IBF titleholder Chris Byrd might be the bravest heavyweight prizefighter on the planet when he travels to Germany to defend his title against Wladimir Klitschko.
Fight after fight the Las Vegas-based Byrd accepts challenges against the biggest, baddest and menacing heavyweights in the world of boxing.
“I’m used to it,” says Byrd (39-2-1, 20 KOs), a two-time heavyweight champion.
Once again Byrd travels to Germany on April 22 where he’ll meet challenger Wladimir Klitschko (45-3, 40 KOs), snatched the WBO title from him back in 2000. The small American heavyweight plans a revenge party.
“I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve,” said Byrd, after training in an underground boxing ring with a couple of guys that look like they can eat steel.
“I’m used to it,” says Byrd (39-2-1, 20 KOs), a two-time heavyweight champion.
“In those days Wladimir was considered the better all-around fighter,” Byrd said, dressed in a tight-fitting sweat suit revealing a distinctly small sized heavyweight. “I lose a lot of weight working out.”
But the only weight he worries about is the 230-plus pounds Klitschko is sure to lean on him as much as possible during the fight.
“Man, that’s not fighting,” Byrd says of holding tactics used by big men. “If you’re so much bigger than me, why do you need to hold?”
Holding on to the IBF world title has been an experience for Byrd, who finally severed ties with Don King Promotions.
“I feel relieved,” he says, citing numerous differences and problems that he faced under contract with the well-known promoter. “You can’t imagine what the fighters go through.”
After fighting on the 1992 U.S. Olympic boxing team where he met fellows like Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, the Michigan native scrambled around the ring as a middleweight. Even his first pro fight was at 169 pounds.
“I’ve been the smaller guy for a long time now,” said Byrd who at six feet in height, jumped to the heavyweight division in his third pro bout against Exum Speight in 1993. “There’s nothing I haven’t faced before.”
Lately, another former middleweight has joined the heavyweight club and he’s also from Michigan.
“Chris Byrd is a good fighter,” said James Toney. “Just because a guy is bigger than someone don’t mean he can’t be beat. Just go to chop them down.”
Toney and Byrd are probably the heavyweight division’s most skillful boxers. You would think a mutual admiration would develop, but this is the real world and heavyweights walk alone.
“I thought he lost the decision against Hasim Rahman,” Byrd says. “He was just resting against the ropes. It was a sparring session.”
Toney doesn’t admire Byrd’s ability much.
“He just slaps like a girl,” Toney says.
Though both are not fond of each other, their abilities could possibly produce an eventual collision.
But first there’s Klitschko.
“Wladimir beat me the first time. I just didn’t feel right,” Byrd recalls of their first fight six years ago.
Though Klitschko was knocked out by Lamon Brewster, a cousin of Byrd, the Ukrainian fighter has returned from the bottom of the heavyweight heap with wins over Williamson and Samuel Peter.
“He’s made some changes to his style,” Byrd said. “He’s got my respect for beating Sam Peter.”
Most boxing observers feel Byrd faces an overwhelming test against Klitschko, especially fighting him in Germany.
“He’s a little man in a big man’s game,” said Harold Lederman, an HBO analyst for boxing. “But he’s a heck of a fighter.”
Byrd smiles when people tell him he’s too small to beat the bigger guys.
“They’ve been telling me I’m too small since before I won my first heavyweight title,” he says.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s decisive win over Zab Judah nails down the top spot for Pound-for-Pound. A few changes have been made since the last posting of Pound-for-Pound list. Here is the new list for April 2006:
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr., welterweight (36-0, 24 KOs) – Mayweather’s win over Zab Judah last weekend could be reversed by the Nevada Athletic Commission because his trainer and uncle Roger Mayweather entered the ring. But regardless, Mayweather battered and belittled Zudah’s defense with some amazing work. If they gave PhDs to boxers Mayweather would definitely have several.
2. Winky Wright, middleweight (50-3, 25 KOs) – Coming this June, Wright gets an opportunity to showcase his defensive tactics against the young and very strong middleweight champion of the world Jermain Taylor. Wright’s domination over Felix Trinidad almost a year ago still has boxing fans raving about his defensive skills. He faces Taylor on June 17 in Memphis.
