Lennox Lewis, in trouble in the first two rounds, rallied to knock down Shannon Briggs three times and stopped him in the fifth round in defense of the WBC heavyweight title Saturday night.
Lewis’ chin almost betrayed him in the first two rounds, but then his power came to his rescue in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Lewis was a 12-1 favorite, but certainly didn’t look like one in the first two rounds.
Briggs, who won a controversial decision over George Foreman on Nov. 22, hurt Lewis with a big left hook and a barrage of punches that sent Lewis staggering in the last 30 seconds of the first round.
Briggs hurt Lewis again with a leaping left hook and a couple more head punches in the second round.
From then on, it was all Lewis until the fight was stopped at 1:45 of the fifth round.
After the fight was stopped, the doctor looked at the weary and battered Briggs, who told the physician, “I feel great, man.”
He didn’t look so good in the last two rounds.
“Briggs came to fight,” said the 32-year old champion from Britain, who rated his own performance as being at 80 percent. “He was braver than I expected. He did a lot of talking during the week, so he had to back it up. That’s why he got off the canvas three times.”
Lewis had said before the fight he didn’t even want to fight Briggs. He said he wanted to fight Evander Holyfield, the WBA-IBF champion, because the public wanted to see him fight the best.
“Lennox didn’t hit as hard as George,” the 26-year old Briggs, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said.
The victory for Lewis, who got about $4 million, raised his record to 33-1 (27 knockouts). Briggs, now 30-2 with 24 knockouts, earned $1.75 million, by far the biggest purse of his career.
On the undercard, IBF super middleweight champion Charles Brewer retained his title, rallying to beat plucky British journeyman Herol Graham.
Also, former WBC light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin of Chicago stopped Kenny Lopez of San Jose, Calif., in the ninth round of their scheduled 10-rounder.