If there is one word to describe Shannon Briggs and the people surrounding him it is focused. Never have I had a easier time setting up and conducting a interview as was the case with Mr. Briggs and his people. Usually I have to talk with a answering machine 5 times before I hear from a representative of the fighter I am trying to interview. Once human contact is established things get a bit easier. The media relations person for Mr. Briggs was a consummate professional who made sure I got whatever was needed to conduct the interview, worked around my schedule and called to confirm the date and time of the interview the day before the interview to make sure everything was going well. When I placed the call the phone was answered with a "Shannon Briggs training camp" and I was put in touch with Mr. Briggs as soon as he could make it to the phone. Shannon Briggs seemed at ease, ready for all questions and his courteous manner never faded through the interview. After talking with Shannon Briggs it is easy to see why the East Coast media hyped and promoted a young Briggs when he was still a prospect. He is a likable man who overcame many obstacles to succeed in the toughest of all sports. After talking with Briggs I have to admit that I will be rooting for him on August 7th, when he steps into the ring against Frans Botha.
It was Evander Holyfield who once predicted that Shannon Briggs, then a 19 year-old amateur, was destined for greatness. Today, Briggs, 30-2-0, 24 KO's, is firmly on course for another title shot in professional boxing. Briggs, from the same tough Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn that nurtured Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe. The first big win for Briggs was a one-round destruction of durable Texan, Sherman Griffin which was nationally televised. The left jab is a key weapon in his arsenal. Briggs also possesses a thumping left hook which he throws frequently. On March 16th of last year, Shannon Briggs suffered his first loss as a pro, at the hands of undefeated Darroll Wilson. Shannon has rebounded nicely since the setback against Wilson with five straight victories-four by knockout and one of which was a twelve round decision win over the legendary George Foreman. The victory over Foreman gave Briggs the linear heavyweight championship-in a close fight, Briggs managed to sustain all of Foreman's power punches and fought back to win a majority decision. Most recently, Briggs challenged Lennox Lewis for the WBC heavyweight title, and managed to hurt Lewis in round one, but was eventually defeated in round five after a very courageous effort.
BW: Let's start from the beginning. How did you first get involved in boxing. Briggs: I was kind of young. I was 16 or 17 years old when I first went to the gym. I did not start to pursue a boxing career until I was 19 at a amateur level. It was kind of like a dare, I was with some friends and we dared each other to go to the gym and that started it. BW: A lot of the American heavyweights of late have drifted into boxing from other sports. Did you play any other sports before you gave boxing a try? Briggs: Not at all. I have asthma so I wasn't really active as a kid with sports. BW: What kind of extra perparations to you have to make because of your asthma? Briggs: I have to watch my diet. Now I am in Big Bear California training in altitude, they say that is going to help when I come back down to sea level. I just watch my diet and I am on new medication (for the asthma) and I feel great. BW: I read in either The Ring or Boxing Illustrated that you were actually homeless for a period of time. How did you pull yourself out of and overcome that situation. Briggs: I was a kid, me and my mother were in a tough situation where we lost our home. We got out of it through the help of friends and really through boxing. Boxing got me off the streets and got me to where I could make money and have a place to live. BW: At the beginning of your career you fought almost exclusively on the east coast and got good reviews from the east coast media. How much amateur experience did you have before you turned pro? Briggs: I had 35 or 36 amateur fights. Being from New York it is a good place to come out of as far as the media and everything. My manager Marc Roberts did a great good job of keeping me busy and putting me around the right people as far as marketing. BW: You mentioned you are now training in Big Bear. It seems like everyone is training in Big Bear now. What attracted you to Big Bear. Briggs: Well I heard so much about it as far as altitude training and talking to different guys. I knew Oscar DeLahoya trains here, at the moment Raul Marquez is here. Fernando Vargas is here, I just heard a lot of great things about Big Bear. I wanted to get a change, do something to help myself and give me a advantage as far as my asthma. I was training in Fort Lauderdale and Miami for a long time at the South Florida Boxing Gym. The guy who runs that gym is named Trevor Cedar, he is from England and just a great guy. BW: As you said there are a lot of lighter weight fighters there, but I don't hear of a lot heavyweights training in Big Bear. Who are you sparring with to get ready for Frans Botha? Briggs: I have my own sparring partner right now, I am sparring with a guy named Brian Smith. I am also working with Phil Jackson, I am staying busy and I have a couple more guys coming in. When I first got up here Andrew Golota was here, at the moment Botha is here also. He is training up here too. BW: Phil Jackson seems to be a very good sparring partner, physic wise he matches up with Botha very well. He is a big guy who likes to lean and push on people. Briggs: Definitely. Jackson is a very strong guy, you have to be careful with Phillip he is a big puncher. So he is great sparring and keeps me sharp. BW: Will you be training in Big Bear from now