The Incredible Shrinking Byrd

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 11, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Chris Byrd is the incredible shrinking fighter. Once one of boxing best heavyweights in the late 90’s and in the early years of this decade; Byrd is attempting to become one of boxing’s best in the light heavyweight division.

Not since Bob Fitzsimmons have we seen just a transformation late in a heavyweight career. Fitzsimmons was one of the boxing better heavyweights in the last 19th century but in 1903, he won the light heavyweight title at the age of 40.

Byrd is attempting a similar feat as he challenges the best light heavyweights at the age of 37. His major asset was speed and defensive wizardry that often befuddle the bigger heavyweights he fought.

As he aged, the speed disappeared and Byrd became vulnerable to the bigger heavyweights power. Now he chases the 175-pound championship and he begins the chase with a fight with Shaun George.

George is not one of the light heavyweights elite fighters, but he will give Byrd an idea on how the lower weight will affect his speed and power. Will Byrd actually have more power with the lower weights and does he enough speed to confront smaller fighters he will be fighting?

The answers will begin to be answered on Friday night.

George began his career as a cruiser weight but is now campaigning as light heavyweight. A loss to Matthew Godfrey convinced George that maybe being a light heavyweight may be a better career choice.

As for Byrd, this completes a metamorphous as he began his career as a Super Middleweight before moving into the heavyweight division. Throughout his heavyweight career, he was the smaller fighter and never possessed the one punch knockout of a Mike Tyson.

He did manage to knock out 21 fighters in his 40 wins but these knockouts occurred against lesser competition. Against the Heavyweight elites, he used his speed and his command of the ring to out maneuver his opponent.

His boxing skills were rarely seen among other heavyweights and this gave him the advantage. It has been eight years since he actually stopped an opponent.

Why did Byrd simply go after a Cruiserweight division crown? The light heavyweight is becoming a deep division with young talents like Chad Dawson meshing with old veterans like Antonio Tarver.

While the Cruiserweight can match any division with depth of talent, the light heavyweights have the bigger name with potential bigger paydays.

Antonio Tarver, Joe Calzaghe, Roy Jones and Chad Dawson present million dollars pay days and at this stage in his career, Byrd is looking for big pay days.

The Cruiserweights would present significant challenges in the ring but the big names needed to produce big pay days do not match what can be offered for any of the leading light heavyweights.

And Byrd no longer has the skills or power to compete with the upper elites of the heavyweights. He does have one thing in his favor, his knowledge of the ring.

Like Bernard Hopkins and other aged combatants, Byrd depends more on his wits and guile and in the light heavyweight division; he will not be seeing sledgehammer punchers along the lines of a Wladimir Klitschko or Samuel Peter.

Fighters like Jones, Tarver and Dawson have power in their own rights but Byrd has taken on the bigger punchers in the Heavyweight division so he can certainly take on the big punchers in the light heavyweights.

Shaun George will not answer all questions but at least we will know what Byrd has left. And we will know quickly, can Byrd be the incredible shrinking heavyweight and translate this loss in weight into a light heavyweight championship?