Boxingtalk caught up with heavyweight contender Ray Austin and the theme of his interview was how he was being avoided by the top fighters in his weight class. Well the avoidance is over and Austin can no longer can complain about not being a player in the division. As of this moment, he has the chance to alter the heavyweight scene. The IBF has ordered an elimination bout between Austin and Sultan Ibragimov with the possibility of a shot at Wladimir Klitschko's championship down the line. Boxingtalk has also been informed that as Austin holds a regional title under the auspices of the WBC, that sanctioning body has ordered Austin to defend against Shannon Briggs. Another likely scenario has Austin waiting for a voluntary defense against Klitschko.
Here are some quotes from Briggs and Briggs' manager, Scott Hirsch: "Ray Austin is one of the best and I want to fight the best. He's big and he can bang and he showed in [defeating Owen] Beck and [Jo-El] Scott that he's not to be taken lightly. That being said, I'm the best heavyweight in the world and I'll prove it against Austin. The fight will be exciting while it lasts but don't expect it to last long. I'm looking to keep this knockout streak going," said Briggs.
Briggs' manager, Scott Hirsch added, "I know Shannon wants this fight and I'm told Ray wants this fight so it's just a matter of the parties coming to an agreement and setting a date. I've had an initial phone call with Mike Borrao, who's Ray Austin's manager and the interest seems mutual. Ray's promoted by Don King, who's the best in the business. I really like and respect Don and I'm looking forward to a great fight. I feel optimistic a deal can get done without going to purse bids."
The WBC, in ordering Austin-Briggs, wrote, "Austin is our WBC USNBC Heavyweight Champion, having won the title last September, in Cleveland, Ohio. He has, however, never defended his title. He currently ranked number
4 in the WBC ratings. We have had pressure from many top ranked boxers to challenge Ray title. Among others there is Shannon Briggs, who is currently ranked number 7 in our world ratings, and who fought for our interim title last January on account of Ray inactivity. The WBC USNBC is in dire need to activate its heavyweight title and is therefore ordering the mandatory defense of the title against Briggs. We understand that Austin's Manager is interested in the bout. The free negotiation period starts today. If no agreement is reached, a purse offer will be held strictly in accordance to WBC's Rules and Regulations, Rule 2, at 12:00 noon, on Thursday, May 25, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The WBC reiterates its support to Ray Austin, who has represented us with honor and pride.