Thursday, May 15, 2008

From Vitali to Calzaghe?

(Photo by Mary Ann Owen)

Imagine being Sir Edmund Henry and Tenzing Norgay, the first known conquerors of Mount Everest's summit. You've just scaled the world's highest mountain after failing the first time and staying up there will prove more difficult than your ascent. For years you tried regaining your former position only to be stumped by the same path. Where do you go now?

For Chris Byrd, the former two-time heavyweight titlist, his version of the great mountain first came in the form of Vitali Klitschko, when he beat the Ukrainian boxer and future heavyweight champion into submission after Vitali suffered an injury to his shoulder, torn shoulder rotator cuff. This came on the heels of a devastating KO loss to could've, would've been heavyweight great Ike Ibeabuchi.

Byrd, a serious underdog, was expected to fold to this millennium's Ivan Drago. Instead, Byrd score the biggest upset of the year and scaled his own Mount Everest, only to be knocked off it by Vitali's younger brother, Wladimir, the current ruler of an abandoned throne.

From slaying giants to slaying knights, Byrd will also battle time
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It wasn't as if Byrd gave up. But he was never a big puncher and added to his relatively smallish size (210 lbs.) along with with decreased reflexive speed (he turned 38 this year) he just no longer could successfully compete in such a heavy division with a public that demands a bloodthirsty heavyweight.

Byrd, a veteran of the sport, may finally be at his natural fighting weight. But is it too late? Not only is he not in his prime anymore, but will Calzaghe stick around long enough to give him a lucrative match? Roy Jones Jr. clearly seems like the most plausible opponent. Then there's Kelly Pavlik, who looked less than dominating against former victim and undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor.

Granted, Byrd is not coming back against the vanguard of the light heavyweight division. Shaun George is a competent enough fighter to bring out whatever greatness or deficiencies Byrd still possesses. The fight can be seen live, Friday at 9pm as part of ESPN's Friday Night Fights.

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