Chris Byrd - A Criminally Underrated Fighter!

by James Slater: Now that his career is over - in fact it has been for some time now - it's time to have a proper look as we evaluate the overall accomplishments of Chris "Rapid Fire" Byrd. To this writer's opinion, Byrd certainly did enough in his pro career so as to one day gain entry into The Hall of Fame. Not least due to his incredible, not to mention extremely brave, attempts at beating some of the truly big men of the recent heavyweight division, does Byrd belong..

Consider: Byrd began his pro carer down at super-middleweight, he was never more than a natural light-heavyweight at best and even when he bulked up his highest recorded weight was 222 pounds. Despite all this, however, Chris did battle with some of the real giants of the big guys' weight class over the last nine years or so. Roy Jones Junior rightfully gets praise due to his taking on the bigger John Ruiz, but Byrd, who fought both bigger and better heavies than Ruiz, seemingly gets nowhere near the gushing applause Jones received when he out-pointed "The Quiet Man." back in 2003. Let it never be forgotten that Byrd's accomplishments up at heavyweight far outdid those of Jones Jnr.

Having the sheer nerve to go up in weight from his natural 175 pounds or so to tackle monsters like Ike Ibeabuchi, Vitali AND Wladimir Klitschko, David Tua and, the biggest of the lot, Jameel McCline, is surely the stuff of legend. It certainly deserves to be. For a former super-middleweight to have even fought such huge guys is one thing, but Byrd actually defeated a good number of them. Yet Jones is called one of the greatest fighters of all-time and Byrd is barely known outside of hardcore boxing fans. Yes, there is more to Jones' perceived greatness than simply his fight up at heavyweight. Roy was one of the best fighters ever from the weights of middleweight up to light-heavyweight, and he was more exciting to watch than crafty lefty Byrd. But I feel Chris Byrd's accomplishments up at heavyweight - a weight class in which he spent practically all of his career - are such that the man from Flint should be recognised as one of the special ones in all of boxing as well; even he he did have a far from thriliing fighting style.

Byrd also, in addition to his bravery, possessed tons of heart and guts. Taking a bad beating from Wladimir Klitschko in October 2000, the much smaller man refused to be pulled out and instead went the full 12 rounds. In another losing attempt up at heavyweight, this one against the monstrous punching Ike Ibeabuchi (a fighter who we will never know how great he could have been, due to his being cut off in his prime and sent to prison) , Byrd was hit with an absolute shot from hell in the 5th round, only to try and get up and fight on. Really, the man's sheer bravery was something to behold. And all this bravery was being shown at a time when he should rightfully have been boxing two weight divisions down!

With excellent, odds-defying wins to his name over Vitali Klitschko, David Tua, (an admittedly past his best) Evander Holyfield and Jameel McCline (who out-weighed Byrd by a whopping 56 pounds!) it is clear Chris Byrd has not gotten anyway near the credit he deserves. I do not want to continually compare Byrd to Roy Jones all the time, but imagine how highly we'd be ranking Jones today if he'd beaten a Klitschko and a David Tua! Why should Chris Byrd, after all his heavyweight endeavours, be the recipient of any less praise than he's due simply because he wasn't as flashy and didn't hit as hard as Jones?

Without a doubt, for his fights at heavyweight alone and the sheer fearlessness it took to go up there, Chris Byrd deserves to be in boxing's Hall of Fame. Not only that, but Byrd should be recognised by all hardcore fight fans as one of the most accomplished "small" heavyweights in boxing history!

Article posted on 12.10.2011

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