31.03.05 – By Scoop Malinowski: IBF Heavyweight champion Chris Byrd said this week he never received an offer to defend his title against Wladimir Klitschko in April in America. Is this the truth? Or a deception to save face?
With Klitschko fully focused in training camp in Spain for his upcoming IBF Eliminator against Eliseo Castillo on HBO on April 23 from Germany, Byrd has come forward and is claiming in a Boxingtalk.com interview this week that he never actually received an offer to fight Klitschko on home turf in the U.S. This supposedly was the breaking point which stopped the proposed fight after a long and difficult negotiation.
Here’s what Byrd said: “People were talking about trying to make the fight with Wladimir in the U.S. but that’s something that was never brought up to my attention. Nobody presented me with anything to fight him over here. I know nothing about that.”
I contacted the Klitschko camp for their version on what happened in the failed Byrd-Klitschko negotiations. Manager Bernd Boente replied via e-mail on Thursday and refuted Byrd:
“I can only tell you that Wladimir was willing to fight Byrd anytime in the U.S. or Europe. Byrd`s promoter Don King knows that and also his manager (and lawyer) John Hornewer. King was willing to do the fight but Byrd was only looking for excuses. If we agreed to more money for him – by far his biggest purse – (Byrd) raised another issue – country. We agreed to that – USA or Europe up to Byrd – then he had an issue with his promoter. Then his father (and trainer Joe) said to better not fight Wladimir…….and…and……
I think he is afraid of fighting Wladimir – that’s the only realistic explanation, in my opinion.
After so many weeks of negotiations the fight fell through and Wladimir has now a tough fight vs. Castillo. Maybe next time.”
Byrd had more to say to Boxingtalk.com about Klitschko: When Byrd was told that Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel said Byrd had been offered more than his contracted minimum to fight Klitschko in America, Byrd denied it, saying, “That’s very untrue. I’d be very ready to fight him over here any time…I’d have no problem fighting him here. Just bring it here…I’m willing to fight anybody, just bring it here…I’d be ready to fight him over here any time.”
But it seems curious that Byrd is so suddenly willing now to fight Klitschko – three weeks ago, when the Byrd-Klitschko rematch was still alive for April 30th in New York City, why didn’t Byrd step up and express similar bravado? When Byrd knew all parties were trying hard to make Klitschko vs. Byrd in America, why didn’t Byrd participate and go on record to make it clear to the public just what his exact demands were? Could it actually be true that Byrd was in hiding from the challenge by Team Klitschko and that he was waiting and hoping for Klitschko to target someone else? And why won’t any reporter ask Byrd to name an exact amount – on the record – so that the public knows what he wants to fight Klitschko? Maybe there is no amount in the world Byrd would take to fight Klitschko here, in Europe or anywhere.
A logical assumption is that it could be possible that Byrd will fight Klitschko sometime in 2005. But it is also conceivable Byrd will avoid a risky rematch with Klitschko, by whatever means necessary.
Inside word is that Wladimir is looking very strong in camp and if he wins the IBF Eliminator against Castillo, he will become the IBF mandatory challenger for Byrd.
If that scenario plays out as is likely, Byrd’s only chance to impede Klitschko would be if Castillo were to suddenly pull out of the April 23rd HBO date. Would Team Byrd attempt to induce Castillo to pull out?
Or is Byrd prepared to back up his words that he’s “ready to fight (Klitschko) over here any time. I’d have no problem fighting him here. “
Ah, the drama of boxing, where sometimes the struggles and battles to make the fight are sometimes more interesting and suspenseful than the actual fight itself.
Question for Byrd: How much do you want to defend your title against Wladimir Klitschko???
Scoop Malinowski is a Boxinginsider.com contributor.