Ibragimov in what wasn't necessarily billed as a must-see fight, it did however ultimately look more promising on paper. Ibragimov, in only his 22nd pro bout, was smaller, faster, and busier and as a result walked away with the belt. In the early rounds, Ibragimov appeared to be intimidated and fearful that Briggs would pick up where he left off with Serguei Lyakhovich. However, by the fourth round, Briggs despite a few bursts of energy had settled into the kind of lethargic game plan that makes questionable his respect for his Champion status.
Article posted on 03.06.2007
He spent the next 8 rounds looking to land a big right that never hit home. Throughout the fight Briggs threw a lazy jab that would, on occasion, get countered by Ibragimov with most often a mere glancing blow. The ring was clearly too big for the styles these fighters brought to the ring.
Briggs wanted to feint weak jabs and land a big right and Ibragimov wanted to circle to Briggs' right and occasionally sneak in a one-two. I don't have access to the punch stats, but this was a low volume output by both fighters. Ibragimov seemed to have no interest in engaging in more than a 2 to 3 punch outburst, sans the relatively impressive 9th round.
While watching the fight, what became apparent were the major flaws in Shannon's skill set. Significantly, his lack of footwork, poor defense, and his stamina which can be attributed to his well documented issue with asthma. Shannon, with a stance that is reminiscent of a Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot, appears to lack the ability to throw a punch unless his feet are set, and with a mobile fighter like Sultan Ibragimov, that's a rarity. Given his lack of effective footwork and inability to cut off the ring, one has to wonder why he agreed to fight in such a big ring. In addition to Briggs carrying his fists at his waistline and leaving himself wide open, he would also swing his right hand out for balance and reveal his body whenever he jabbed with his left. Had Ibragimov been a bit faster or perhaps had a longer reach, he could have moved in and made Shannon pay. For whatever reason, Sultan was reluctant to move in on Briggs and do such body work. It was always a punch and a glancing blow, then right back to the bicycle. If Briggs gets in the ring with a legitimate puncher that can move on his feet, he'll be knocked out, without question. Fortunately for Ibragimov, Briggs ingenuously never threw enough punches to make the fight interesting.
The only real highlight in the fight was initiated with 1:50 to go in the 9th when the crowd sends a resounding "boo!" It seems to work as the fighters engage in the kind of pugilistic behavior fans shelled out their hard earned cash to see. It was short-lived, but it was an example of what championship boxing should be. While the boos would resurface periodically they never produced quite the same yield. This fight wasn't as boring as Chris Byrd vs DaVarryl Williamson but it wasn't the kind of fight a sport that's on the rope and competing for PPV dollars needed. What it did have in common with that fight was an apparent mutual agreement between the two fighters to not mix it up.
At this point, it will be interesting to see what Sultan can do to continue working his way up the heavyweight ladder. While he wasn't impressive, he did outwork Briggs and without question won the bout. Sadly, the era of the cautious heavyweight champion Briggs continues on. One can only hope that Ibragimov doesn't follow in the footsteps of Shannon Briggs or John Ruiz with his title defenses.
Scores: 119-109, 117-111, 115-113
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