on? Briggs: If a Tyson fight happens, I would train in Arizona or Palm Springs for that one. BW: Some people wrote you off after your first loss, when you steeped up in competition against Darroll Wilson and lost. How did you handle that loss mentally. Briggs: I didn't consider Darroll Wilson to be a step up, I fought guys better than him. He was undefeated but he was like 15-0. It was very hard for me after the Wilson fight, to loose the fight and the way people changed on me as far as the media and some friends too. At the same time it was a blessing in disguise, it was a great learning experience. I learned a lot from that. I feel that is what got me to where I am today. BW: Do you remember what went wrong in that fight. I know you were cut early in that fight. Briggs: It wasn't the cut. I had actually broke my hand and fractured the other early in my career. I had won every round. It wasn't really the cut that was the problem. I had trained for that fight in Florida it was hot and me having gone to Atlantic City for the fight, I wasn't acclimated to the weather. I was also trying some aroma therapy stuff. I don't want to make excuses, I lost the fight. I know I didn't feel great in the fight, I was short of breath. If you look at the fight from the very first round I was short of breath. But it happens and like I said it was the best thing to happen for me. At that point I couldn't get anyone to fight me. I had been turned down for fights by David Tua, from everybody. After that everyone and their mother wanted to fight me. BW: The Foreman fight came after that. That fight was very controversial because of the judging. I scored the fight closer than most but still I had Foreman wining a close decision, when most thought he won the fight by a wider margin. Do you have any thoughts on it now that you have had some to reflect on it. Briggs: Yeah definitely. It was a great fight, it was a close fight. I felt I definitely won, George was in fights where he had clearly lost and he would get the decision. BW: Yes I agree, the Axel Schulz and Alex Steward fights come to mind right away. Briggs: I was really happy to get the decision, because I know....like I said George had been in fights where he clearly lost and got the decision. So I was very happy with that. It was a tough fight, It was my toughest fight. I could have been much better in the fight. But it was a huge moment, I am fighting George Foreman a guy who I watched as a child and here I was in the ring with him! His speed and jab was a little deceptive. He didn't really throw many right hands, he may have caught me with 2 right hands throughout the whole fight. All he did was come forward and use the jab, I would counter his jab with my jab. Every time he would hit me with a jab I would jab him back. In the later rounds I started stealing the rounds. I think what influenced a lot of people was the commentating. You know it was George Foreman and the commentators definitely are George's friends and co-workers. I think that influenced a lot of people who were watching at home. The people who were there saw it a lot different. BW: According to the punch stats you out landed Foreman by 50 power punches. Briggs: Exactly. BW: With any luck we will have a unified champion again in November, are you rooting for any of the two to win. Or does it not even matter to you at all? Briggs: To be honest with you, hopefully they won't fight and I will sneak in and get Holyfield after this Botha fight (laughter). They are talking about me and Tyson, if that doesn't materialize hopefully I will get Holyfield. BW: It seems that if Lewis wins that you will have to wait even longer to get another title shot since you two have already fought. While we are on the subject of Lewis, let's talk about that fight. In that fight you had Lewis hurt and the first round but could not capitalize on it. What would you have done differently now looking back on it. Briggs: I would have trained harder, if I could have. Honestly after the George Foreman fight I don't think I was physically prepared to go into the Lewis fight. Mentally I felt great, I had just fought a champion and won. I found out a lot about myself in that fight, but at the same time physically I felt tired. The fight came to fast for me, there was a lot of controversy (over the Foreman fight) that I didn't handle well. With so much stuff going on it affected me, it was my fault I let it affect me negatively. With the hand injury I had sustained before the Foreman fight, I had a fractured hand and torn tendon. I wasn't able to repair the hand until after the Lewis fight. BW: Has that hand been taken care of now? Briggs: Yes sir. BW: Is that why it took you 8 months to come back after the Lewis fight? Briggs: Yes, that and you know I needed some time off. I just had a son, Chan and he will be 2 on August 15th. I wanted to spend some time with him and clear my head of boxing for a while. BW: Speaking of Lewis who is from England, have you ever considered fighting outside of the United States? Briggs: I would love to. I am looking for the opportunity. If a fight is there I would love to do that. BW: So you would take a shot at Lewis in England or a money fight against a Brian Nielsen in Denmark. Briggs: That would be great! Yes, for Sure. BW: You came out much more aggressive in your last two fights against Lewis and Rhodes. Was that the plan for Lewis or is this something you want to do from now on in your future bouts. Briggs: I am learning a lot about myself, I am maturing. I am getting older as a man, I am 27 years old now and I feel great. You know I am going to fight the way I need to fight, if I need to box I am going to box if I need to go for it, I will. But it was not a plan, I really wanted to give Lennox some more leg movement and I should have boxed him more. That is what I should have done! I should have boxed him more. BW: I