Headline News: by Ray
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
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
``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
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
``Boxing is what I do, he says, ``but my wife and children define who I
Heart, Soul, Fire -- the journey of Paul Briggs. Harper Collins
by Ray Wheatley