A Requiem For Chris Byrd’s Career

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 18, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. — May 16th saw an end of an era.Chris Byrd went down from the heavyweight division and challenged Shaun George, a fighter who resembled a prospect more than a contender.

George was the heavy underdog but a win over Byrd would be his resume enhancer. He had long been one of boxing’s best ambassador and all around character.

Byrd had challenged and beaten many of the better heavyweights since the mid-90’s but at 37; his days as a heavyweight contender were over. Without his previous hand speed, he became vulnerable to the bigger fighters’ power.

Going down to the light heavyweight was Byrd’s last opportunity for a championship belt and big money fights. Bypassing the Cruiserweights, Byrd decided to challenge the light heavyweight division for he saw names like Roy Jones, Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson.

Byrd viewed these names as economic opportunities. George stood in his way for one more chance at glory and Byrd stood in George’s way of reaching the top ten of the light heavyweight.

The first round set the pace for the rest of the fight as George simply ran over the older Byrd. For him, time stood still as punches after punches landed against his face.

Byrd looked every second of his 37 years and the once quick hands simply disappear. He could not escape George’s punches and his punches did little to discourage George.

In the first round, George’s right sent Byrd sprawling to the canvas. From this point, it was obvious that Byrd was no longer the fighter he once was and would fare no better at light heavyweight than he did over the last couple years as heavyweight.

Byrd was getting hit with punches that he use to avoid and the once quick hands couldn’t even get off as he was consistently beaten to the punch. For every punch that Byrd landed, George landed two.

The one thing that kept Byrd on his feet was George’s own strategy. During the fight, ESPN announcer Brian Kenny and former Heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs both observed that George demonstrated the mentality of a sparring partner.

Byrd demonstrated his vulnerability throughout the next six rounds but George could not follow up on his first round knockdown. In between rounds,George’s corner constantly told their fighter, knock Byrd out.

In the ninth round, he followed his corner advice as a straight right sent Byrd down. Byrd landed hard on his left shoulder but it did not prevent him from getting up.

Byrd retreated back to the rope but it was only a reprieve as he merely covered before George next assault. After the next assault, the fight was over and so was Byrd’s career. Byrd left with an injured shoulder and questions about his career.

Byrd’s boxing career has always been a family affair with his father training him and other family members’ part of Byrd enterprises.But Byrd showed against George that years of fighting bigger men have taken their toll. After a career of fighting giants, Byrd had nothing left against George.

There was time that Byrd had the hand speed of a Middleweight while fighting heavyweights but against George, there was no speed. He fought in slow motion as George fought at what appeared supersonic speed.

As for George, he had his big name on his resume and suddenly he became a marketable fighter. He showed skills of a championship contender but the light heavyweight division is a deep division.

This fight gave George an entry point into bigger fights against other contenders.

As for Byrd, this was his final stand and a time to reflect on one of boxing better fighters. A heavyweight champion, Byrd showed that size meant little but boxing skills were everything.

At his peak, he often beat the bigger bangers with elusive skills and middleweight speeds. Now the skills are gone. No speed made him vulnerable to bigger punchers, who simply walked through this punches.

He could no longer avoid punches and as George showed, a boxer with no speed is a boxer who can no longer contend. Byrd’s boxing career in the ring is over.