21.06.05 - By Greg Ghilarducci: On April 22, 2006, Chris Byrd will be fending his IBF heavyweight title against Wladimir Klitschkko (45-3, 40 KOs) in Mannheim, Germany, a bout that is highly anticipated by many in the boxing world. Perhaps, more than any other reason, the fight fans are looking forward to this so much simply because the loser of the bout will likely be at a career dead end with few options. The two last met October 10, 2000, in a bout that was totally dominated by Wladimir, who knocked Byrd down twice, en route to winning an astonishingly easy 12 round decision. If this fight is anything close to the previous one, expect more of the same with, perhaps, Byrd being stopped late in the fight.
Article posted on 22.02.2006
However, if anything, itís Wladimir who is more in danger of being stopped than the tricky, iron-chinned Byrd, who has only been stopped once in his career against the power punching Ike Ibeabuchi in 1999. Since his bout with Byrd, itís been mostly down hill for Wladimir, who hasnít looked the same since being totally destroyed by the South African Corrie Sanders. Itís just confidence, Wladimir appears to wilt any time he gets hit squarely on the chin.
So, with Byrd not being a big puncher, Wladimir should have an easy time of it, right? Well, I wouldnít bet my money on it, not for an instance. Byrd may not have a ton of power, but what heís shown as of late, is that heís attacking much more than he previously did earlier in his career, when he was mostly a defensive specialist. Starting with his fight against Fres Oquendo in 2003, Byrd has completely changed as a fighter, becoming almost a combination boxer/puncher. I honestly feel that this is what Wladimir will underestimate going into his bout with Byrd and it will lead to his downfall, this time, for good. Even though Byrd, who at 6í2Ē 215, is much smaller than the gargantuan 6í6Ē 245 lb, Klitschko, it wonít matter, in my opinion, as Byrd will wait until Klitschko tires out midway through the fight before putting the pressure on him and stopping him.
After winning the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, Wladimir had gotten his professional career off to a excellent start, winning his first 24 fights before being stopped by the hard punching journeyman Ross Puritty in 1998. Following that loss, Wladimir was carefully brought along, avoiding any other big punches until in 2003, when he was savagely stopped by Corrie Sanders in 3 brutal and embarrassing rounds. After that, Wladimir was yet again stopped, this time, in 5 rounds by Lamon Brewster in April 2004, when he fought for the vacant WBO heavyweight title. For Wladimir fans, who are found like to point out that he was essentially having his way with Brewster for the first 4 rounds of the fight, beating him every which way but Sunday, until suddenly Wladimir came apart and fell down from a half-hearted attack from Brewster. Who cares? Wladimir lost, live with it.
I wonít bother to go into all the excuses that were bandied about as to why Wladimir self destructed, as itís too wretched to even be worth mentioning. Based on my view of it, , Wladimir punched himself out, as he often does, and then walked into a decent left hook, that finished him. In his last bout against Samuel Peter, Wladimir was forced to get off the deck three times before staggering Peter in the 12th round, when he got sloppy, forgetting about Wladimirís always dangerous left hook. As a matter of fact, Wladimir is incredibly lucky to have survived that bout, in my opinion, as he was ready to go twice, yet was saved by the bell each time to end the round.
To be sure, Wladimir still has a ton of power in his left hook, and his hands are absurdly fast for a heavyweight. However, heís slipped a great deal since 2000, when he was at his prime, and he can no longer take a punch, even a semi hard punch thrown by Chris Byrd. I see Wladimir pressing the action early on, looking for a knockout, with Byrd using his defensive skills and foot movement to stay away. However, by the 6th round, I see Wladimir as having tired out, with his mouth wide open, gasping for air like a fish out of water. At that point, Byrd will pounce on him like a Lion attacking a wounded animal and take him out with a storm of punches to the head. Following this defeat, I suspect that Wladimir will make the wise decision and decide to hang up his gloves rather than continue on and suffer further embarrassment in the ring.