McCline Ready For Title Shot

By Francis Walker
Updated: October 18, 2004

Jameel McCline

NEW YORK, NY—-Jameel McCline will finally have his chance to become a heavyweight champion. After nine years of developing from an unknown club-fighter to a top-contender, McCline will finally earn a world title shot. He will take center stage in thew world famous Madison Square Garden in New York City and challenge IBF heavyweight champion, Chris Byrd on Nov. 13. The bout, promoted by Don King will be broadcast on HBO/Pay-Per-View.

Jameel McCline started out as a former sparring partner for Lennox Lewis. After a few sessions and improvement, McCline was encouraged to begin fighting professionally. His career began in 1995, but McCline was quickly referred to as a journeyman after losing two of his first five fights.

McCline undefeated for over five years since suffering his first loss, but was a virtual unknown.

During McCline’s rise, the more famous heavyweights including Holyfield, Lewis, David Tua, Hasim Rahman, John Ruiz, and the Klitschko brothers had a strong grasp on the heavyweight division. Also, HBO Sports programming monopolized boxing by filling dates for Roy Jones, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, and every top heavyweight available.

The only way for McCline to be showcased on the most popular boxing network since HBO had nearly all of boxing’s top fighters was for the network to accept McCline as a creditable opponent for another heavyweight contender HBO was interested in developing.

An opportunity for McCline to appear on HBO came in July 2001. Michael Grant, once billed as the future of the heavyweight division, but suffered six knockdowns and was KO’d by Lewis in the biggest fight of his career; a world heavyweight title shot at the Garden. HBO was interested in redeveloping Grant, who needed a comeback opponent and McCline was available.

McCline dropped Grant with the first punch thrown in less than 10 seconds into the fight. Grant had twisted his ankle upon falling to the mat. Unable to defend himself, Grant was punished by McCline’s furry and was stopped in less than 90 seconds of the first round.

McCline had finally arrived.

McCline would be featured on HBO looking impressive in victories against top-10 contenders Shannon Briggs and Lance Whitaker.

In December 2002, McCline challenged Wladimir Klitschko. The bout was competitive until McCline’s trainer, Jimmy Glenn, stopped the fight in the tenth round.

Since the loss to Klitschko, the heavyweight division has been wide open. Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield are no longer at the top of the division. Also, their apparent successor Wladimir Klitschko’s chin was proved to made of glass after a pair of career damaging losses.

Also, James Toney has emerged as the WBC No. 1-ranked challenger. An unknown Danny Williams knocked out Tyson, and Lewis retired.

As 2004 comes to and end, McCline is closing in on Byrd’s IBF heavyweight title. Like McCline, Byrd has experienced time when no one wanted to fight him.

In 2001, Byrd willingly entered an IBF heavyweight title elimination tournament. Byrd earned two hard-fought 12-round decision victories against Maurice Harris and David Tua to become the IBF No.-ranked challenger.

Lewis, the IBF champion, vacated the title so he could challenge Mike Tyson to what turned out to be Lewis’ most memorable career performance.

Byrd waited 16 months before King could find a sit and opponent the IBF would declare a suitable title challenger. In December 2002, Byrd won a close, but unanimous decision against Holyfield to win the vacant IBF belt.

McCline will be Byrd’s third title challenger in nearly two years. In each of his two defenses Byrd nearly came out on the losing end. McCline will be Byrd’s first opponent in over a year since his controversial draw against Andrew Golota at the Garden last year.

At 6’ 6,” 250-plus pounds, McCline will be much bigger and stronger than the 6” 2,” 215-pound Byrd. Although the champion has made a career out of defeating bigger and stronger men, McCline’s size and aggressiveness in his first and perhaps final world title match gives him a distinct edge.

Byrd, is a southpaw fighter and difficult-to-hit target, but McCline is strong enough to stop Byrd if he is aggressive and takes advantage of counter opportunities the way Golota did when he appeared to have defeated Byrd.