I doubt a weight class has ever been as utterly descriptive of a fighter’s physique than Light-Heavyweight will prove for the former two-time heavyweight belt holder Chris Byrd tonight. In a bid to reinvent himself in the division, Byrd has lost in excess of 40 pounds at the age of 37. Byrd really is a Light, Heavyweight. For a decade the gutsy southpaw used his speed of foot and glove to mix it with the best the heavyweight division had to offer, and in the period in which he competed, they came pretty bloody big.
Naturally, he lost a few along the way – particularly as his speed faded – but one would assume his fear of the punchers at 175 pounds is likely to be non-existent considering the behemoths he’s been taking blows from in recent years. At various times Byrd has encountered, Ike Ibeabuchi, Wladimir Klitschko, David Tua, Vitali Klitschko, Jameel McCline, Evander Holyfield and Andrew Golota to name a few. Some of the most destructive punchers of the modern age, certainly in Tua’s case and in the case of the European trio – towering 250 pounders.
The move down, a tough undertaking for anyone and only tried by two previous heavyweight champions; Roy Jones and Bob Fitzsimmons, could reinvigorate Byrd’s career and add interest to the division or, more probable prove a worthy, but misguided effort. Jones was never the same following his bewildering of Ruiz, his only contest at heavyweight.
A recent snap of the Flint-born fighter showed a virtually unrecognisable athlete. Gone were the passenger pounds he carried to compete in the flagship weight class and he will hope back comes the speed, snap and motivation. With Roy Jones reportedly out of the running to face Calzaghe, preferring to tackle Antonio Tarver for a fourth time, Byrd would, for this writer at least, provide a very interesting substitute. He is after all, a former two time heavyweight champion. Nice kudos if Joe could get it.
Of course, he could prove to be a hollow shell in his next fight. But the thing about Chris Byrd, and why I like him so much, is his willingness to give it a go. He faces Shaun George on Friday in the first step of his quest. I for one, hope he emerges with his reputation renewed.