Going into this fight, I'd predicted a round seven knockout (yes, I do have witnesses). While I was not surprised to see it happen, I was surprised at how easily Wladmir Klitschko
beat Chris Byrd
. It was not just a victory, it was a potentially career-ending whupping. Thankfully, Byrd didn't seem to be hurt, though his prospects for being taken seriously as a heavyweight were pronounced dead, dead, dead.
The fight started with the two men scouting one another. Wladmir, having been knocked out three times when favored, was very cautious. Byrd, the IBF belt-holder, didn't fight his usual slick, head-bobbing style, but he also didn't rush in aggressively, as he'd told us to expect in the pre-fight chatter. The first round saw Klitschko throw a few crisp jabs, and Byrd land a handful of relatively strong body shots. I scored the first round even, though I could see how some could have given the round to Byrd.
Early in the second round, Wladmir landed the first of what was to be a large number of powerful straight right hands. He also began to throw the left hook off of the jab, which has been his trademark, and started to take control of the fight. The second round also marked the entrance of Tracy Byrd's shrill voice. Many say that Byrd's wife has been instrumental in the failure of Chris' career to thrive, but I'll just say that I was wishing that she would shut up.
In the third Byrd came out with a flurry of body shots, but, as the round progressed, Klitschko dictated the pace, hammering Byrd with the straight right. More and more, these punches were landing on the right side of the face, as Byrd was unsuccessfully trying to turn away. Byrd looked bewildered, as Klitschko was out-muscling, out-jabbing, and out-punching him.
In the fourth, Byrd tried to establish the pawing jab for which he is known. Unfortunately for Byrd, the great defense for which he has also been known was picked apart by the big Ukrainian. There was a lot of talk by the HBO commentators about Klitschko's tactics, and it was becoming clear that Emmanuel Steward had prepared his client well. "The Steelhammer" looked to be perfectly prepared for Byrd, who had no answer for Klitschko's tactics.
In the first minute of the fifth, Klitschko dropped Byrd with a hard straight right, again to the right side of the face. Byrd, known for a strong chin, easily made the count, though he was badly wobbled, and bleeding from the nose. Byrd, copying a page from his cousin Lamon Breswter
's playbook, tried to taunt Klitschko into "punching himself out", as the big Ukrainian had done against Brewster in 2004. Byrd was very mobile as he weathered the storm of Klitschko's fists, even taunting the aggressor, but Wlad resisted temptation, and stood back, not over-exerting himself.
After the bell, in the corner, Byrd had to ask "What'd he hit me with".
In round six, Klitschko charged out, and after initially pouncing on Byrd, he sat back and picked his punches, landing almost at will against the slowed, fearful-appearing Byrd. With Byrd being pummeled, you could clearly hear his shrew of a wife shrieking at him. Byrd walked to his corner looking like he'd already been the full twelve rounds, while the challenger was unmarked, and looked quite rested.
In the seventh, Klitschko again ran out, slamming Byrd's head with rights and lefts, again dropping Byrd thirty-five seconds into the round. As had been the story of the fight, the punch that dropped Byrd was a straight right to face, slightly off-center to the right. Byrd gamely regained his feet, but the referee had seen enough. Bleeding from both nares, the bridge of his nose, his left brow, and sporting a swollen right eye, Byrd did not put up much of a protest when referee Wayne Kelly called an end to the bout.
Klitschko handled Byrd with even greater ease, this second time around. While I've always thought highly of the former champ, Chris Byrd, particularly as he has aged and slowed, is simply not able to deal with the style of Klitschko, the only man to beat him, other than Ike Ibeabuchi
(probably the greatest "coulda, shoulda, woulda" of this era). Byrd's style is not much fun to watch, he doesn't draw the crowds, and unless something changes, he'll likely never get another big-name fight as a heavyweight. I doubt that he'll try to get down to cruiserweight at his age, though he might draw a crowd for a fight with Jean Marc Mormeck
or O'Neill Bell
, as they prepare to move up in weight.
What's next for Klitschko? Hasim Rahman
won't be available for a while, he's to next fight Oleg Maskaev, with the winner to fight James Toney
. Likewise, Serguei Lyakhovich
, will be giving a rematch to Lamon Brewster. Nikolay Valuev
, assuming that he beats the under-achieving Owen "What the Heck" Beck
, would be a huge money-maker in a European-staged fight with Wlad. Like a great many folks, I'd love to see Wlad fight the winner of the Lyakhovich v Brewster rematch. Other than one of these two, I don't think that any of the current belt-holders can give him a good fight.
Unless the always-suspicious buisness machinations of the of boxing world weave a tangled web, the only other big-dollar challenge out there for Klitschko would be the undefeated, and relatively untested Calvin Brock
(who is to fight Timor Ibragimov
in two months). Of course, putting Klitschko in the ring with any heavy-hitter will draw fans, given Wlad's past history of unexpectedly falling to an underdog's big punch.
With the recent title fights being so exciting, it appears that the heavyweight division is experiencing something of a comeback. I hope that this is so, though I'll keep watching the smaller guys if it does not.