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Can A Skinnier Chris Byrd Rejuvenate His Career?

Chris ByrdBy Dan Ambrose: Not satisfied with a splendid career at heavyweight, one in which he won two heavyweight titles over the likes of Vitali Klitschko and the great Evander Holyfield, a much skinnier Chris Byrd (40-4-1, 21 KOs) looks to resurrect his career as a light heavyweight. Byrd, 37, who holds wins over such excellent fighters like David Tua, Jameel McCline, Fres Oquendo, DaVarryl Williamson and the aforementioned Vitali Klitschko, isn’t satisfied now that his heavyweight career appears to be on the downside and wants to continue fighting in the 175 lb light heavyweight division.

For most heavyweights, this would be all but impossible for them to accomplish, for I scarcely need to remind you readers that it would involve for a heavyweight to take off 25 lbs, at the least, to get down to the 175 lb weight limit for the light heavyweights. Most heavyweights weigh much more than 200, which makes this all but impossible for them to even consider without starving themselves drastically in order to accomplish this feet. Byrd, however, a natural light heavyweight, walks around at 175-180 pounds in between his heavyweight fights, so this wasn’t a problem at all for him.

Sixteen years ago, Byrd won a silver medal in the 1992 Olympic games as a middleweight. Knowing that, it seems only natural that Byrd would eventually move down in weight once his career at heavyweight went into a stall. Byrd not too long ago lost his IBF heavyweight title to Wladimir Klitschko in 2006. Wanting to get another shot at regaining his title, Byrd attempted to fight for a shot at Klitschko by participating in the IBF heavyweight tournament to find a mandatory for Klitschko’s title.

However, Byrd was immediately knocked out of the tournament when he was matched against arguably the best fighter in the tourney, Alexander Povetkin. Not wanting to give a it a shot against one of the other heavyweight champions, most of who are much less popular than Wladimir Klitschko, Byrd decided it was best to move down in weight.

It’s curious to wonder why Byrd decided on not moving down to cruiserweight instead of the much lighter light heavyweight. Byrd, it would seem, would have an easier time fighting as a cruiserweight in that it wouldn’t involve him having to take off essentially any weight because he formally fought at around 200-206 lbs as a heavyweight. The cruiserweight limit is 200, making this an effortless move for Byrd. However, I imagine Byrd likely decided against this perhaps thinking that he’d still be fighting a lot of cruiserweights with good power, though not in the class of Klitschko, naturally, but ones with speed and a better work rate than Byrd has been accustomed to fighting in his career.

As is his custom, Byrd doesn’t believe in taking easy fights, and is immediately fighting the tough Shaun George (16-2-2, 7 KOs), normally a cruiserweight, who is moving down in weight for this bout. Byrd will likely have his hands full with George, a fighter with good power and excellent boxing skills. Byrd will need to show much more speed and a better workrate that he’s shown in his recent outings against Povetkin and Paul Marinaccio if he plans on beating George.

If Byrd can get by George, he’ll likely have to progress faster than most fighters normally do by moving up against stiffer competition in the light heavyweight division. His age, 37, will be a limiting factor in his career because he won’t have time to move up slowly or wait long periods of time before fights. Ideally, if Byrd can get by George, he needs to move up against a tough light heavyweight like Glen Johnson or a Paul Briggs. A victory over one of them will put Byrd in the fast lane to getting a shot at one of the title holders, Antonio Tarver, Chad Dawson or Zsolt Erdei. Tarver would figure to be the easiest of the bunch due to his age (39), and his tendency to fight poorly against slick boxers like Byrd.

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