16.06.04 – By Jason Peck: In 1999 Chris Byrd went after heavyweight contender Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi. Ibeabuchi was a Nigerian knockout artist who had already dealt David Tua his first defeat, and Byrd was yet another pretender to the heavyweight throne. But things were different in this fight, for Byrd’s hit and run style finally met a man willing to slug it out. Ibeabuchi had enormous power, lightning hands and was extremely active for a man of his considerable size. For the first round Byrd was elusive and Ibeabuchi had trouble reaching him; the tables soon turned when Ibeabuchi turned up the intensity.
By the second Ibeabuchi was landing power shots. By the third he had trapped Byrd and injured him with a nasty cut over his eye; by the fourth he was still finding the openings to injure him further and the cut was gushing. In the fifth Ibeabuchi hit Byrd in the jaw with a thunderous left and Byrd was down.
It was one of the single greatest punches I have ever seen; the noise it made still reverberates in my head. Byrd rose from it, but soon dispelled any illusions of having heart by arguing with the ref over whether he had, in fact, just been hit.
“Come on Chris,” Jim Lampley said, the disgust audible in his voice.
At any rate, Byrd must have been hit, for the ref was forced to stop the fight approximately 1:15 after the action resumed.
His second loss came at the hands of Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko. This loss was less dramatic than the first, for it ended in a decision rather than a shocking knockout. But it is no less important to consider. Wladimir had power as well; perhaps not as powerful as Ibeabuchi, but a force to be reckoned with. And he certainly wasn’t as active as Ibeabuchi. But he had one important advantage. He could reach Byrd, and therefore hit him. Wladimir closed Byrd’s eye in the second and knocked him to the canvas twice before winning a lopsided unanimous decision.
Byrd learned a lesson from that fight that he has yet to correct. His hit and run slap-style boxing may work well for some, but when he runs against a fighter who has power and isn’t afraid to use it everything falls apart. Furthermore, he doesn’t have the requisite knockout power to stop anyone with an iron chin. Byrd once boxed at middleweight, and seems to have retained the same level of punching power. The ideal Byrd opponent is a soft puncher, and an inactive one at that.
In short, there is a simple formula to beating Byrd. A). Catch him. B). Beat the stuffing out of him. C). Walk away with a win.
Ike Ibeabuchi is gone now; a victim of his extensive psychopathic problems and an ugly rape conviction. The boxing world is the poorer for it, for now Chris Byrd is the champion and Ibeabuchi lingers behind bars with an unbeaten record. And after two disappointing losses Wladmir’s future is in question. There are many fighters Byrd should beware of, but for now his two conquerors won’t face him again any time soon.
Chris Byrd is not an end to the heavyweight championship. He is a means for someone else to do it. And I’ve concluded that Mike Tyson could not possibly ask for a better challenge than Chris Byrd
Virtually every heavyweight has challenged Mike Tyson for a huge payday, so it wouldn’t be an enormous stretch for Tyson to step into the ring against virtually anyone. But honestly, out of the hundreds of fighters who have undoubtedly challenged Tyson thus far, only a handful can conceivably beat him. Vitali Klitschko could o n size alone; if anything the fight against Lennox Lewis showed that Tyson is susceptible to a long reach. James Toney has knockout power and skill to give Tyson a serious run for his money, but his heavyweight abilities are still largely untested.
Byrd, I’d like to point out, isn’t one of those possibilities. He’s not even a consideration for a possibility. But he has a belt.
I imagine the fight would be rather uneventful at first. Byrd would be aware of Tyson’s punching power; power which dwarfs that of Andrew Golota, Wladimir Klitschko or even Ike Ibeabuchi. As such, he would be extra careful, fighting a completely defensive fight and scoring slaps so light that any self-respecting judge would cringe to score them. But they wouldn’t even have to score. Those slaps would only make Tyson mad. He would press forward, free of any fears of being knocked out, and land bombs on Byrd’s defenseless body. Sooner or later the punch would come from Tyson, a punch to make Ike Ibeabuchi shudder. Byrd would go down, and argue with the referee provided he could even stand up. Tyson would be the heavyweight champion once again after more than a decade.
Byrd possesses the title to make Tyson a name, but none of the requisite abilities to handle him. Mike Tyson has only lost by knockout and disqualification. Byrd cannot knock Tyson out, and provided Tyson doesn’t bite his ear off the day goes to Iron Mike.
The more you think of Byrd, the more apparent that he was born and raised to be knocked out by Mike Tyson. Byrd’s legacy lies not the great heavyweight champions like Dempsey, Ali and Larry Holmes. It lies with men like Steve Zouski, who was knocked out by Tyson before the fight was halfway through. This is Byrd’s true birthright.
It’s the least Chris Byrd can do for the boxing world. Yes, he would lose, but the boxing scene would be far better for it when his position is replaced by a man far more interesting than him. And he will at least go out with a huge payday and some name recognition. Who can fault a man who loses to Mike Tyson?
Byrd’s reign as champion is doomed anyway, his hold on the heavyweight title cannot last too much longer. Holding the title will place him in the path of men who can destroy him. It is no longer acceptable for him to avoid big name fighters.
If he goes any further, he will inevitably fight Vitali Klitschko, a fight he will most certainly lose. They fought once before, and Byrd won, but that was only on account of a torn rotator cuff by the Ukrainian. But Vitali’s shoulder is healed now, and he still has the reach that gave him the fight before it was called short. In addition, Vitali’s last two fights have shown that his defeat to Lennox Lewis brought out a certain aggression in him, which makes the situation even worse for Byrd.
For his part, Byrd has been trying to avoid the inevitable. Bringing Andrew Golota out of retirement for a fight was an excellent means for him to prove his heavyweight worth. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as he hoped. Byrd tried to dispel his image as a slapper by actually punching him, and it’s a real shame, for if he hadn’t switched then Golota would have lost a heavy point decision. Instead he took home a draw that many critics say stinks harder than the De La Hoya- Sturm. Apparently, Byrd’s re-matching against Golota for now, staying within a small circle of safety.
But outside of that circle the sharks await, and hopefully one of them is Tyson.
I predict that after Byrd loses his belt he may stay around longer; his last two losses weren’t in dispute at all, and the resilient Byrd managed salvage his credibility somewhat. But soon he will lose even that chance for a comeback, and be resigned to the dusty halls of history.