Headline News: by Ray Wheatley

Briggs can stop Drews

PAUL Briggs will treat WBA Stipe Drews the same way he did in their first fight (pictured) according to the Australian light-heavyweight’s trainer Johnny Lewis.
Heavy-hitting Briggs (26-3, 18 KOs) fights Argentina’s dangerous Hugo Hernan Garay (28-2, 15 KOs) in Los Angeles on September 8 for the right to face Drews in a rematch.
The pair met at Sydney’s State Sports Centre in 2004 in a WBC eliminator and Drews (now 32-1, 13 KOs) copped the first and so far only defeat of his pro career.
The 195cm (6ft 5in) southpaw stringbean was down three times and forced to repeatedly knee Briggs in the groin to keep prevent a knockout.
``Paul will do the same to Drews when  they fight again,.’’ Said trainer Lewis, the coach of five world champs,
``He has got great power and he’s got Stipe Drews’ number. Garay is a very dangerous opponent but if Paul remains focused he can beat him and Drews for the world title.’’
Briggs has  come up short in two WBC title fights with now ex-champ Tomasz Adamek and Lewis publicly questioned his fighter’s desire.
``Adamek was there to be taken in the second fight,’’ Lewis said, ``but something held Paul back from going flat out in the closing rounds.
``He finished the fight with plenty of petrol left in the tank. If he’[d given it everything he would now be the WSBC champ.
``I do think, though, that the chance to fight Drews again, with the world title at stake, will bring out the best in Paul.’’
Briggs was raped by a distant relative at the age of eight and spent the next 21 years as a victim of his own rage and self-loathing.
His anger and hate fuelled the destructive fighting skills that made him a national kickboxing champion at just 15 and a world kickboxing champ four years later.
And the unresolved fury made him unmerciful in his secondary career as a drug-taking, drug-dealing standover man.
He was Chopper Read with ears, packing firearms and breaking legs with a baseball bat or metal pole.
``In the space of a few brutal minutes that rape destroyed my life and I would never be the same little boy again,'' he says in his painfully confronting, disturbingly honest biography Heart, Soul, Fire, written with Gregor Salmon.
``Every night for years I'd fear the onset of the most violent and graphic dreams. And between then and now, many men paid dearly for what was done to me.
``My pain was something I felt compelled to share. I liked hurting people and I never much cared about how or why that was.''
For his 21st birthday, Briggs stayed awake for five days - consuming drugs and alcohol. ``In those days I didn't take drugs so much as take them on,'' he said.
Briggs is 31 now and hitting the gym with trainer Lewis the way his old man, a bodybuilding martial arts instructor, used to hit the bottle.
Under Lewis's educated eye and caring nature, Briggs hammers the sandhills behind Wanda beach with Corey Bocking, one of Australia's leading personal trainers, and is ramping up his fitness for another shot at the world crown.
The fight with Garay is on the same card as Fernando Vargas v Ricardo Mayorga at the Staples Centre on September 8.
Lewis believes Briggs has the power to stop Drews in a return.
But Briggs' book is more about the healing power of forgiveness than the hurting power of its author. He credits his Christian faith, marriage and two delightful children as the reason he looks at life these days with optimism, joy and an absence of hate.
Only a few years ago he was an overweight skinhead sitting in a car with his partner in the standover business waiting for a potential victim to come home and wondering how low he had sunk.
``I had plenty of time to think what a dreary, shitty, evil little life I was leading, he says. ``I was working for some of the scummiest people you could imagine: murderers, rapists, dealers and hardened crims and sometimes I'd even have to crack them to get paid.''
His life changed with several spiritual experiences and a revelation as dazzling as that which blinded Saul on the road to Damascus.
``I suddenly realised that if I changed the way I looked at things, the things I looked at changed,'' he says.
``In one way or another anger had governed my entire life so I tried very hard to contemplate myself in a state of not being angry and it was like warm sun striking frozen earth. Small, good things seemed to sprout.''
Briggs says one of the most profound things he has learned is the ability to forgive -- even extending mercy to the rapist who murdered the innocence of his childhood.
``I never wanted to forgive, he says, ``but the truth is that anger held me back. Having chosen to break the cycle of hatred, having chosen mercy, I have come to feel that a significant part of my trauma has been dealt with.
``The world title belt is a trinket compared to the prize this personal victory has given me and through forgiveness my deepest wound began to heal.''
He says if writing the book can inspire one person in distress with similar issues to seek help and begin a journey of reclaiming the richness of life, he will be proud.
At 31 he has learned that manhood and masculinity are not defined by physicality and ego, but rather in the example of Jesus, who cared about people and was brave, sensitive and compassionate. He describes boxing as an ongoing gold rush, thick with fools and exploited by bullies and grubs but says within its discipline and lofty hurdles he finds the self-mastery and challenge he craves.
But even though his own world title dream burns brightly, he says, boxing takes a back seat these days to the most important things in his life.
``Boxing is what I do, he says, ``but my wife and children define who I am.''
Heart, Soul, Fire -- the journey of Paul Briggs. Harper Collins

by Ray Wheatley









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