mentioned the long layoff, ideally how often a year would you like to fight? Briggs: I would like to fight 3 or 4 times a year. Maybe 5 times to stay busy and enjoy it. I am having more fun now as compared to before. I feel great, I have Emanuel Steward training me now. I fell happy and much more confident than I was in the past and am looking forward to staying busy. BW: Is Emanuel Steward going to come in just before the fight to man the corner or will he be there through the whole camp? Briggs: No he will be here for a whole month getting me ready for the fight. BW: You will fight Botha next, have you reviewed tapes of him and has your team devised a strategy for him yet. Briggs: I am going to go in there and do what I have to do. I am going to make him work, I am going to make him fight. I have more ability than him, more speed so I am going to put him to the test and everything he does I am going to be right on top of him. Right now I am in great shape, I am working with a guy named Bill Welle and he runs the FAST Program in Florida and it is a great program. A lot of the professional football athletes like Anthony Carter of the Minnesota Viking use it. I feel great with it and I am looking to become a champion using it. BW: What does that FAST program entail? Briggs: A lot of different things. "EnduroFit", speed, agility using all the things I would use in the ring but really emphasizing conditioning. BW: In your last fight you weighed 240 pounds which was the heaviest of your career. At what weight do you want to come into this bout against a heavy Botha. Briggs: I plan on coming in at 227 pounds, maybe 230 at the most. BW: This fight is being co-promoted by Frank Warren with Cedric Kushner your promoter. How do you like fighting for Cedric Kushner and his organization. Briggs: Yeah Cedric is my guy, I love Cedric. BW: It looks like they are trying to move you for another shot at the WBC crown since you are rated in their top ten. I have to look but I am not even sure if you are rated by the IBF or WBA's top ten. Briggs: I am not even sure. I don't even go by ratings right now. To be honest with you, with so much stuff going on I am just trying to direct my career in the right way. I think I made the right move with signing with Showtime (television) and taking the Botha fight. Hopefully a Mike Tyson fight will develop. We are from the same neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn. We grew up only 3 or 4 blocks away from each other. It would be great to have a fight between me and Mike. I think it would be a big draw, especially in New York City at Madison Square Garden. BW: You mentioned that you are fighting on Showtime, will you be fighting exclusively for them now? Briggs: We are working on it. Jay Larkin is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He is the president of Showtime boxing and it is funny how the whole relationship started. I bumped into him in Miami coming out of a restaurant and we started chit chatting, ever since we have been cool. Hopefully something will happen long term. BW: Let's talk about your future then. Assuming you beat Botha, realistically what do you think lies ahead of you in term of opponents. Briggs: Hopefully Tyson. If not Tyson, I would like a shot at Holyfield if that does not happen then a rematch with Lennox Lewis. They don't consider me a young heavyweight anymore, which is kind of good because those guys don't make much money (laughs). BW: It might take Lennox Lewis loosing to heavyweight title for you to get another title shot since you two have already fought. Who do you think can beat Lewis and how would you match up against that person. Briggs: I think I match up well against any heavyweight in the world. I am fast, I have the ability to box, go forward, I can punch.... whatever it takes. There are some tough guys out there, but they are really not much to be honest with you. BW: What about the WBO title, would you like to take a shot at that title if you can't get a shot at the other 3 titles. Briggs: I heard Klitschko knocked Hide out in two rounds. He is like 6 foot 7 inches tall right? I have never seen the guy fight, I would like to get a tape on him and check him out. But that is a possibility. I was looking at Herbie Hide before but nothing happened. Really right now my focus is Tyson and Holyfield, those are the two guys I would love to knock off. Then the rematch with Lewis to show people I am a better fighter than him. BW: You are still young, but more and more fighters are looking to get out of boxing at a young age. What about you, do you have a time frame for retirement. Briggs: No, I am thinking about 55 (laughs). BW: I guess you are going to go the George Foreman route. Briggs: Yeah I am going to go the Foreman route, without the 20 years off. BW: What about outside of the ring, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time. Briggs: I love to do lot's of things. I am very interested in computers and the internet. I am the type of guy who just likes to hang out and laugh. I am interested in a lot of business things outside of the ring but right now, I know boxing must come first. I want to do a clothing line, I would love to have a restaurant. But right now I am just focusing on boxing. I also work with Homes for homeless kids and different things in the inner city. I like to give back because I know how it feels. I am a chess fan also. BW: I hear you will be launching your own internet boxing site soon, what will that feature. Briggs: My website is going to be hot! It is going to be the hottest sports site known to man. You are going to be able to come online and box against Shannon Briggs. In the future you are going to be able to see me train over the internet with a viewcam. So we are looking to do a lot of different things. The website will be at ShannonBriggs.com and it will be up before the fight with Botha.