Byrd and McCline: With Friends Like These

BY Marc Lichtenfeld ON November 09, 2004
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Friends
How many of us have them?
Friends
Ones we can depend on – Whodini


Chris Byrd said he wants to hurt his friend.  In a conference call with reporters Byrd stated, "I want to hurt him. I'd love to knock him out."  Him is Jameel "Big Time" McCline. The two square off at Madison Square Garden on November 13th for Byrd's IBF title.

Much has been made about the friendship between the two fighters.  They have stayed at each other's houses and baby-sat each other’s kids.  Their wives are even closer.  "I think it's been harder on the wives than on us,"  Chris said.  The two families decided it's best not to have any contact with each other until the fight is over.

On the conference call, Byrd sounded relaxed and extremely confident.  McCline was a no show.  His handlers had no idea what happened to him and were visibly upset.

Several weeks ago, while appearing on a radio show, I was asked for my prediction. I said that I liked McCline to finally reach the big time, as his moniker has promised for years.

Byrd, perhaps the most underrated fighter of his generation, is a master boxer and very difficult to hit.  "If I don't want you to hit me, you're not going to hit me," he claimed.  While he can be as elusive as Pernell Whitaker, I doubt he wanted to be hit by Wladimir Klitschko - over and over again.

Chris Byrd has proven that he's got heart on several occasions, including the beating he took from Klitschko.  With a swollen face, he insisted that he go out for the twelfth round against Klitschko, despite his father/trainer's desire to stop the fight.  The feather fisted Byrd had to know that he had no chance of knocking the giant Russian out in the last round.  Don't forget, this was at a time when Wladimir was deemed indestructible.

But for someone who makes his opponents miss as often as he does, at times he sounded like he has taken one too many shots to the head.  The excuses for his poor performances were about as believable as a President claiming the hump in his jacket was a result of poor ironing.

Regarding the Klitschko fights in which he was trounced by Wladimir and losing badly to Vitaly (before Vitaly quit due to an injury), Byrd declared, "Those fights were in Germany.  That's all I gotta say."  While it's true that an American fighter needs to knock out a German opponent merely to get a draw, Byrd was getting soundly beaten by both men.  To his credit, he took the fight with Vitaly on two weeks notice and came down with food poisoning while in Germany, yet he still fought.

He also said he had a hard time getting "up" for fights with Oquendo and Golota - two fights that many people think Byrd lost.  Finally, he said his knockout loss to Ike Ibeabuchi was the result of one punch.  While technically it was, Ike was winning the fight.

The fact is that Chris Byrd, as talented and tough as he is (and make no mistake about it, he is both of those things) has a difficult time with big men.

And Jameel McCline is a big man.  He stands 6'6" and will probably weight between 260 and 270 pounds.  Byrd on the other hand is more than four inches shorter and said he has to eat to get up to 210.

Chris Byrd hasn't looked good against anyone over 235 pounds since he beat Jose Ribalta in 1999.  Since that time, he was manhandled by both Klitschkos (244 and 238 pounds) and a 237 ½ pound Andrew Golota gave him a very tough time.  Meanwhile since the Ribalta fight five years ago, his wins have been against Val Smith (206) David Na'il (205), David Vedder (224), Maurice Harris (224) David Tua (233), Jeff Pegues (224), Evander Holyfield (220), and Fres Oqueno (224).

Unless McCline loses a limb and comes in at 224 pounds, I'm not sure Byrd can finesse his way out of this one.  Jameel McCline is not only big, he also has skills.  While he's not a devastating puncher, he can put them together and do some damage.  He was getting soundly beaten by Cedric Boswell in October of last year, but came storming back in the last round to win by TKO.

While Byrd is slippery, McCline is not some big lummox who will be lumbering around the ring after him. Jameel can box.  He's got a good jab and I'm not sure how Byrd will be able to mount much of an offense against him.  While Byrd may be content to make McCline miss and then counterpunch, I don't think that will be enough to impress the judges.

McCline has been known to freeze up in big fights.  After his loss against Klitschko, he told me he overtrained.  Since then, his trainer claims that some strange oxygen deprivation therapy sapped McCline's strength.  He also looked tentative in the early stages of his bouts against Shannon Briggs and Lance Whitaker.  But both of those men were big punchers.  I think McCline probably knows that despite Chris' stated desire, he can't hurt him.

While I believe that Chris Byrd is a very good heavyweight and McCline may simply be an average contender, I suspect that McCline is the wrong fighter for Byrd at the wrong time. 

The next time the two families get together, I suspect it will be Jameel McCline's kid who can say definitively, "My dad can beat up your dad."

Jabs

Kostya Tszyu
Wow, did Kostya Tszyu look impressive, destroying a very good fighter in Sharmba Mitchell.  He now has to be considered among the top pound for pound boxers.  Let’s hope he stays injury free so we can see him perform more frequently.

George Kimball
Nice work by TheSweetScience.com’s George Kimball on his article regarding the International Boxing Hall of Fame.  When I received my ballot, there wasn’t one boxer who jumped out at me as an automatic.   I’d like to see the IBHOF adopt the same strict standards as the baseball hall of fame. Boxers who are inducted should dominate their era. Simply winning an alphabet title isn’t enough in my book.

Andrew Golota
I’m going with Golota over Ruiz.  But maybe that’s just wishful thinking so that I won’t have to watch John Ruiz fight anymore.

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