Sometimes styles indeed make fights.
Sometimes it’s a more simple matter, like when a good big man gets beaten by a good huge man. Body types have a lot to do with such equations.
That was the case again tonight at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, as Wladimir Klitschko, 241, creamed Chris Byrd, 213, once again, this time inflicting even more of a beating than Byrd suffered in their first engagement.
“We were playing games, but I fought well,” said an unmarked Klitschko, now 46-3 (41). “Byrd was trying to be aggressive and provoke me. He was much stronger this time.”
It sure didn’t look that way when referee Wayne Kelly waved it off at 47 seconds of the seventh round.
Byrd never landed a punch of consequence, showing nothing but heart. It wasn’t nearly enough to even win a round.
“I can be honest,” said the bruised but relatively unscathed Byrd, “I was never in the fight. I’m not ashamed of anything. He’s such a big, strong boxer. I can’t take anything away from him. It was very tough.”
The completely one-sided contest was waged before a sellout crowd of over 20,000, a European cable audience, and a special HBO matinee broadcast for viewers in the United States.
Byrd, 39-3-1(20), came into the hospitable Duetschland provinces feeling no pressure to prove anything, with apparently enough of a justified level of self-esteem to launch a motivational guidance series. It wasn’t some Bobby Magee song about having nothing, but all Byrd really stood to lose, barring the inherent risk factor, was his IBF belt. Even if the first punch had stopped him, most insiders would have still considered him a fine fighter that was just too small to match up against current mega-sized heavyweight bruisers.
And besides, after the way Byrd got slapped around in their first fight, there wasn’t much direction for his performance to go but up. Tonight was bloodier, but much shorter. Pick yaz poison.
There had to be more pressure on Klitschko, who was faced with having to repeat his triumph before another swarm of April-fest homies. Since pounding Byrd, his slate was a chart of peaks and valleys, with no high moment coming close to that previous performance.
Maybe all he needed was a set of similar circumstances, and he certainly had those for this rematch.
Klitschko looked well prepared, but how much was face value and how much was façade only became clear around the fourth frame, after he started driving Byrd around the shining white ring posts and ropes.
Neither man landed much of anything in the opening stanza. Klitschko continued to advance behind his “Steelhammer” jab while Byrd mounted a straight-armed defense and tried to jump in behind parried punches.
Klitschko applied the hook more in the second session and by the third there was more movement in his defensive posture. By the third Klitschko connected with increased combinations and Byrd’s eyes started to swell.
Byrd tried to respond but Klitschko just had too much reach. Byrd shook his head in frustration. More of the same in round five meant more trouble for Byrd. A huge right busted his nose as he began to look helpless.
Ref Kelly warned Byrd’s corner the fight would be stopped under further punishment, but Byrd survived through the sixth. Still, by the halfway point, it looked like the American needed more than just a knockout to win the fight. Something like armed support.
Klitschko finished the job with smooth, brutal precision in the seventh. A thumping barrage pinballed Byrd around the ring, highlighted by three right hands that blasted Byrd down into the ropes. Byrd rolled over and sprang up with his face covered in blood. Kelly surveyed the damage, understood what was coming next, and correctly halted the carnage.
As Klitschko stood on the apron or addressed the adoring masses, his heavyweight future looked unlimited.
“I’ve been successful in the past but also had failures,” said Klitschko. “It made me a smarter fighter. I never lost my confidence, even when there were criticisms about me. I don’t want to prove my chin. I’d rather knock out the other guy.”
“It was knuckleheaded of me to think I could be stronger,” Byrd said. “I really thought I’d push him around. I’m disappointed for sure, but I think I’ve still got a lot of boxing left in me. We’ll see.”
What we saw tonight was Klitschko. All Klitschko.