BOXING

Can Oquendo vs. Briggs Be Salvaged?

Team Fres Oquendo is still hopeful that matters can be sorted, and that their guy and Shannon Briggs can salvage their scrap, which was set for June 3 in Florida, but was scuttled after Briggs tested positive in a VADA PED test.

Bobby Hitz promotes Oquendo and he told me that he doesn’t understand why the Brooklyn native would have signed up for voluntary intensive testing were he using performance enhancers.

Maybe, Hitz said, Briggs has viable medical reasons which would explain the chemical composition of the sample which popped last week. “Things will shake out, I think it will still happen. Shannon has been a gentleman, and I was really looking forward to the fight. The title has to go through us, as mandated by the WBA, so we will work it out, with Shannon, or move on to the next one.” Hitz mentioned that Alexander Ustinov could be someone who’d be slotted to face the 37-8 Oquendo, a Chi-town guy, who is 44 and hasn’t fought since 2014. “We like the odds in both fights,” Hitz continued. “Fres always takes care of himself, doesn’t drink or do drugs,  he walks around at 225, he is in the gym all the time, he’s a specimen. Age is just a number, the next fight shows it. And if it’s Ustinov, we say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

The title at stake is now vacant, for the record. Anthony Joshua holds the WBA “super” title and this is a secondary and lesser strap. Ruslan Chagaev won it, when he beat Oquendo, and the two were slated to rematch but Chagaev didn’t stick with that plan. He fought and beat Francesco Pianeta in summer 2015. Oquendo and his crew went to court to hold Chagaev to their deal and as a result, the WBA ruled that Oquendo was owed a crack at the lesser belt. That belt was last wrapped around the waist of Lucas Browne, after he beat Chagaev, in the Russian’s second defense of it. But Browne tested PED positive and the WBA yanked the belt off of him, in May 2016. They then ruled that he probably didn’t knowingly ingest a banned substance, and that he should fight Oquendo within four months of that September 2016 announcement. Browne actually hitched on with Briggs, and those two were going to fight for this jinxed belt at the end of last year. But Browne tested positive, again, this time flagged as part of the WBC’s testing program.

My take: Not to be a punk, but this “regular” belt seems to be kind of jinxed. Maybe the universe is trying to tell the WBA to just stick to the single “super” title?

Michael Woods
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Michael Woods.

Host, TALKBOX podcast, powered by EVERLAST; 1st VP, Boxing Writers Association of America; http://NYFights.com is my site

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