A lack of viable heavyweight challengers has forced Vitali Klitschko to turn to a less than viable but familiar face: Shannon Briggs.
Klitschko (40-2, 38 KOs) will defend his WBC belt against former WBO champion Briggs (51-5, 45 KOs) on Oct. 16 at the O2 World Hamburg in Germany.
"I am really happy that I will have a fight in Hamburg again, the place where I started my professional career," Klitschko said. "The O2 World is a great arena and the fans in Hamburg are real boxing experts and will make a perfect atmosphere. Shannon Briggs is not only big at talking but also big in the ring and a very tough challenger. He is more experienced than me, has more professional fights on his record and is one of the hardest punchers in the division. I will be very well prepared."
Klitschko, who defended his title with a 10th-round knockout of Albert Sosnowski in May, has won five straight fights since coming out of retirement in 2008. He regained the WBC title by knocking out Samuel Peter in '08 and subsequently knocked out Juan Carlos Gomez, Chris Arreola and Sosnowski and won a lopsided decision over Kevin Johnson.
Klitschko had been seeking a fight with former WBA champion Nikolay Valuev. However negotiations for that fight broke down earlier this year. With no other top opponents available -- current WBA champion David Haye has expressed little real interest in fighting Vitali or his brother, WBO and IBF champion Wladimir -- Klitschko turned to Briggs.
"This is going to be a dramatic fight between two of the biggest punching heavyweights," said Klitschko's manager, Bernd Boente. "We are glad that this fight will take place in Hamburg. Last time Vitali fought here the O2 World did not even exist. It will be a great fight night in a fantastic arena."
Briggs, 38, has won three straight fights against low-level competition since returning to boxing after a two-and-a-half-year layoff. In his first fight, Briggs knocked out Marcus McGee in the first round. That win was later changed to a no-contest after Briggs tested positive for a banned substance.
"For a long time I have been trying hard to fight a Klitschko," said Briggs, a Brooklyn native who hails from the same Brownsville neighborhood that produced Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe. "Most of their opponents are scared to death when they step into the ring. I will put pressure on Klitschko and take the fight to him. Klitschko can enjoy his belt for a few more weeks [because] after Oct. 16 it will be mine."
Boente is reportedly in negotiations with ESPN to broadcast the fight.