Earlier this week, the WBA ordered heavyweight contenders Fres Oquendo and Shannon Briggs to contend for their version of the heavyweight crown. While no agreement has been officially signed between the two camps, it is likely that both sides will happily accept the order, especially given the current state of their respective careers. Going into the fight, Briggs will be 45-years-old, carrying a ledger of 60-6-1 with 53KOs, and Oquendo, at 43, will be bringing a less-than-stellar 37-8 record with 24KOs by. This isn’t exactly the profile of a legitimate championship bout.
Add to the fact that we’re talking about the WBA—who continue to have this very annoying habit of assigning multiple titleholders for the same weight division—and the matchup is even less legitimate. In addition to British champ Anthony Joshua defending his IBF title against Wladimir Klitschko in April, the WBA has also announced the contest will be for their “Super” version of the title, while Briggs and Oquendo will be contested for their “Regular” version.
It might also be worth mentioning that the belt was originally left vacant when Australian heavyweight Lucas Browne tested positive for banned substances after he initially won the title by scoring a 10th round knockout against Ruslan Chagaev early last year. When Chagaev was returned the belt, he lost it due to a failure to pay sanctioning fees to the WBA. A contest between Briggs and Browne was then proposed, until Browne failed yet another drug test and left the position vacant. This is boxing in the modern day, unfortunately.
So now here we are, with one of the four major sanctioning bodies offering one version of their heavyweight crown to two of the sports least qualified contenders. Though Oquendo has achieved many of the minor distinctions of the division (being the only fighter to hold the USBA, NABA, NABF, WBC, WBA, and WBO Latino belts, for instance), and arguably won in his decision loss to Chris Byrd for the IBF World title over 13 years ago, he has largely fallen short anytime he’s stepped up to elite competition. With this being the first time Oquendo has stepped into the ring in over 2-years, it doesn’t make all that much sense for him to be fighting for a championship.
Then there’s Shannon Briggs. Oh, where to begin with Shannon Briggs? Let’s start with where he falls in legitimate boxing terms. Some people might not know this, but Briggs was originally drummed up to be the next big thing in the heavyweight division when he debuted nearly 25 years ago. That was until he lost to an unheralded Darroll Wilson in his 26th bout, and moved in and out of heavyweight relevancy from that point on. His last fight of consequence was in losing a vicious 12-round beating at the hands of then WBC world champion Vitali Klitschko in 2010. He retuned four years later and has since gone on a perfect 9-fight win-streak, though against subpar competition. In recent times, fans will probably know Briggs less for his ring accomplishments, and more for his promotional antics in baiting other heavyweight champs to face him. I recommend all readers to take 10 minutes out of their day to revel in all the trolling genius that is Shannon Briggs:
I had mixed feelings when I first came across Briggs’s self-promotional campaign. They were hilarious, but also in some ways disrespectful of the most coveted crown in a sport that I love. But I thought differently when I read more about it. This excellent profile by Brin-Jonathan Butler intimately details the origins of the “Let’s Go Champ!” campaign and about the fighter himself. Like most boxers, Briggs didn’t come from a place of privilege. One of his most traumatizing memories was the taunting he received from the kids in his neighborhood when his family was being evicted during his teen years. Another was when his mother died of a drug overdose. “Let’s Go Champ!” was actually the phrase he used to motivate himself out of a debilitating depression and an alarming weight gain (at one point, Briggs weighed over 400 pounds after his loss to Klitschko). What’s more, the slogan inspired his own motivational training program, which provided a platform for both his self-esteem and a way to financially provide for his family.
Shannon Briggs has been through hell in the boxing world. His story is one of the more tragic, yet also one of the more inspiring. That doesn’t mean I think either him or Fres Oquendo deserve a shot at a legitimate championship, or that I agree with the WBA fabricating more crowns to hand out on a whim. But if they’re going to do it anyway, then I guess I don’t have much of an issue with the person benefiting being Shannon Briggs.
LET’S GO CHAMP!
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