I’m definitely, and perhaps understandably, in a minority that would love Tyson Fury’s comeback to be against Shannon ‘The Cannon’ Briggs. Text and Twitter exchanges between the two have shown that it’s a likely match-up but with no confirmation as of yet it seems negotiations may have hit a snag.
A press conference this week saw Tyson Fury and Frank Warren reveal that the much awaited comeback of ‘The Gypsy King’, 25-0 (18), will take place on the 9th of June at the Manchester Arena. No opponent has been confirmed yet but Briggs remains a hot favourite.
Also, and by way of a disclaimer, this argument is made with the presumption that Frank Warren will be unwilling to take much of a risk with Fury’s return to the ring. While Fury’s quality is beyond doubt the fact remains he hasn’t fought since 2015 and his backers won’t want to compromise their potential golden goose.
Admittedly there are some sizeable drawbacks to the match-up and they are worth discussing. Shannon Briggs, 60-6-1 (53), is no spring chicken at 46 and at the tail end of last year he served out a PED suspension after he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
On that test failure he told Sky Sports: “I failed, and let down lots of people including myself. But I was in a dark place… A doctor prescribed testosterone for depression and it truly helped me… There was a time, prior to being introduced to testosterone, that I wanted to kill myself… I wasn’t doing anything to help my performance, I was doing something to live, to survive”.
At a time when PED’s are at the forefront of boxing controversy I in no way want to encourage the toleration of drugs cheats, but if what Briggs says is true surely his circumstances leave him outside the ‘cheat’ bracket? Equally he served his suspension with no complaints, took the test voluntarily, and was apologetic for the misdemeanour.
While his age and lengthy ring absence have seen him railed against as a potential Fury opponent, he presents a much more interesting alternative than some of the fighters Frank Warren will likely be sizing up. Briggs’s personality alone sets him apart from the crowd, and alongside his slogan, “let’s go champ”, it has seen him amass a cult following in the UK and US.
His repeated harassment of David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko attracted a lot of attention and he’s immensely charismatic. This element of his appeal is hard to do justice in writing, but it’s well worth looking at his video output on social media. One particularly notable incident, still available on YouTube, saw him hunt down a paddle-boarding Klitschko in a speed boat before circling him several times, causing the board to dump Wlad into the water.
While he’s unlikely to be able to compete with Fury in any meaningful way over the course of 12 rounds his 53 knock outs stand as testament to just how exciting a fighter he is, and, as the old cliché goes, the last thing a fighter loses is their power. This means that a fit Briggs would likely be a powerful live opponent in the opening rounds but fade relatively early in the fight if there is no stoppage. While that’s not the most appetising of all fight previews it’s much better than watching Fury knock out an eastern European cruiserweight with a padded record.
Shannon Briggs also brings a link to boxing history. He defeated George Foreman (albeit a very old George Foreman, and in strange circumstances too,) to become the heavyweight champion of the world. He’s taken on Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko, and he hails from the same neighbourhood that brought us Mike Tyson. Like him or lump him, he’s been a part of the fabric of the heavyweight division. Fury defeating Briggs would represent the last stand of an aged champion and old champions taking on young champions has always been a boxing tradition. It has an inherent intrigue and again, makes the fight a much better proposition than some of the other opponents Fury could potentially face.
The opposition rooted out for Frank Warren’s other heavyweights, Nathan Gorman and Daniel Dubois, has been abysmal of late. While this can be blamed on their relative inexperience their recent outings have been remarkably one sided contests.
Failing this David Price or Lucas Browne are both big men with something to prove. Fury would have to beat either to claim to be anywhere near his former standards, however either fight would represent a genuinely challenging return to the ring. These two represent a higher tier of opposition than Briggs on paper but, again, I’m arguing Briggs’s case with the presumption that Warren may be hesitant to take too large a risk with Fury’s return bout.
Briggs has enough power to make Tyson box an impressive concentrated game, but, at his age, not enough sharpness or stamina to over-stretch Fury as he attempts to get rid of his ring rust. Simply put, Briggs versus Fury would see two former lineal world champions clash, be a relatively low risk return for Fury, and probably provide the best press conference since Dereck Chisora threw a table at Dillian Whyte. Everyone’s happy, right?