Russian challenger Sultan Ibragimov beat America's Shannon "The Cannon" Briggs to claim the World Boxing Organization's heavyweight title Saturday in Atlantic City.
All the three judges scored 119-109, 117-111 and 115-113 in favor of Ibragimov in a 12-round bout.
The bout was initially scheduled for March 10, but was later rescheduled for June 2 as Briggs pulled out citing health reasons, particularly an attack of pneumonia. Ibragimov's managers spread rumors at the time that Briggs was probably healthy and was simply afraid of facing the Russian boxer, rian.ru reports.
Ibragimov (19-0-1) was originally slated to fight Briggs (48-5-1) on March 10 in New York, but the bout was postponed after Briggs came down with pneumonia.
Briggs, who has asthma, said his reign, though short, was an achievement to be proud of. "I proved that someone with asthma can become heavyweight champion." Briggs said. "For two weeks, I couldn't train, I was taking all kinds of antibiotics. I didn't want to fight, but they made me fight and I had to fight."
Ibragimov didn't say who he might fight next, but he showed his joy by leaping in the air when he was announced as the latest heavyweight champion, usatoday.com reports.
"Tonight I will go to sleep as champion and will wake up as champion, and we'll see what happens after that," Ibragimov said.
If Ibragimov wants to fight in the United States next, his best bet would be to challenge Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine, the International Boxing Federation champion. Klitschko is generally considered the best of the heavyweight titleholders, and he is the only one of the four champions with much of a following in the United States.
But if they were to meet in Germany, where Klitschko is popular, or in Moscow, the fight may attract a bigger crowd, if not a lot of pay-per-view television buys.
Oleg Maskaev of Kazakstan (World Boxing Council) and Ruslan Chageav of Uzbekistan (World Boxing Association) are the other heavyweight champions.
The other top Americans — Ray Austin, Lamon Brewster, Chris Byrd, Hasim Rahman and Calvin Brock — are not a formidable collection. Brewster, Byrd and Rahman are former champions; Brock won an eight-round decision on the Ibragimov-Briggs undercard Saturday night, but he has already been stopped by Klitschko.
But any of those Americans would figure to put up a better fight for a title than Briggs, weighing 273 pounds, did against Ibragimov, who weighed 221.
Briggs pawed and postured, rarely throwing anything dangerous. His performance made his victory against the former champion Sergei Liakhovich on Nov. 4 look like a fluke. In that fight, Briggs scored a last-minute knockout when he was well behind on points, the AP reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik