PHOENIX (AP) – An hour after his stunning, last-second knockout victory over Sergei Liakhovich, new WBO heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs began to look ahead.

If it were up to Briggs, he would take on IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko to unify two of the four major heavyweight titles. Briggs claims Klitschko’s camp once led him to believe he was in line for a title shot, only to snub him.

“I’ve got a vendetta against him,” Briggs said Saturday night. “When it comes to feelings, I want him. If it’s money, or something like that, then I’ve got to take somebody else. But feeling-wise, I want him for what they did to me.”

When Briggs couldn’t get a fight with Klitschko, he asked promoter Don King for a shot at Liakhovich. King obliged, and at the postfight news conference he was crowing as he pointed to the newly crowned Briggs, the only American belt holder in the fractured weight class.

“From the ashes of the phoenix, America rises again in the heavyweight division,” King said.

Before Briggs signs for a bout with Klitschko, or anyone else, he’s planning to take some time off and find a new home in the Valley. Briggs, a 34-year-old from Brooklyn, enjoyed training here so much that he’s decided to move his family to the desert.

Perhaps Briggs can ask Liakhovich for some recommendations. Liakhovich, a native of Belarus, has lived in nearby Scottsdale for seven years.

“I want to get healed up first,” Briggs said. “I took some shots. My hand’s killing me, my ribs.”

Briggs’ right hand was swollen, and with good reason. That hand separated Liakhovich from his senses and his title.

Liakhovich (23-2 with 14 KOs) looked shaky in his first title defense but still led on all three cards through 11 rounds. Briggs began to enliven a dull match by winning the eighth, ninth and 11th on all three cards, but it was clear that he needed a miracle to take the title as the bell rang for the final round.

Briggs (48-4-1 with 41 KOs) got it when he floored Liakhovich with a pair of heavy right hands with 27 seconds remaining in the bout. After Liakhovich rose, Briggs connected with three more punches and was loading up to throw another when Liakhovich tumbled through the ropes without being hit.

“I took too many shots in the 12th round,” Liakhovich said.

Referee Bobby Ferrara called the fight at 2:59 of the 12th round. A dazed Liakhovich sat at ringside for several minutes before returning to the ring.

It was the second title fight for Briggs, who made his pro debut in 1992. In the first, Briggs was stopped by Lennox Lewis in 1998.

Briggs, who won his 12th straight fight, made $400,000 and Liakhovich was paid $746,000.

Liakhovich conceded afterward that he took the wrong approach against Briggs. Liakhovich seemed content to wait out Briggs, who had gone 12 rounds only once in his career. That strategy brought boos from the crowd and proved costly in the final round.

“I didn’t fight my fight,” Liakhovich said. “I fought Briggs’ fight. I gave it away.”

Liakhovich may have to wait until he has another shot at the title. But at 30, he believes he still has time.

“I’ll be back,” Liakhovich said.

AP-ES-11-05-06 1727EST


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