Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reports that the long-rumored October 16 fight between heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko and Shannon Briggs has been signed. They will fight at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany.
Klitschko (40-2, 38 KO) and Briggs (51-5-1, 45 KO) on paper make for an exceptionally dull fight, but the one good thing you can say is that Briggs, 38, does still have some big one-punch power, which is something that's been lacking (among other things) in three of Klitschko's last four challengers. Briggs has been active this year trying to land another big fight, and it has panned out. He fought three times in the span of six weeks in April and May, though the total time in the ring added up in all three fights comes to one minute and twenty-six seconds. He stopped Rafael Pedro in 0:28 on April 13, Dominique Alexander in 0:20 on May 21, and Rob Calloway in 1:38 on May 28.
Briggs has had an odd career path that serves as kind of a mini tale of what has happened to the heavyweight division over his time in the sport. He's perhaps most famous for a highly controversial win in 1997 over a 48-year-old George Foreman. Almost everyone thought Foreman had won, but Briggs got the majority decision victory. Since then he's been a rollercoaster. He was stopped in five by Lennox Lewis in his next fight, drew Frans Botha in 1999, and lost a stunning upset to Sedreck Fields in 2000. He was widely outpointed by Jameel McCline in 2002, but wound up getting another title shot after continuing to plug away in 2006, and he knocked out Sergei Liakhovich with one second remaining in what had been to that point a horrible fight. He lost the belt seven months later to Sultan Ibragimov, and didn't fight again until December 2009.
Klitschko, 39, has been dominant since returning to the sport in 2008 after a four-year retirement, barely losing rounds in five fights against Samuel Peter, Juan Carlos Gomez, Cristobal Arreola, Kevin Johnson and Albert Sosnowski. You can argue that Briggs doesn't really deserve the fight, and it's hard to say he does, but the other options out there appeared to be Nikolai Valuev, who found himself being priced out perhaps against his own will, and Odlanier Solis, who is very talented but probably would have the same size issues against the Klitschkos that most fighters have. I'll put it this way: If the options were Klitschko-Valuev and Klitschko-Briggs, I'm glad it's Briggs.
As for American TV, don't expect a lot. It's possible that ESPN will get involved, as manager Bernd Boente says he's already had talks with the network. ESPN is covering Wladimir's rematch with Samuel Peter on September 11, but it's only going to be live on ESPN3.com, with ESPN showing the tape the next day. The interest in heavyweight boxing at HBO and Showtime has gone completely dead following the pitiful Vitali-Kevin Johnson fight last December, which HBO bought to air on tape delay. The only heavyweight fight HBO has aired since then was Tomasz Adamek's win over Cristobal Arreola. I'm guessing HBO would happily snap up either of the brothers fighting Adamek or David Haye, but past that there doesn't seem to be any interest, and Showtime simply doesn't have the budget for many expensive fights while they're running the Super Six and trying to drive hardcore fan interest with fights in the lower weight classes.