Our long national nightmare is over, friends. The search party has hit paydirt, and found a dance partner for Deontay Wilder.
It was to be Czar Glazkov, but politics interevened, and the Russian would rather fight “Prince” Charles Martin for the vacant IBF title than Wilder for his WBC crown. Thus, Plan B was needed…and there were candidates. Amir Mansour was considered, as was Shannon Briggs, the 43-year-old Brownsville, Brooklyn native who is on the comeback train after being beaten badly by Vitali Klitschko in 2010, and taking time off to lick his wounds and assess his future.
Word is, though, that the WBC wouldn't sign off on Briggs as a title challenger, fearing he could get whupped too bad by the Alabaman. Wilders' co-trainer, Mark Breland, himself a proud Brooklyner, told me he would have enjoyed the leadup to a Wilder-Briggs tangle. “Oh yeah,” he said. “But he could have gotten hurt, Deontay is a great athlete.”
Briggs sparred with Wilder on SiriusXM Tuesday night, and craves the clash, but for now, is on the outside looking in.
And Szpilka, what of him?
“He's small, a short guy. Tough guy, that's about it,” said Breland.
We agreed that he's a step up in caliber from Eric Molina, and Johann Duhaupaus, the last two hitters Wilder signed up to dance with.
“And because he's better, it's a possibility that makes Deontay fight ever better, give a better performance.”
Lou DiBella will promote the Wilder defense; I asked him his thoughts on Szpilka (age 26; 20-1 with 15 KOs; stopped once, by Bryant Jennings in January 2014, has won four straight against Ok competition since). “He's a brawler. Styles can't make a bad fight. He will be supported by a big Polish contingent, and he will be very motivated to become the first Polish world heavyweight champion,” DiBella said.
As far as other shoes dropping, we should be seeing Glazkov versus St. Louis hitter Martin soon-ish. (Martin has been pulled from his saturday spat against prospect Dominic Breazeale.) Where, when..and on what channel? Glazkov is a Main Events guy, they do work with HBO, mostly; Martin is under the Al Haymon advisor umbrella, and he..has not recently done much with HBO. So that could prove to be a hill to climb, when putting specifics on this waltz together. “As far as when and where, that depends on who wins the purse bid,” said Duva. “So it is too ealry to say.” A purse bid is set to take place on Dec. 18.
And what about other shoes…Mansour, a Philly boxer handled by the esteemed Russell Peltz would like to land on the Wilder card. “The Wilder people took a guy with less of a punch and less of a chin than Mansour,” Peltz told me. “Hey, if I were Wilder, I'd rather fight Szpilka too! But Mansour would like to fight Briggs in Brooklyn. It would be good for the show.” Makes infinite sense to me; Briggs turned 44 onn Dec. 4, and Mansour turns 44 in July. This is from that standpoint an even playing field…
And yet more shoes…Tyson Fury is knee-deep in his triumphant Foot in Mouth Tour, as he soaks up congratulations, and finds fresh pockets of the planet to insult. I messaged a Team Klitschko contatc to see if there's any news of a possible date for the sequel to Klitschko-Fury, which I would think would HAVE to be a more fan-friendly tussle than the sub-classic they gave us a couple weeks ago. I will insert that when I get a reply.
My take: Regardless of the TV outlet, Szpilka will need to not get sloppy and drop his hands against Wilder. The Bama boxer will look to funnel the Pole into moving to his left, into his straight right hand, and I'd expect him to be able to do just that.
No pressure, gents..
This scrap will be the first heavyweight title matchup in Brooklyn in 115 years, so there's no recent precedent for area fans to compare against…but a stinker scrap could mean it's another hundred years before the third one unfolds in this borough of kings…
The card–which is still being put together, I don't yet have any hints on undercard attractions–will be promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Warriors Boxing and Sferis Knockout Promotions. Tix start at a reasonable $25, and are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased online at www.barclayscenter.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Tickets are also available at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. Purchase before January 1 and receive a 10% discount. Group discounts are available by calling 844-BKLYN-GP.
Here is what the fighters had to say Wednesday; there was some decent trash talk from the Bama man and the Pole.
“I’m always in shape. I’m always in the ring because I’m in love with this sport.
“There’s so much rich history in Brooklyn. Barclays Center still needs a face. Why not me? I have friends and family in New York. That’s the mission that I’m on.
“Don’t get too overwhelmed by the opportunity, Szpilka. You still have to do something with it.
“Once I knock Szpilka out, I want all the Polish fans to come on the “Bronze Bomber” train as I bring the heavyweight division back to the top.
“I’m the guy who has everything it takes to be heavyweight champion of the world. It’s not just about being great inside the ring, it’s about being able to do great things outside of the ring. Not everyone has that. I love to be out there with the people.
“I don’t care who it is. It doesn’t matter who is in the ring with me. I love a fighter who’s not scared because it gives me the motive to knock him out. I don’t play around because I mean business.
“I’m looking for a grand show. It’s going to be a great performance to kick off 2016. This is going to be a huge year for me. I’m knocking Szpilka out and I’m sending a message to everyone who stands in my way.”
“I hope that you hear loud and clear, I can win this fight. My mind is ready, my body is ready. You’re done January 16.
“I have everything that a good boxer needs. I’m very confident and I know that this is my time. I have respect for him, but he’s never fought somebody like me. Everybody he fought but Bermane Stiverne was a bum.
“Only three people have actually tried to fight him. Everybody else had already lost before they got into the ring.
“I wanted this fight. This is my time. The heavyweight titles are wide open. There’s new blood for boxing.
“There is a big difference between me now and two years ago. I trust in my corner. You will all see a new Artur Szpilka on January 16.”