By Keith Idec
The WBA announced Thursday afternoon that it has suspended Shannon Briggs for six months because he failed a pre-fight, performance-enhancing drug test two months ago.
The 45-year-old Briggs was supposed to face Fres Oquendo for a version of the WBA’s heavyweight title June 3 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Their highly scrutinized title fight was canceled once a test by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association determined Briggs had dramatically elevated levels of testosterone in his system.
Briggs (60-6-1, 53 KOs, 1 NC) is unusually muscular for someone his age and speculation regarding PED use has long swirled around the boisterous Brooklyn native.
He has gone 9-0 and knocked out eight of those opponents since starting his comeback in April 2014. He won those nine bouts against a very low level of opposition, but Briggs still climbed to the No. 3 spot in the WBA’s heavyweight rankings.
The former WBO heavyweight champion is still rated No. 3 by the WBA, but is expected to drop from the top 15 now that he has been suspended.
The 44-year-old Oquendo (37-8, 24 KOs) is ranked fourth by the WBA, despite that he hasn’t fought since he lost a 12-round majority decision to Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Chagaev (34-3-1, 21 KOs) in their July 2014 title fight in Grozny, Russia.
The Chicago native remains in position to fight for a version of the WBA’s heavyweight title because he sued Chagaev to receive the rematch he was owed in their contracts.
Chagaev was temporarily removed from the championship mix once Australia’s Lucas Browne (24-0, 21 KOs) knocked him out in the 10th round 16 months ago in Grozny to take the title. Browne was later stripped by the WBA for failing a PED test.
The title was subsequently returned to Chagaev, but the WBA also stripped him because he failed to pay a sanctioning fee. Browne then was scheduled to battle Briggs for the vacant championship December 31, but Browne failed another PED test and their fight was canceled.
With Browne and Chagaev out of contention, the WBA ordered a Briggs-Oquendo fight for the vacant title. England’s Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs), who owns the WBA’s “super” title in the division, is recognized as the true WBA heavyweight champion.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.