The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire

Briggs must beat Botha, otherwise... by Francis Walker

This Saturday, live from the Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Brooklyn's own, Shannon Briggs (31-2, 25KOs) puts his status as a legitimate young heavyweight on the line when he meets South African Frans Botha (39-2-1, 24KOs). Should Briggs win, a possible fight with former world champion Mike Tyson in December awaits. However, should Briggs lose, there is no coming back.

During a career plagued with superstardom, celebrity appearances, and vast potential, Briggs has yet to make an exclamation point inside the squared-circle. Of course Briggs showed well, as he nearly knocked Lennox Lewis through the ropes in the first round when they fought in March 1998. Also in November 1997, Briggs even proved durable when he took some of the best shots George Foreman has ever thrown during his second career following the 10-year absence after his losses to Jimmy Young and Muhammad Ali over 20 years ago.

Although Briggs was credited for his gusty performances, he lost to Lewis (KO by 5) and was awarded an undeserved "gift" decision against Foreman (W 12). Briggs did manage to erase the memories of his first professional loss back in March 1996, a horrible one to Darrol Wilson (TKO by 3), who has reverted back to "Club-fighter" status.

This time around things are different, as Briggs prepares to go toe-to-toe with Botha. A win for Briggs means a shot against Tyson sometime in December. A loss to another club-fighter will put an end to a career than has not shown much at all.

Recently, thanks to Briggs' publicist Norman Horton, I was able to reach Briggs. As one brother from the streets of Brooklyn reaching out to the next, I have to say I still appreciate Briggs when I met him before and after the
loss to Wilson almost 3 1/2 years ago. But I am no phony, I will not smile in his or anyone's face because of their celebrity status. All jokes aside, Briggs has to win this fight and solidify himself as a dangerous threat now!

Francis Walker: What is different this time around?

Shannon Briggs: "I feel like I'm better prepared, not just from the training aspect, but mentally I'm a much better person and a better fighter. I've matured. I'm 27 years old now. The fights with Lennox Lewis and George Foreman were learning experiences. I feel like I'm at a place in time where I'm stronger mentally and physically, so it's a new beginning for me."

FW: What else can we expect, aside from just a good first round kayo?

Briggs: "I think that more than just looking for me to go out and knock Francois out, people can now see Shannon Briggs' talent really being displayed. With a guy like Botha I could use my jab, I could use my movement. I could use my boxing ability, not just go in there and knock the guy out. That's not hard, I think I've proved that with 18 first round knockouts. I'm just trying to get some rounds, get some work, because I'm hoping to step up against some better opponents and I want to be prepared for that."

FW: What are some of the things you have worked on in the gym under Emanuel Steward (defense, blocking shots, jabbing, head-movement)?

Briggs: "What I'm doing more is getting back to what I was when I was an amateur, which was my movement, using my boxing ability, my legs. A lot of heavyweights don't use their legs. I'm working with Emanuel Steward, I'm getting back to my basics, and that's why I feel great."

FW: Would a win over Frans Botha kill all criticism?

Briggs: "Criticism is going to be out there regardless. There is going to be people who like Shannon Briggs, there are going to be people who dislike Shannon Briggs. I'm just trying to reestablish myself in the heavyweight division and hopefully get a shot at Mike Tyson. If not, hopefully a rematch with Lennox Lewis or a shot at Holyfield. But right now, I'm not putting pressure on me in regard to criticism, cause that comes and goes. It's like the weather."

FW: Does Shannon Briggs consider this bout the start of another promising saga to his career?

Briggs: "Definitely. I feel that with the opportunity that Showtime has given me, this is a chance of a lifetime. I feel great. Like I said, I've matured, I'm 27 now. I've learned so much in my years in boxing, and I think that now,
this is a new beginning for me. Now I get to showcase my skills against a guy like Botha, who can only make me look great."

FW: Will this bout against Botha be a defining point in Briggs' career?

Briggs: "Yes and no. Yes in the sense that this is the opportunity of a lifetime, him coming off his showing with Mike Tyson (even though he lost, he was in there with Mike Tyson) and me coming off a loss to Lennox Lewis, so we're both at crossroads. In that way it is the defining point in my career."

FW: If anything, does Shannon Briggs feel as though he has something to prove in this fight?

Briggs: I don't have anything to prove, I just have to win. I'm not thinking of this as a situation where I have to prove anything to anyone. I just have to go in there and win, look good, and hopefully a Mike Tyson fight will
materialize. If not, I'm going to stay focused, and go on the path that Mr. Larkin (Jay Larkin, head of Showtime boxing) is taking me."

FW: How much does you know of Botha?

Briggs: "I've got to be honest. I'm not a big fan of watching other fighters.I've actually seen a couple of his fights, a couple where he stunk up the joint. I've seen him, but really not much of him."

FW: Why did you choose to fight Botha, aside from Kirk Johnson, Chris Byrd, Ike Ibeabuchi, Mike Grant, Hasim Rahman, Larry Donald, or any other more creditable young heavyweight?

Briggs: "I've seen these guys fight, and I'm very impressed. I want to make these fights happen, definitely in the near future, because we are the heavyweights of the future. Foreman, Holyfield, even Lewis are at the ends of
their careers, so we're going to have great fights. But at the same time we have to make these fights more marketable, we need to make money. A lot of times I see these guys fight, it seems for no apparent reason. They don't get title shots, and it doesn't push them to the next level. I want to see myself fight all these guys, especially Mike Grant, but at the same time, we need to make it a big event."

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