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George Foreman vs Shannons Briggs – An sad ending

George Foreman vs Shannons Briggs An unhappy ending

Shannon Briggs, the judges, and George Foreman’s final struggle. By Thomas Hauser

ON November 22, 1997, 48-year-old George Foreman fought 25-year-old Shannon Briggs on the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City for what was styled because the lineal heavyweight championship of the world.

Foreman, at age 45, had claimed the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles on November 5, 1994, with a shocking tenth spherical knockout of Michael Moorer. Four months later, he was stripped of the WBA belt for refusing to make a compulsory defence towards Tony Tucker. Then, after efficiently defending his IBF crown towards Axel Schultz, he was stripped of that too for not combating a mandated rematch towards Schulz.

That left Foreman and not using a main sanctioning physique title. But he was nonetheless George Foreman. And by advantage of his victory over Moorer, he was nonetheless the lineal heavyweight king. Victories over Crawford Grimsley and Lou Savarese (each of whom have been undefeated on the time) adopted. That set the stage for Foreman vs. Shannon Briggs.

Foreman’s credentials have been self-explanatory. Explaining Briggs was a bit extra difficult.

Despite occasional outbursts of erratic habits, Shannon was – and nonetheless is – personable, articulate, and sensible. Part of his adolescence was spent in relative consolation. But there was a time when he was pressured to take care of a drug-addicted mom and a stint of homelessness on the streets of New York.

Once, Briggs had been touted as a rising star. He was a United States Amateur National Champion and a prime prospect for the 1992 United States Olympic boxing workforce till a hand harm took him out of the Olympic trials. His supervisor, Marc Roberts, had invested over one million {dollars} in his profession as Shannon fought his technique to a 29-1 skilled file with 24 knockouts.

But the truth that Foreman was prepared to struggle Briggs underscored the doubts that existed relating to Shannon’s deserves as a fighter. Most of the fighters Briggs had crushed have been mediocre. And the one time he’d stepped up the extent of competitors (on an HBO telecast that includes “young heavyweight stars”), Shannon was knocked out within the third spherical by Darroll Wilson.

Briggs, HBO commentator Jim Lampley advised a nationwide viewers, “folded like an accordion.”

Shannon mentioned the loss to Wilson was as a result of an bronchial asthma assault that he suffered within the ring. Teddy Atlas (who educated Briggs for the struggle) mentioned that Shannon had stop.

“I think Shannon has talent,” Atlas mentioned. “And I worked very hard to give him a foundation, so he’d have the boxing mechanics and mental strength necessary to face an opponent in the ring. But Shannon was always more interested in finding the easy way to do things. Physically, he worked hard, but mentally it was all a big con with him. He was great at shmoozing investors with Marc Roberts. You can con investors. But sooner or later in boxing, you meet an opponent who you can’t con in the ring, like Darroll Wilson. I never said Shannon didn’t have asthma. What I said was, Shannon didn’t have an asthma attack that night. But a weak mind and panic can bring on a lot of things. I tried to help Shannon become a real fighter. Not a phony, a real fighter. And the sad thing is, Shannon could have done all the stuff he wanted to do outside the ring and still become a fighter.”

After Atlas made these feedback, Briggs responded, saying, “Teddy played an important role in my development as a boxer and as a person. I had a lot of love for Teddy and a lot of respect for Teddy, and some of the things he said hurt me a lot. You know what I’m talking about. That I quit against Darroll Wilson, that I lack character. If you look at the other side of things, I wasn’t always happy with Teddy. Teddy talks a lot about character and discipline, but he isn’t always as disciplined as he should be. If I did some of the things Teddy has done, if I’d gotten into some of the fights outside the ring that Teddy has gotten into, he would have been on me like a ton of bricks and I would have deserved it. There were lots of times when I thought Teddy was wrong about something. There were lots of times when I felt Teddy was much too into controlling other people and not enough into controlling himself. But whatever problems I had with Teddy, I didn’t go public with them. And he did. He said a lot of very negative things about me to the media, and I felt betrayed. It hurt a lot; and it hurt more because he walked out on me after a loss when I was down. Teddy is still part of my thinking. I got some very good things from him, and you don’t just break up with someone and forget about them completely. But I have to admit, I’m still bitter about some of the things Teddy said about me.”

The view of the ocean from the boardwalk in Atlantic City is spectacular. One can gaze out on the water and see Herman Melville’s “great shroud of the sea” because it rolled on 1000’s of years in the past. But flip away from the ocean and a vastly totally different scene beckons. Large gaps of city decay are seen between the hotel-casinos that mark the skyline. Tourists strolling alongside the boardwalk are solicited by panhandlers. The Miss America Pageant (as soon as Atlantic City’s showcase occasion) is gone. Seedy outlets and 99-cent low cost shops proliferate.

The Trump Taj Mahal, the place Foreman-Briggs was contested, stood on the dividing line between these two worlds.

George Foreman

Foreman had been handpicked by Briggs as a result of George felt he may break Shannon’s will. If a fighter quits within the ring, because it was alleged Briggs had executed towards Wilson, one in every of two issues occurs. Either quitting turns into a part of his persona, like a circuit-breaker that journeys every time he’s in bother; or he hates having stop a lot that he vows by no means to stop once more.

That led to 2 questions: (1) Were Briggs’s bodily abilities so superior to these of the now-48-year-old Foreman that Shannon’s will wouldn’t be examined? (2) If Foreman examined Briggs’s will, would Shannon stop?

In sum, whereas the promotion was largely about Foreman, the essential questions relating to the end result of the struggle revolved round Briggs.

