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Byrd: "England has the two best heavyweight contenders"


By Danny Winterbottom

Former two time WBO heavyweight champion Chris Byrd has spoken to to give his expert opinion on the current heavyweight scene, his dislike of over protected fighters and his desire to see more former pro’s with a microphone in hand.


The Michigan southpaw, who claimed an Olympic silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona games boxing as a middleweight, also fronts an internet based boxing talk show called “The Byrd’s eye view” that gives a forum to fighters enabling them to discuss the finer points of the sport with a host who has mixed with some of the best heavyweights of his generation.

“We try to give the viewers a fighter’s perspective on the action they see in the ring” he said of his current project that has featured Brandon Rios and Manny Pacquiao.


Byrd, who last fought in 2009 and ended his often unappreciated career with a record of 41-5, is comfortable in front of a TV camera but would like to see more of his fellow ex-pros talking boxing rather than what he calls a “disrespectful” aspect of the media questioning the ability of fighters.


“It annoys me when these guys on TV are telling viewers a certain fighter can’t do this, he can’t do that. Saying certain fighters can’t punch. How do they know? They haven’t taken his punches have they?” he said during a recent phone call from the offices of his agent in California.


“I’ve been watching boxing and thinking where are all these great fighters? Why aren’t they in front of a camera breaking down the sport? “


“Every weekend in the States, whether it is on a cable channel or a big network, boxing is on. These broadcasts should be flooded with legends talking about what they know.”


Back in 1999 Byrd faced fearsome Nigerian Ike Ibeabuchi but a left, right combination late into round five saw him lose his unbeaten record. 11 months and four fights later he travelled to Berlin, Germany with a weeks’ notice to battle Vitali Klitschko. Byrd was losing the contest but the giant Ukrainian had suffered a damaged rotator cuff and was forced to retire from the contest after nine rounds handing the American a surprise victory and the WBO world title to boot.


Demonstrating his courage, self-belief and maybe a hint of madness he signed to fight the other brother, Wladimir, six months later only to lose his belt on points over the championship distance to a man hungry for family redemption. As you can imagine Byrd has huge respect for a fighter who is willing to risk everything to face the best and questions today’s obsession with unbeaten records.


“Once you lose it’s almost as if you’re done in the sport these days. Look at Amir Khan; he lost two fights in a row. Is he really washed up? No of course he’s not and under a new trainer he could become a world champion again.”


“Boxing is a style matchup” he continued. “You ain’t gonna look the same in every fight. I admire guys who are willing to fight anyone even if they are the cash cow and they could make a ton of money against fighters who are gonna make them look good.”


Turning his attention to the heavyweight division the now 42-year-old Flint lefty revealed his admiration for Britain’s two big men and admitted right now they are the very best of the current crop of contenders.


“England has the two best guys at heavyweight in David Price and Tyson Fury. They ain’t brothers but they are at odds with each other right now!” he quipped, referring to the recent exchanging of words between the pair.


When will the next great American heavyweight rise to prominence? That is the million dollar question yet to be answered and Byrd, who faced many of the last generation’s greats, isn’t totally sold on this crop either.


“The heavyweight scene in America is in a re-building phase. We’ve got some young guys out there who have ability but need to work on their mind set and their skill set” he said


Deontay Wilder, a huge physical specimen of a man from the Deep South, who has been knocking opponents over more often than a house bowling ball demolishes pins, has racked up a scary looking 26-0 record, all by knockout or stoppage, but Byrd is yet to be convinced he is the man to make American’s care about heavyweight boxing again.


“Deontay Wilder is like a Michael Grant. A Michael Grant in progress, he’s very raw! When you have so many knockouts it scares me because who are you fighting to get a record like that? I don’t think Mike Tyson had so many early knockouts at this stage of his career. He needs to step up. When Grant fought Lewis he wasn’t ready but his competition had been better than Wilder’s has been. When a guy is 22-0 with 22 knockouts and six months later he is 28-0 with 28 knockouts, he needs to fight!!


With former Gridiron footballer Seth Mitchell losing his unbeaten record to Jonathan Banks recently and the aforementioned Wilder facing questionable opposition does Byrd see the British duo as the only serious threats to the Klitschko domination of the division?


“Well Vitali is 40 something and Wladimir 36. I look at David Price and he’s got a ton of talent. He can pop, he knows how to keep his distance, and he makes you think before you come in. Both these big guys (Price and Fury) can really fight. They are a tough matchup for anybody in the division and that is without mentioning David Haye. If he chooses to fight again he could still be the best but to prove it he would have to beat these two giants in his own country!”


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