Mike Marrone returns to boxing to face Shannon Briggs
Mike Marrone thought he was done with boxing.
He was just 26 years old when he decided to explore life away from the gym. A life without punches to the face. A life where the disappointment of his sixth-round technical knockout loss to WBA cruiserweight titleholder Guillermo Jones could be something from his past, instead of something he sought to avenge.
Seeking a new beginning, he moved from his hometown of Vero Beach, Florida, the former home of DodgerTown, north to Orlando to start anew. Behind him were the days of traveling across the country to fight in front at casinos and arenas. He took up a job as a waiter at a fine dining restaurant.
“It was that or male modeling but no one called,” Marrone jokes. But the life of an average citizen, he admits, was boring.
“I had good bosses and good people around me but not exactly the adrenaline rush that doing big things brings.
Seeking the thrill of fighting, Marrone (21-4, 15 knockouts) returned to boxing last year and will get his first taste of fighting under some sort of spotlight since the Jones fight when he faces former heavyweight titleholder Shannon Briggs (58-6-1, 51 KOs) this Saturday at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Marrone, though standing 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, will be overshadowed by Briggs’ outlandishness. Since returning from a nearly four-year retirement last year after his 2010 beating at the hands of Vitali Klitschko, the 43-year-old has become a self-promotion machine, selling himself as an American Hope through Instagram posts.
He has beaten seven unknown fighters in obscure locales in this return and has repeatedly demanded a shot at RING heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. He has starred in videos stalking Klitschko at restaurants and beaches through South Florida, which begin with the self-motivation catch phrase “Let’s go champ!” ad infinitum before ending in bizarre slapstick.
“Shannon is a good dude and this is all like [World Wrestling Entertainment],” says Marrone, who says he has sparred with Briggs in the past. “He reminds me of Sho Nuff from the movie The Last Dragon. He is hilarious, I’ll tell you that.”
Briggs told media this week that he had ballooned to nearly 400 pounds during his retirement. Marrone also had a few pounds to trim. He returned to the gym in January 2014 at 260 pounds – 61 pounds over what he had weighed for the Jones fight. He hooked up with trainer Josue Aguilar at Legacy Fitness and began the long, arduous road back to fighting shape.
“It was hard at first seeing things I knew I could do and not being able to do them,” said Marrone.
“It was a challenge,” says Aguilar of getting Marrone back to fighting shape. “But he was committed to do it and we worked at it.”
Marrone, who had won his first 18 fights before losing four of his next six to Francesco Pianeta, Darrel Madison, DaVarryl Williamson and Jones, struggled to a six-round split-decision win over Robert Dunton (who entered with a 10-11-1 record) in his last bout one year ago.
“A lot of things were not in place at the time of his last fight,” Aguilar claims. “The fans only see the fight but few people understand the behind the scene struggles that sometimes boxers have to deal with on the way to fight night.”
Marrone is convinced he’ll defeat Briggs and earn what would still be his biggest victory to date. Otherwise, he isn’t sure where boxing will take him. He’s focused on right now for his career, even as he plans for his future.
“Considering I am getting married next June I have to take everything into consideration. I need to assess every fight and decide afterwards. Ask me say June 15th and maybe I will have a better answer,” Marrone says.
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.