By Johnny Walker
Writing can be a dangerous business. You can write something you think is fairly innocuous, and soon find out that someone has taken what you have written in a different way than was intended.
I found that out after noticing that heavyweight contender Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs had replied via Facebook to a recent story I wrote on his comeback (“American Heavyweight News: Amir Mansour Says Goodbye (Again); Shannon Briggs Says Hello (Again)”).
The story quoted an interview in Fightnews.com in which Briggs talked about his new boxing promotional venture and his planned comeback in the heavyweight division. In that interview, Briggs said, “I can market anything. My motto is this: You can say what you want about me but just talk about me.” So I viewed his planned comeback and what he had to say about it through the prism of that statement.
Everyone knows Briggs likes to hype himself, and he’d just admitted that he enjoyed doing so. No doubt when he talked of grandiose plans for the future as a 40+ year-old heavyweight fighter, some of that was just “Shannon being Shannon.”
Briggs’ public comment on the story was also innocuous enough sounding, so I contacted the veteran heavyweight via Facebook to see if he wanted to do an in-depth interview, one where he could talk about his comeback, his new business venture, and anything else that crossed his mind. I had contacted him once before, and got no reply.
This time, I got a reply. Boy did I get a reply. An angry one.
Let me state that I have nothing against Shannon Briggs. I have written stories on him in the past and taken his side in disputes with a certain more well-known boxing writer. I have more than once said that his effort against Vitali Klitschko, where he fought 12 rounds with an arm injury, was a brave one.
I didn’t feel I needed to go over all that again in this latest article, but Briggs felt differently.
What really seemed to rankle Briggs was my contention that he likely would now be fighting “tomato cans” and using his name to draw people to the events of his company, Acquinity Sports. Given his statement about being a marketing genius, I figured that was a logical assumption. But Briggs didn’t see it that way.
“As far as me fighting tomato cans, please don’t say things that you would not say to a man’s face,” Briggs wrote. “Mark my words that writing as a freelance, blogger big mouth is going to come to an end. Very soon.”
Wow. Well, I guess I touched a nerve. I assured Shannon that I would have no problem repeating anything I wrote to his face, while wondering how I ended up feuding with a guy who I had nothing against. Or at least didn’t until now.
But that’s the kind of thing that happens sometimes when you’re a writer, whether you intend it to or not. Language is funny that way. People can get really pissed off over something you thought was pretty harmless when you wrote it. Meaning is slippery, and people see things the way they want to see them sometimes.
Aside from making not-so-veiled threats against journalists, Briggs made some points that I am happy to clarify.
Briggs says he is not a “performer” for Acquinity Sports, but a co-founder and partner, and is not obliged to fight on Acquinity Sports boxing cards. “I don’t have any duties to do anything but make ‘my’ company a successful sports agency.” he says. “Boxing, football, basketball baseball, etc.”
Briggs also claims that his contention (published earlier in an online journal) that Vitali Klitschko was “ready to go” when they fought after Briggs caught him with a hard punch in the 10th round was something he heard from the Klitschko brothers themselves. I have been unable so far to verify if they have made any such statements, or whether they told this to Briggs privately. Re-watching the bout, I can’t see any point where Vitali looked hurt or ready to fall. He did look surprised when Briggs caught him with a hard shot in the 10th, but Vitali immediately responded with punches of his own.
My overall feeling from this exchange with Briggs is that, while the physical wounds from the Klitschko fight may have healed, the psychic wounds are still wide open. Briggs was perhaps too brave for his own good, and the resulting beating was one of the worst seen in recent times in the sport of boxing. So in that sense I can’t blame Shannon Briggs for being a little touchy about it.
But trying to make an enemy out of someone who was willing to help promote his new venture (and do the hard work of transcribing and typing an interview) seems kind of counterproductive to me. I would have been only too happy to let Briggs have the last word.
Good luck in your comeback, Shannon.