Chris Byrd vs Jameel McCline: Byrd seeks "Big Time!"

10.22.04 - By Vaughn M. Featherstone: I can remember when the Heavyweights were a division where you couldn't wait for a fight to happen. There was Ali/Frazier, Foreman/Lyle, Tyson/Holyfield, Lewis/Holyfield. The list could go on and on. Now, we are regulated to watch fights like Chris Byrd vs Jameel McCline. How the heavyweights have fallen.

Don't get me wrong, its not Byrd or McCline's fault. Well, lets forget abotu that and talk about the fight.

Chris Byrd (37-2-1 20KO) is a fighter that many of the Heavyweights have feared over the past couple of years. He is a technically sound fighter who is quick and very elusive. He can make the fiercest and hardest puncher look amateurish as he did with David Tua back in 2001. His counterpunching skills are exception and his chin is very strong. When he fights Jameel McCline he will be looking into the past. He'll be taking on another fighter who has a very sizable height and reach advantage and has proven that he can "stick and move" as well. Although McCline may not be the feared puncher David Tua was, he can still punch with the best of them.

In recent fights, Byrd's skills have seem to have diminished in some ways. In his fights with Fres Oquendo (W12) and Andrew Golota (D12), he has been rather easy to hit and has had to impress the judges decisively in the later rounds. In both fights Byrd seem to be on the losing end as stated throughout the Boxing world. Oquendo, not known as a big puncher, was able to land crisp punches throughout the fight as well as avoid many of Byrd's flurries. Golota was able to land regularly and push Byrd back into a retreat mode. The fighter who totally dominated Evander Holyfield and David Tua has been non-existant as of late.

Jameel McCline is making his second rise to startdum in the Heavyweight division. During his first climb, McCline had defeated contenders Micheal Grant (KO1), Shannon Briggs (W10), and Lance Whitaker (W12). Many felt he would be the next Heavyweight Champion because of his verstatility in the ring. But on December 7th, 2002, he went up against then top contender Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko dominated the fight from start to finish. McCline, feeling frustrated and beaten, could be heard in his corner saying that he was trying his hardest although his corner felt he was quitting. Klitschko won the fight with a tenth round TKO.

In the fight for the IBF Heavyweight title, both fighters will be attempting to re-establish themselves as true Heavyweights. Byrd will be out to prove to his critics that he IS the heavyweight Champion that he claimed Roy Jones and Lennox Lewis avoided. He will also be proving that he previous title defenses against Oquendo and Golota were just "bad nights" and that he is still the fighter that defeated David Tua, Evander Holyfield and Vitali Klitschko.

(NOTE: Although Byrd won the fight against V. Klitschko, he was behind on all scorecards before Klitschko retired at the end of round nine because of what would later be diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff).

Jameel McCline will be attempting to become the Heavyweight champion and dispell some of the buzz that he is "just a Heavyweight Pretender." Careers are defined by how a fighter recovers after a major setback and McCline cannot afford to have another disappointing outing as he did with Wlad Klitschko. He is catching Byrd at the right time and needs to take advantage of it. In a weak Heavyweight division (compared to prior years), McCline can make his mark and perhaps seek a title unification with the winner of Golota/Ruiz (November 13th) and Klitschko/Williams (December 11th).

The Strategy: Jameel McClineCut Off The Ring:McCline has decent power and is pretty mobile for such a big Heavyweight. He'll need to use every skill has to cut the ring off against Byrd. Byrd will move and jab while clinching should McCline get close. The best way to keep a car from moving is to take away its wheels. McCline needs to "go to the bread basket" often (Body punch). Byrd is excellent defenseman and very anept at avoiding headshots.

Use The Angles: McCline is a much bigger (and stronger) fighter than Byrd. That doesn't mean he should just walk through Byrd's punching. The punch that knocks you out is the one you don't see. Although Byrd doesn't knock his opponents out doesn't mean he can't. McCline will need to work his way in and through an assortment of punches. Keep Byrd guessing and make him think. Byrd is a superb counterpuncher. He likes to turn his body to avoid big shots. Thats when McCline needs to use a short hook or uppercut.

Be The Bully: Ike Ibeabuchi and Andrew Golota stayed on top of Byrd. They physically took it to Byrd. McCline will need to do the same also. Push Byrd around and lay on him when he attempts to counterpunch. Lay on him and fire shots in close. Byrd's lack of punching power will be his achilles heal inside. He will throw quick punches while trying to impress the judges. Wear Byrd down.

The Strategy: Chris Byrdline's size and strength may make it tough for Byrd to really mount any type of serious attack so he'll need to lure McCline to him. McCline will come forward more than likely. So when he does he will need to use his abilities to defeat "Big Time."

Ride Your Bicycle: McCline is coming forward although he may do it at various angles. Byrd will need to stay on his toes and pick his shots. If its there take it. Throw the punches in succession and get out. McCline has decent speed but not nearly as much as Byrd. Using the ring as best he can will help as well to keep McCline guessing. When he fough Golota, he hit Golota wih some strong shots but retreated. McCline hasnt fought a fighter like Byrd so he'll (McCline) will have to rely on sparring partners and film (of Golota and the Klitschko brothers).

Stay Focussed: We all know Byrd will counterpunch and McCline knows also. Byrd will need to keep his eyes fixated on McCline and not try to look ahead of what may open. McCline may chose to get in close. When he does, Byrd should throw a few uppercuts and hooks in close. They may not hurt McCline from the start but over a period of rounds they may begin to take affect. McCline may have the mindset that, "Byrd cant hurt me". Let him believe that and work the body. After awhile McCline may drop his hands and tire. Kill the body and the head will fall.

Finish The Show: Lately, Byrd has been rather unimpressive and fighters like Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota have been the talk following the fights. Byrd will need to showcase his abilities. His speed is unmatched in the division and can impress the judges (as well as the fans and critics). As I stated about McCline, "if it's there take it!" If McCline retreats, stops punching or just walks around the ring looking for a good shot, Byrd needs to step it up and fire rapid punches. They may be "pity-pat" punches but as long as they score they will impress the judges. No one is expecting Byrd to land a big punch that will end the fight.

The Outlook:

Byrd has been in this position of fighting a bigger man most of his career so this fight doesn't make anything diffferent. McCline has fought big fighters and small fighters but no one like Byrd. A loss by McCline may spell the end.

McCline will force the fight and Byrd will retreat. Don't look for an early knockout in this one because Byrd doesn't ring bells while McCline won't land flush early. McCline WILL land a big shot somewhere and may get Byrd in trouble. Byrd will land his punches often. Both fighters know what is at stake although Byrd has more to lose than McCline. Expect a shocking end to a tactical fight. I will go out on a limb and predict this one. Hate mail is accepted!!

Prediction: Byrd by knockout!!

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Article posted on 22.10.2004

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