A Briggs too far: Why the Board must ko this Haye farce

A Briggs too far: Why the Board must ko this Haye farce


David Haye

One of the great characters in boxing until his death three years ago was a matchmaker named Johnny Bos. A Runyonesque New Yorker, and a brilliant operator, he was also known in the trade as The Gravedigger – because of his innate ability to dig up ‘bodies’ for up-and-coming prospects building their careers or established fighters looking for an easy night’s work.

One of Mike Tyson’s former managers, the late Jimmy Jacobs, once said of him: ”There are people who are geniuses in certain areas. Johnny Bos is a genius when it comes to shit.”

This was meant as a compliment, a testament to Bos’s knack for finding those types of ‘opponent.’

“I need them to have a pulse, but not much of a pulse,” Bos quipped of the palookas he unearthed.

Mickey Duff often turned to Bos when Frank Bruno’s career needed building. It was Bos who found the bodies that allowed Bruno to learn his trade, and eventually win the world title

The Bos man came to mind when I was watching the latest phase of David Haye’s embarrassingly stage-managed Second Coming last weekend.

It got me wondering if the Hayemaker and his people had exhumed The Gravedigger himself to dig up the lamentable lumps brought in to face both Haye and fellow former world heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs at London’s O2.

Arnold Gjergjaj, a mystery man from Kosovo by way of Switzerland – maybe that should be Swizz-erland – was predictably and ignominiously dispatched by Haye in under two rounds, barely throwing a punch in protest: a performance – or lack of one – almost as pitiful as Haye first sacrificial offering, Mark de Mori.

It was a disgrace, and a great shame for the free-to-air channel Dave who are testing the water with boxing.

The viewing figures peaked at 2.5 million, not bad but ominously half a million less than for Haye’s previous 131 second appearance against de Mori.

In common with most fight fans I like David Haye. Indeed, what’s there not to like even in a career punctuated by injuries and pull-outs. His charm, chat and chutzpah have endeared him to audiences well beyond the prize ring. He can be engagingly witty, is always good copy, and certainly knows not only how to sell a fight by playing the media.

And he can fight when the fancy takes him.

But also like Frank Warren and a host of others in the game I believe we are being taken for a cynical Haye ride.

His absence after surgery was intended to be permanent he says because the shoulder injury he sustained while training for his already once-postponed bout with Tyson Fury was originally medically deemed to be too great a threat for the continuation of his career: one which had seen him win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight.

Now that appears not to be the case, and appetite re-whetted, he has decided to brighten our lives again, and enrich his savings account with an eye on the main chance, an blockbuster with fellow Londoner and new world IBF champion Anthony Joshua.

To that end he is flexing his muscles against stiffs and now plans to use that amiably ancient has-been Shannon Briggs as his next fodder. This must not be allowed to happen.

Even the trade paper, Boxing News, says so.

Shannon Briggs

The 44-year old Briggs finally got his wish for a fight here, swiftly clubbing down late sub Emilio Zarate. Alas, the Argentinian was just sort of opponent for whom Johnny Bos would have got out his shovel.

Saturday night was all too reminiscent of the days of the Tijuana Tumblers, or Mexican road sweepers as they were also known when imported over here in the sixties and seventies.

The trade paper Boxing News rightly described the opposition for the heavyweight headliners as ‘deplorable.’

It was obviously planned as a prelude to a Haye-Briggs fight in September but let me quote the editor of Boxing News, Matt Christie in his editorial:” I’m not sure what’s worse. Haye securing a shot at the heavyweight title by beating Briggs in September – a sham of a showdown being lauded as a worthwhile contest thanks to some sickly WWE-style staging – or 44-year-old Briggs being allowed to fight in the UK six years after being beaten to a bloody pulp by (Vitali) Klitschko….pairing him against Haye is another awful mismatch.”

By the way, that loss to Vitali came shortly after Haye himself said Briggs was too old to be in such a fight.

In his own way Briggs is equally likeable – although his tiresome trademark chant ‘Let’s Go Champ’ has become terminally irritating.

Let’s go where? And who’s the champ?

Briggs may have got himself into decent shape but he still reminds me of an eccentric grandfather. He should not be in the ring with Haye, or any heavyweight of consequence.

Haye described the O2 audience as” a good-looking crowd rather like the Oscars or something. It was not a typical boxing crowd, and that’s what I wanted.”

While he is entitled to re-kindle his career he needs to be reminded that that boxing isn’t vaudeville. Yet.

Dave are genuinely trying to build a sporting following. But how many tuning in to boxing for the first time would have been turned off by this parody of pugilism?

At one stage Gjergjaj went down from a straight left – you’ll see more potent jabs flicked out by those going for double top in the BDO World Darts Trophy event which the ambitious channel screens this weekend.

Haye has been uncharacteristically quiet these past few days, perhaps reflecting on some of the opprobrium that has followed the farce.

The Board of Control general secretary Robert Smith has been away in China for the IBF congress but I hope he catches up with the tapes and ensures that he advises the Board to quickly stamp on the idea of a Haye-Briggs bout which could seriously damage not only Briggs but their own reputation.

The most succinct headline ever written over a big fight report was that in the Daily Mirror back in 1948 when American heavyweight Lee Oma capitulated without apparently being hit by British champion Bruce Woodcock, the Haringey crowd hurling coins into the ring in disgust.

Next day the headline famously read: Oma – Coma – Aroma

Somewhat strong, maybe. But likewise there was certainly a bit of smell emanating from the O2 on Saturday night. Perhaps it was those dead bodies.

Tomorrow: Catch up with Alan Hubbard’s Punchlines at frankwarren.com

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