The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire

For Johnson, Briggs and Sullivan Disaster Strikes!
By Francis Walker

In an attempt to bridge the lengthy gap of waiting to challenge for the world heavyweight title, young heavyweight Kirk Johnson, on the evening of Tuesday, December 8, nearly lost. In front of a sold-out crowd of 2,500 at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, Johnson (26-0-1, 19KOs) was docked three points for low blows, en route to a 10-round majority decision draw with former world titlist Alfred Cole (30-3-1, 15KOs). On the undercard, another prospect, Obed Sullivan (29-4-1, 20KOs) suffered a shocking split-decision loss to Jesse
Ferguson (26-17, 16KOs). While Brooklyn's own Shannon Briggs (31-2, 25KOs), in his first appearance since losing to WBC heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis in March, had a successful homecoming by knocking out journeyman Marcus Rhode (23-13, 23KOs). 

Count 'em, three points docked from Johnson by referee Wayne Kelly for low blows. The first coming in the fifth, seventh, and the most fatal one during the final stanza. The severity of the first two shots were questionable. However, in the tenth, the referee allowed Cole to sit on his stool for the maximum recovery time for penalized low punches -- five minutes! In addition, Johnson lost an extra two points for what looked like a slip during the opening seconds of the fight.

At the end of the contest, one judge scored the fight 94-93 for Cole. The other two officials had it 94-94 even.

Despite having fought formidable Dannell  Nicholson (W 10), Johnson, a winner of the bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, has never been tested as a pro. Now that he's fought Cole, it's safe to question how Johnson has earned top-10 rankings in both the WBA and WBC.

Cole, who desperately needed to be revived since two losses to former two-time heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon (L 10) and Michael Grant (TKO by 10), did not look too good against Johnson. Having made five successful defenses of the IBF cruiserweight title during a three-year span (1992-95) Cole now has a record of 4-2-1, 3KOs as a heavyweight.

Johnson-Cole II, anyone? This fight writer believes a rematch is an order!

Making his first appearance since losing to WBC heavyweight champion Lewis, it was difficult to rate Briggs' performance against Rhode. Basically, it's the same Briggs who abandons his left-jab, does not move his head, and simply slugs it out with the opposition. Nevertheless, taking nothing away from his victory, it was a good home coming for the 27 yr. old native of Brownsville, New York.

Briggs, now trained by Emanuel Steward, who also trains Lewis, said improvement comes with patience. Despite having an easily overwhelming win, Briggs feels nothing in this sport comes easy. Briggs, looking to fight his way back into shape, awaits a high profile contest next year against either Lou Savarese of the Bronx or Mike Tyson, who once grew-up in Brownsville. According to Steward, Briggs has a lot of talent and can be molded into the
finest heavyweight in the future. That remains to be seen.

Briggs, who admitted to have fought both Foreman and Lewis (TKO 5) with a broken left hand, feels Lewis would beat Holyfield. In Briggs' eyes, Lewis proved he can rise to any occasion when he knocked out Andrew Golota (KO 1) last year. Since Holyfield has problems against taller men, Briggs thinks once Lewis hits him - Holyfield will go down. Again, that remains to be seen. Briggs, winner of 5 of his last 7, including a controversial decision against Foreman (W 12) last year, promised that 1999 will be his year. Yet, despite 25 KOs in now 33 contests, Briggs is 1-2 against quality opposition. Early in '99, Briggs will have to even the score if he is to return to the heavyweight championship picture.

Lastly, having just lost to every top fighter produced in the past 10 years, Jessie Ferguson at age 41, was finally awarded his just due. Ferguson shocked the boxing world with his victory against Sullivan. For Sullivan, who lost to Hasim Rahman (L 12) and Michael Grant (TKO by 9), the loss to Ferguson eliminates him from the world title picture.

From the opening bell, Sullivan looked to dominate the bout with his left jab. But Ferguson's  too easy to hit style  made it difficult for Sullivan to retain his discipline. Sullivan instead went "toe-to-toe" with the more experienced fighter. In the second, Ferguson landed a couple of overhand rights, hurting Sullivan. Ferguson, who absorbed a number of great shots himself, was indeed in control of the fight.

During most exchanges it became clear that whenever Sullivan threw uppercuts, Ferguson held his arms and gloves between his chest and chin. Sullivan left his guard open, which allowed Ferguson to land uppercuts with consistency.

As the bout reached the later rounds, both Sullivan and Ferguson occasionally looked for the "one-punch" kayo. Though landing heavy bombs, both fighters were heavily fatigued. But it was Ferguson, who was the busier and more accurate fighter.

The victory once again puts Ferguson in a good position to challenge any of the more elite names in boxing. Ferguson now seeks a shot at Poland's Andrew Golota early next year.

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