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Can Chris Byrd Win a Title at Cruiserweight?

Chris ByrdBy Erik Schmidt: After a 10 month layoff from boxing, former IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Chris Byrd (41-5-1, 22 KOs) returned to the ring on March 21st in an impressive 4th round stoppage of German Matthias Sandow (4-4, 3 KOs) at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer Halle, in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Byrd, 38, had last fought against Shaun George (18-2-2, 9 KOs), in a disastrous attempt for Byrd to move down to the light heavyweight division.

After losing over 30 pounds – much of it muscle – to make the light heavyweight limit, Byrd found himself too weak to fight properly, and was dominated and then taken out by George.

Immediately, Byrd was advised by many fans and experts to retire from boxing, most of them saying that at 38, Byrd was too old to continue fighting. However, I saw this as ridiculous because it was clear that Byrd had taken off way too much weight for his body to handle, and he shouldn’t have been in the ring with George under those circumstances.

Before that, Byrd had been stopped by heavyweights Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin in 2006 and 2007, this being considered evidence that Byrd was past his prime. Byrd was outweighed by 15 to 30 pounds by both Wladimir and Povetkin, making it tough for him to compete with either of them on an even playing field.

More than that, Byrd always had to bulk up from his natural weight of 200 to come in at between 211 to 213 pounds for the fights. For Byrd to have fought either of these guys at such a huge weight disadvantage was setting himself up to fail. It’s credit to Byrd that he was able to fight his entire career at heavyweight despite only weighing a legitimate 200 with the added 11 to 14 pounds of weight that he would put on for his fights being mostly fat.

However, against Sandow, 20, Byrd’s first venture into the cruiserweight division since 1994, Byrd looked about as big as he did as heavyweight. Byrd came into the fight weighing six pounds under the 200 pound cruiserweight limit at 194, and looked speedy and fairly powerful. He stalked Sandow around the ring, drilling him with hard body shots and bloodying his nose with a flurry of shots in the 3rd round.

In the 4th round, Byrd went into the corner and allowed Sandow to get off a number of hard shots to his head and body. After Sandow was finished, Byrd took over and proceeded to back Sandow into the corner where Byrd finished him off with a blinding flurry of punches to the head. All in all, it was a very impressive performance for Byrd, because he showed what he can do against an opponent with similar size to him. He docked and blocked many of Sandow’s shots during the night and wasn’t thrown around the ring like he was against Wladimir Klitschko and Povetkin.

Based on how Byrd looked, I would give him an excellent chance at beating the top cruiserweights in the division like Steve Cunningham, Ola Afolabi, Victor Ramirez, and Jean Marc Mormeck. Byrd puts his punches together better than them, and is much better defensively and more elusive. Best of all, he would be able to take their best shots without going down.

Afolabi, who recently defeated Enzo Maccarinelli by a knockout, would be easy for Byrd, because Ola wouldn’t be able to match Byrd’s high work rate and wouldn’t be able to take him out like he did with Maccarinelli. Perhaps the only fighter in the cruiserweight division that I see giving Byrd any problems is Alexander Alexseev.

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