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Chris Byrd: “I’ve Yet To Be Beaten By An American Heavyweight”

Former two-time heavyweight champion Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd (40-4-1, 21 KOs) hinted strongly that he will continue boxing after last night’s 11th round TKO loss to Alexander Povetkin (14-0, 11 KOs in Germany, saying “I’ve yet to be beaten by an American heavyweight.” In that respect, Byrd was telling the truth, as he has only lost to Eastern European fighters Wladimir Klitschko and Povetkin and Ike Ibeabutch from Nigeria.

What Byrd didn’t say, however, was that it was probably a huge mistake on his part to involve himself in last night’s International Boxing Federation elimination tournament, a four fighter tournament involving Calvin Brock vs. Eddie Chambers and Byrd vs. Povetkin with the eventual winners to square off against each other for the right to challenge IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

The problem for Byrd, though, is that there are no current American heavyweight champions, aside from the transplanted Oleg Maskaev, who is slated to take on Samuel Peter in early 2008. Byrd, if he was smart, should have focused on the WBO, where if he had bided his time, he could have earned an eventual shot at Sultan Ibragimov. At least with him, Byrd would have matched up much better than the stronger, harder punching Povetkin, who is widely considered to be the best of the heavyweight prospects. Byrd, perhaps, wanted to take on a bigger challenge by taking part in the IBF tournament, knowing that both Klitschko and Povetkin are thought to be two of the best heavyweights in the division. Now, however, Byrd will have to start from scratch and start over in another division instead of the IBF, where he’ll likely not get another shot at a heavyweight championship for years.

Clearly, Byrd doesn’t have time to wait due to his advanced age. Aside from the WBO, Byrd would do well if he moved over to the WBC, where he could eventually – if he waits long enough – land a shot at Samuel Peter, who will likely defeat Maskaev next year when they meet. Though Byrd would probably not earn a shot at the title by defeating any top fighters, he still might get a chance for the fact that new heavyweight champions often like to get an easy bout, especially against former heavyweight champions that have lost much of their skill. Byrd would have the name that would make the fight appear legitimate, while at the same time help sell tickets to gullible fans, the type that don’t realize that Byrd is over-the-hill.

One thing is for sure, Byrd can’t move down to the cruiserweight division, something that fans have been advising for him to do now that he’s gotten too old to compete as a heavyweight. Unfortunately for Byrd, the cruiserweights would likely be too active, too fast and have far too many offensive skills for a 37 year-old Byrd to handle. Plus, the weight loss – 15 lbs – which Byrd would have to drop would likely leave him weak and depleted, without energy to compete against the younger cruiserweights.

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