“I’m not looking for a knockout,” Shannon mentioned, sitting in his resort room shortly earlier than leaving for the world on struggle night time. “If it happens, fine, but my mind isn’t set on it. I envision using my jab, using my legs, fighting within my boundaries. If it turns into a test of brute strength, I’m in trouble, but that’s not what the fight will be about. People say that George handpicked me as his opponent. But what they lose sight of is, I picked George too.”

Then Briggs turned pensive.

“When George goes into the ring, he believes God is behind him and that gives him strength. I have a different view of religion. I don’t think God takes sides in sports contests. This is the biggest fight of my life, and I feel like it’s all on me.”

By advantage of his advertising energy, Foreman had dictated the main points of the promotion. That continued properly into struggle night time. George needed privateness. And he ran a decent ship. When Donald Trump went to Foreman’s dressing room to want George properly, he was barred from coming into by the fighter’s private safety element.

Briggs’s dressing room was a much less unique venue. At 9:00pm, sixteen folks have been scattered about. An hour later, that quantity had dwindled to 10. By the time Shannon made his technique to the ring, his following was down to a few nook males. Then the bell rang and he was alone with Foreman.

Briggs had watched Foreman on tv however had by no means seen him struggle in individual. After the press convention saying their struggle, he’d expressed shock that George wasn’t as massive as he’d thought he was. Now he was experiencing Foreman was up shut and private – an enormous presence who’d had 32 skilled fights earlier than Shannon was born.

George Foreman

Against Briggs, Foreman moved inexorably ahead for twelve rounds. Shannon retreated as George superior whether or not Foreman was punching or not. That allowed George to relaxation when he needed to.

Briggs’s jab was largely a stay-away-from-me jab. He not often threw his proper hand with conviction. In spherical three, he was on the receiving finish of some punishment, and it regarded for a second like he would possibly go down. In spherical eight, Foreman landed a sequence of sledgehammer blows. But once more, Shannon stayed on his ft.

It appeared to just about each onlooker that Briggs didn’t come near doing what he needed to do to win the struggle. Then got here the choice.

Steve Weisfeld’s scorecard was introduced first: 114-114.

There was amazement at ringside. What struggle had Weisfeld been watching?

Then ring announcer Michael Buffer learn the scores of judges Lawrence Layton and Calvin Claxton – 117-113 and 116-112 respectively. Sanity, it appeared, had been restored. Until Buffer intoned the phrases,” “For the NEW lineal champion of the world…”

Foreman had gained the struggle however Briggs acquired the choice.

“I was lucky,” Shannon advised this author in his dressing room after the bout. “The judges were nice to me.”

The choice was inexplicable by any trustworthy measure. Foreman had dominated the struggle. He outboxed Briggs. He outpunched Briggs. He landed 284 punches to Briggs’s 223, and his have been the more durable blows.

“We polled over a hundred media people, boxers, trainers, and managers who watched the fight,” Foreman’s co-promoter, Jeff Wald, mentioned afterward. “Not one of them scored the fight for Briggs. This wasn’t even a controversial fight. A controversial fight is when you argue and disagree. Outside of two judges, there is no disagreement.”

Wald, in fact, had an axe to grind. He was Foreman’s co-promoter, and his reference to a hundred-person survey may need been hyperbole. But as Tim Layden wrote in Sports Illustrated, “The stink lingered after the decision. So egregious was the verdict in Atlantic City that it left even the most jaded fight fans shaking their heads and gave rise to allegations of corrupt judging involving Briggs’s manager, Marc Roberts; Roberts’ promotional company, Worldwide Entertainment & Sports; and New Jersey boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard.”

Those searching for clues with regard to the scoring additionally took notice of the truth that, subsequent to elevating tens of millions of {dollars} by means of a 1996 providing of Worldwide Entertainment & Sports inventory, Roberts had been concerned with two main fights in New Jersey. Foreman-Briggs was the second. The first was a December 14, 1996, bout between Tim Witherspoon and Ray Mercer (one other WWES fighter). That bout resulted in an absurdly lopsided choice for Mercer, and probably the most lopsided scorecard was turned in by Calvin Claxton.

Foreman was gracious in defeat. “He’s a good kid,” George mentioned of Shannon within the ring after the struggle. He simply misplaced his mom. He stayed in there with me. I want him properly.” Roy Foreman (George’s brother) was equally variety, including, “Shannon Briggs is a nice young man. The decision wasn’t his fault. Shannon didn’t score the fight.”

Foreman by no means fought once more. He retired from boxing the next 12 months with a profession file of 76 wins towards 5 losses with 68 knockouts. Briggs fought for nineteen extra years and, at age 48, is threatening to struggle once more. His file stands at 60-6-1 with 53 KOs.

Meanwhile, in his first struggle after decisioning Foreman, Briggs relinquished the lineal crown when he was knocked out within the fifth spherical by Lennox Lewis. Eight years later, Shannon gained the WBO heavyweight title with an eleventh spherical stoppage of Sergiy Liakhovich. But he misplaced it by choice in his subsequent outing towards Sultan Ibragimov.

“I feel like I’ve been successful in boxing,” Briggs mentioned after his loss to Ibragimov. “I didn’t achieve the status of a Mike Tyson or a Lennox Lewis, but I’m happy with what I achieved. Coming from where I came from, homeless in Brooklyn, sleeping in shelters, everything I did was an accomplishment. How many kids come from where I did and break the cycle? People who’ve been comfortable all their life and were given everything when they were young think it’s easy to break away from a bad situation. They say stupid things like, ‘Just go out and work hard.’ But most people who come from where I came from wind up doing what their parents did and living like their parents lived. I don’t care what anyone else says. I made good. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. And I was the lineal heavyweight champion of the world whether people like it or not.”

Thomas Hauser’s most up-to-date ebook – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was revealed by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for profession excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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