The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire


Living La Vida Botha

By Thomas Gerbasi

ATLANTIC CITY,NJ -Like a bad rash, Francois Botha won't go away. Here is a slow, smallish (6'2) heavyweight, with few obvious skills, and yet he continues to wreck havoc on the heavyweight division. Case in point. Last night at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, "The White Buffalo" took on Shannon Briggs, who was being groomed for a December matchup with Mike Tyson. Botha was not expected to win. He didn't. But his controversial 10 round draw with the talented, but underachieving Briggs has once again raised his stock in a non-winning fashion.

The final scores were 95-92 Botha, and 94-94 twice. This reporter also had it as a stalemate at 95-95.

Briggs, with a renewed attitude, and the presence of Emanuel Steward in his corner, looked to blow by the limited Botha, and through the first two rounds, he looked to be doing so, albeit in a methodical manner. Briggs' jabs were sharp, and never failed to hit their mark. But in the third round, Botha started to pick things up on the offensive end. Basic 1-2 combinations found a welcome home on Briggs chin, and established a pattern which would serve the South African well throughout the ten rounder.

By the fifth round, the fight had settled into a comfort zone in which Briggs would land a couple of haymakers, followed by Botha's return serve of right hands. These right hands became more frequent, and it was fairly easy to realize that if Botha had any power, Briggs would have been in for a short night. And while Botha increased Briggs' intake of right hands, Shannon abandoned the jab which was not only inflicting damage on his opponent's bruised face, but which was scoring much needed points.

Despite a spinning miss which earned him a right to the face, Briggs rebounded with a strong sixth round, which Botha answered with an equally strong seventh round.

Botha's right hand frenzy continued in the pivotal eighth round, and hey, he wasn't missing with it, so why stop? Later in the round, referee Eddie Cotton called time to replace Botha's mouthpiece, and when the two resumed hostilities, Briggs had gotten a second wind. A strong series of punches drove Botha across the ring and deposited him on the canvas. With the pro-Briggs crowd roaring, Botha staggered to his feet, rubbery legged and in desperate need of a 60 second rest. Briggs moved in on Botha quickly, raining punches on him from all angles, and leaving him with a cut left eye to go with a bruised forehead and other assorted abrasions.

As the ninth round started, Botha was still on unsteady legs, and he was now facing a two point deficit on my scorecard. Botha held and stalled for the opening minute of the round, and then opened up. Briggs still couldn't pick off the 1-2, and the crowd was roaring for "The White Buffalo".

The tenth round provided more of the same, but turned up a notch. Botha rained punch upon punch on an exhausted Briggs, opening a cut on his left eye, as well as a bloody cut on his ear. By the end of the fight, both men were bloody, and the sold out crowd of 5,150 roared their approval for what was, for a change, an entertaining heavyweight fight. There was no Holyfield-Lewis or Grant-Savarese waltzing here. And may I be so bold to say that I would rather see either Briggs or Botha in a heavyweight title fight than such "number one contenders" like Henry Akinwande or John Ruiz.

The majority draw decision was met by a mixture of cheers and boos, and the general consensus at ringside was that Botha had deserved the victory. A disappointed Briggs (31-2-1,25 kos) can only blame himself for the result, as a stick and move strategy would have made life hell for Botha (39-2-1,24 kos) who couldn't get out of the way of the jab...when it was thrown. As for Botha, he is winless in his last two fights (the other being a fifth round kayo loss to Mike Tyson), but his stock continues to rise as a resourceful tough guy, who has made the most of what God has given him. Regardless of what the future holds, there should be no hesitation in putting these two in the ring again. Both fighters earned their $400,000 purses, and the fans definitely got their money's worth.

The same could not be said for the WBO junior featherweight title match between Marco Antonio Barrera and Argentina's Pastor Maurin. This snoozer featured a challenger in Maurin who was beyond crude stylewise, spent most of the fight leaping at a bewildered Barrera, and whose chin was made of steel, as Barrera could not hurt him, no matter what he did. The only ones hurt by this fight were the spectators, who booed relentlessly. As ringsider Bert Sugar observed "If this is the sweet science, I would hate to see the sour science." Amen. For the record, Barrera retained his title with a 12 round unanimous decision. The scores were 119-109 twice, and 120-108.

In a 10 round super middleweight bout which launched the pay-per-view portion of the card, overhyped Omar Sheika continued to underwhelm viewers with an eighth round stoppage of veteran war horse Kevin Pompey. Sheika started things off impressively, as his quasi-De La Hoya style and power dropped Pompey twice in round two. Sheika pounded Pompey relentlessly, and a stoppage by referee Tony Orlando wouldn't have been out of line. But Pompey weathered the storm, and with the exhortations of ringsider Vinny Pazienza ringing in his ears, Pompey roared back, nailing the tired Sheika with crisp power shots. By the beginning of the eighth round, Pompey was closing the gap on the scorecards, and causing some nervous moments for the sizeable Sheika contingent at ringside. Sheika responded to this threat admirably though, throwing punches in rapid succession at a stunned Pompey. 44 seconds into the round, Orlando had seen enough, and he waved off the fight, causing a wild protest by Pompey and boos from the crowd. Sheika raises his record to 19-1, and Pompey falls to 32-16-3.

In other undercard action...

England's Anthony Farnell (17-0) scored a third round TKO over Israel Ponce(8-10) of Puerto Rico. 8 rds. Junior middleweights.

In an entertaining six round cruiserweight bout, Sione Asipeli (15-1-2) outpointed Britton Thomas (9-2). The scores were all 60-53, but the fight was closer than the scores would reflect.

Manchester's Michael Gomez won a six round unanimous decision over William Alverzo. Scores were 60-54 twice, and 60-53.

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