Friday, May 16, 2008

Byrd Can No Longer Soar

(Shaun George shown with trainer Tommy Brooks/

Former heavyweight titlist, Chris Byrd, dropped more close to 40 pounds and left the land of the heavys to test his skill in the land of the smaller, faster light heavyweights. Unfortunately for Byrd, his body also dropped as his weight.

Unknown contender, Shaun George, came in with a modest record of 16-2-2 (7 KO). After Friday night, however, his stock in a boiling 175 lb. division was sure to rise after he TKO'd Byrd in the 9th round pf a scheduled 10-round bout.

Byrd, who was seen as a long shot following a succesful heavyweight career, seemed shot from the first round. The first punch of significance from George, a straight right hand, had Byrd wobbling. About a minute later another straight right, followed by a left, sent Byrd down. Though he got up and fought to the best of his ability, Byrd looked like he was clearly a step below the heavier version of himself. And that version was considered finished!

George methodically counterpunched and only took the initiative when Byrd overstepped the pecking rhythm of the fight. A left hook floored Byrd hard as he leaned to his left while falling in a delayed reaction and let his left arm catch his fall. He got up as he always does but it was only a matter of time. This time George presssed the issue and hammered Byrd into the corner with a barrage of straight rights and lefts. Byrd managed to struggle to his feet then did something surprising. He told referee Jay Nady in the middle of counting what appeared to be, "Stop it, stop it." Nady obliged and mercifully stopped the fight.

While this may have been Byrd's swan song, this may be the once-kayoed Geroge's coming out party. It's hard to see Byrd coming back from this. Not so much because of the knockout loss, but more so because of the manner in which he chose to finish. There's no shame in watching a fighter know when to say when. This, after all, is a fighter who argued the stoppage against fearsome heavyweight Ike Ibeabuchi after being knocked down with a tremendous punch. Byrd also never ducked any heavyweight. From the Klitschko's to the Tua's of the world, he fought and beat most and never made any excuses. Hopefully, we'll see Byrd as a color commentator sooner rather than later. And for George, as any bird will tell you, the sky's the limit.

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.

Fitness Jiu Jitsu