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Byrd Seeks Resurrection Against Klitschko
By Francis Walker
Updated: February 12, 2006
NEW YORK — IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd will make the fifth defense of his title in a rematch against Wladimir Klitschko on April 22 in Germany. Klitschko (45-3, 40 KOs) is the last fighter to have defeated Byrd (39-2-1, 20 KOs) more than five years ago. A victory against Klitschko could possibly reenergize the heavyweight division, as well as Byrd’s career.
“It would mean I’m the man, I truly belong,” Byrd said at a recent press conference. “I’m a small guy for the heavyweight division, but I feel like I can whup all the big guys. I only want to fight guys that weigh 240 and above.”
The date was Oct. 10, 2000 when Wladimir Klitschko beat Byrd for the then lightly-regarded WBO heavyweight crown. Byrd was knocked down in the ninth and twelfth rounds. The judges scored the bout 120-106, 119-107, and 118-108.
Ironically, Wladimir avenged his older brother Vitali Klitschko’s WBO title loss to Byrd six months earlier. Byrd was behind on all three judges scorecards (83-88, 82-89, 83-88) when Vitali quit on his stool after suffering a shoulder injury.
“My mindset the first time we fought was, ‘I’m fighting this big guy,’ Byrd said of Wladimir. “I was more timid and trying to use more finesse. My whole thing now is ‘I like fighting big guys.’ It’s like an addiction. I want to test his heart. I can take it. I’ll put my hands up and we can just go to thumpin.”
Byrd later won the IBF title in December 2002 when he out-boxed a 40-year-old Evander Holyfield, a former five-time heavyweight champion through twelve rounds. Byrd became only the second southpaw (left-handed) fighter in boxing history to capture a heavyweight title.
Byrd’s title reign has been very rocky. In his first defense against Fres Oquendo, Byrd won a 12-round majority decision in a fight many ring observers felt he had lost.
Byrd had a very difficult 2004. His defense against Andrew Golota ended in a 12-round majority draw. Byrd also needed to win the last seven rounds to beat 6′ 7, 260-pound Jameel McCline by split decision. Byrd was knocked down in the second round. Byrd’s last outing against DaVarryl Williams was a lot more decisive, but it was Byrd’s only fight in the last 16 months.
At 6′ 2,” 215 pounds, Byrd once again will be at a size and weight disadvantage. While the average size of Byrd’s previous opponents was 6′ 3,” 237, Klitschko is 6′ 7,” 245 pounds. But Byrd isn’t worried about size or power. He just wants to fight.
“I’m going to be in great shape, so over 12 rounds, how is he going to be in the championship rounds?” Byrd asked. “If he’s still in there swinging and throwing punches, more power to him because I know I’m going to still be throwing punches. But if you’re holding on and trying to survive in the fight, you’re a coward.”
“These guys have huge advantages over me, weight-wise, height, reach, everything – and you’re holding or running from me, an Olympic Silver Medallist as a middleweight? So all those people who say I can’t punch think again. If I couldn’t punch, you would come in and just run me over.”
Byrd-Klitschko II will be broadcast live on HBO World Championship Boxing at 5 p.m. EST from Germany.