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Byrd vs. George: Is Chris Doomed For Failure?

Chris ByrdBy Jason Kim: In a move almost destined for failure, former IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Chris Byrd (40-4-1, 21 KOs) will be making his first appearance as a light heavyweight this Friday night when he fights the tough Shaun George (16-2, 7 KOs) at the Thomas & Mack Center, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bout will be shown live on ESPN2, so it’s not like the 37 year-old Byrd will be able to hide a poor performance from the general public in his initial effort in the division. Byrd, who was stopped in the 11th round by Alexander Povetkin in his last bout fought on October 27, 2007, will be coming into Friday’s bout a full 50 lbs lighter than he did in his fight with Povetkin.

Byrd, a natural light heavyweight, has been forced to keep his weight well above that while campaigning as a heavyweight for almost his entire 15-year professional boxing career. Never a particularly big heavyweight, usually weighing in between 200 to 215 lbs, Byrd will be coming in a lot less than that against George on Friday. According to Byrd, he feel faster and stronger at this weight than he did as a heavyweight, which isn’t hard to believe because he wasn’t exactly muscular-looking in appearance as a heavyweight. Until late in his career, when he suddenly began focusing on building muscle and shedding fat, Byrd was always somewhat fat looking. The strange thing about it, though, is that when Byrd took off all the fat, he seemed to be a much less effective fighter than he was earlier in his career.

Perhaps it was only a coincidence, but it he definitely wasn’t the same fighter he was when he was a little plumper. Back then, Byrd was saying that his new conditioning and diet was going to make him an even better fighter than he was previously. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. For that reason, I’m wondering whether Byrd is making the same mistake as he did in the later part of his heavyweight career. In the recent video and photos I’ve seen of Byrd, he doesn’t look well. Indeed, he has the typical starved, dried out look that a person gets when they’ve lost a great deal of weight in a short period of time. Along with that, he looks visibly older as well, another typical trait for someone that takes off a tremendous amount of weight.

He says that he feels good, and that I believe because his heart doesn’t have to work as hard. But, he looks to have lost a lot of lean muscle tissue along with the fat that he shed, and that’s not a good thing for Byrd. Even for a young person, this would be very hard on a body to take off the kind of weight that Byrd has taken off, and you wouldn’t expect a person to be able to be able to be competitive in a sport after having stripped off that kind of weight. Putting Friday’s bout with George aside, Byrd, if he’s serious about his plans for challenging for the light heavyweight title in the near future, this will mean that he’ll be pitted against the best in the light heavyweight division.

Those kinds of fighters are natural to the weight class and haven’t had to strip off 50 pounds of lard from their frames in order to fight. Additionally, most of them aren’t as old as Byrd and still have their speed and foot movement intact. I’m sorry, I see Byrd as having made a big mistake by moving down to the light heavyweight division. I could understand him moving down to the cruiserweight level, for that’s only roughly 10-15 lbs lighter than what he’s been carrying around with him into his heavyweight fights. I can imagine why he didn’t make that move.

Those fighters are plenty fast, have a good work rate and punch harder (most of them) than Byrd. He no doubt tried sparring with some of them and saw how tough they were, and quickly figured he’d be better off stripping off the 50 pounds to make the light heavyweight division in order to prolong his sagging career. One would surmise that if this doesn’t work out at light heavyweight, we may soon see Byrd moving down to the super middleweight division (168 lbs) to give that a try.

It would be the same result, but I can see Byrd doing it. He won’t understand why he’s not effective at light heavyweight. The reason is, a person just can’t take off that much weight and expect to be able to be competitive against top athletes. You take that kind of weight off if you’re dieting but you won’t have the strength you did at the higher weight, no matter how slow you take the weight off.

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