3. Marco Antonio Barrera, junior lightweight (61-4, 42 KOs) – A postponement of his fight with Jesus Chavez for the IBF lightweight title last March has caused him to shift gears. Instead of training for a 135-pound opponent, he now finds himself preparing for a speedy 126-pound opponent in Rocky Juarez of Houston, Texas. It should be an interesting match. Juarez likes to go to the body and that’s Barrera’s weak point. Barrera meets Juarez on May 20 at the Staples Center.
4. Manny Pacquiao, junior lightweight (41-3-2, 33 KOs) – A third match between Pacquiao and Erik Morales was scheduled for September 16 in Las Vegas, but the Filipino bomber has not signed yet. If not Morales, it could be a possible rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera. That would certainly decide who’s the better fighter. Pac-Man stopped Barrera in their previous match back in November 2003.
5. Jermain Taylor, middleweight (25-0, 17 KOs) – The Arkansas middleweight is preparing for his big showdown against Winky Wright on June 17. Taylor’s speed and strength helped him withstand multiple assaults from Bernard Hopkins that would have easily felled any other middleweight. Now he faces a different kind of test with a southpaw. The contest takes place in Memphis.
6. Bernard Hopkins, middleweight (46-4-1, 32 KOs) – Hopkins began his pro boxing career as a light heavyweight then moved down to middleweight. Can he contend with the big boys? Hopkins says he can and points to his win over former light heavyweight world champion Glen Johnson, who he knocked out. Now he faces Antonio Tarver on June 10 in Atlantic City. It could be Hopkins last fight.
7. Antonio Tarver, light heavyweight (24-3, 18 KOs) – Tarver seems anxious to prove he’s one of the best boxers in the world. When he appeared in Los Angeles to promote his June 10 fight with Bernard Hopkins, Tarver seemed to consider the former middleweight champion as an easy opponent. It could be a very intriguing match when they meet in Atlantic City. Tarver trains in Florida.
8. Jose Luis Castillo, lightweight (54-7-1, 47 KOs) – People still get angry when Castillo’s name is mentioned on this list. Many do not forgive him for coming in overweight and gaining an advantage in his rematch with Diego Corrales. They’re fighting again on June 3 in Las Vegas. It should be another classic. Castillo promised he’s moving up in weight after mixing it up with Chico.
9. Diego Corrales, lightweight (40-3, 33 KOs) – The lanky lightweight out of Sacramento possesses the best knockout punch in the business. Take your pick in deciding if it’s his left or right, he can do the job with either hand. Now after a short lay off, it’s back to work for Corrales who gets a third test with Jose Luis Castillo. This is for serious bragging rights.
10. James Toney, heavyweight (69-4-3, 43 KOs) – Toney dropped down in this list because of a lackluster performance against Hasim Rahman last month. Lights Out was unable to use his vast boxing skills against Rahman because of weight issues. Toney was much too heavy to move around in his last fight. Right now weight is his main enemy.
11. Ricky Hatton, junior welterweight (40-0, 30 KOs) – The Hitman is moving up to welterweight to chase Luis Collazo for his WBA title. Expect a footrace from Collazo who’s known for his cleverness and mobility. It’s a fight meant more to adjust the UK fighter who seeks a match with Floyd Mayweather or one of the other money guys. Collazo hasn’t lost in four years.
12. Rafael Marquez, bantamweight, (35-3, 31 K)s) – The slender Mexico City precision assassin is slowing down a bit, but those fists still pack a punch. In Marquez’s last fight Silence Mbuza thought he could take anyone’s power and found out the skinny Mexican hits like a lightweight. Marquez seeks a big money fight. Looking down the pike it seems to be IBF junior featherweight title-holder Israel Vazquez. Vazquez is also from Mexico City and a fellow chilango.
For a further list of Pound-for-Pound fighters (12 thru 24) see Boxing Chatter coming up.