Reposted from Blogger
and http://www.eastsideboxing.com/weblog/news.php?p=15700&more=1 on 05/17/08
Shaun George stops Chris Byrd in 9 – May 17, 2008
Well, it was worth a try. Chris Byrd’s attempt at rejuvenating his career by dropping two weight classes met with failure Friday night in Las Vegas. Shaun George proved to be too steep a challenge for the former two-time heavyweight titlist. The 37 year-old Byrd had never been a natural heavyweight, and figured that by dropping closer to his natural bodyweight, he could turn back the clock. However, against George, he merely looked old and tired in being pounded to a ninth-round TKO loss.
Part of the idea of dropping to light heavy was that Byrd’s new opponents wouldn’t land with the same type of force that heavyweights like Tua, Klitschko, and Povetkin have. This may indeed be true. Shaun George obviously does not punch like Wladimir Klitschko or Ike Ibeabuchi. Having said that, Chris Byrd clearly didn’t bring his heavyweight chin with him down to 175. Shaun George hit plenty hard enough to repeatedly rattle a surprisingly fragile Byrd.
Chris Byrd’s legs seemed gone as early as the first round. George (17-2-2, 8KOs) was able to land the right cross several times in the opening minutes, as Byrd (40-5-1, 21KOs) leaned into the punches, magnifying the damage. Chris was eventually dropped after being visibly rocked by multiple counters. That rough first round set the stage for the rest of the fight. Byrd would find himself stalking George and repeatedly walking into counter right hands. Byrd seemed to struggle to let his hands go, as he appeared uncomfortable in the role of aggressor. Byrd was occasionally able to land a jab, but was unable to faze an increasingly confident Shaun George. The pattern of the fight continued in each round as George would calmly walk away from Byrd, then pivot and land hard rights as Byrd followed him. Byrd never seemed able to solve George’s Jersey Joe Walcott impression.
The second was similar to the first, as Chris was tagged with multiple hard crosses and pawing jabs. Before the round, Byrd’s father and trainer Joe Byrd implored his son to let his hands go more often. His attempts at carrying out those wishes were met with strong counters. Byrd was wobbled again, but managed to avoid the knockdown of the first.
In the first minute of round three, Chris threw a quick combo as Shaun did his walking-away routine, but didn’t follow up while Mr. George retreated. As in the first two rounds, Byrd continued to follow the retreating George around the ring. He ate punches in return and none of his infrequent attacks caused George any problems.
Shaun George appeared to be amazingly relaxed as he forced Chris Byrd to fight exactly his fight. He frequently beat the formerly speedy ex-heavyweight to the punch. Chris did appear somewhat steadier in the third and fourth rounds, landing a few decent punches, but George never allowed a flurry to go unanswered.
Byrd upped his work rate in the 6th, and it could be argued that he deserved the round. Yet, even after an improved effort, he still leaned over the ropes after the round and informed ESPN commentators Brian Kenney and Shannon Briggs that he thought he “looked like crap.” That after his best round of the fight!
Shaun took control once more in the 7th. He stuck and moved and forced Byrd back repeatedly. George’s reactions and punches were clearly faster than Byrd and it showed as George continued the beating in the 8th. Byrd landed a few decent punches in the beginning of the 9th, including a low blow, but George quickly regained command. He connected with a huge left uppercut followed by a hard overhand right with 41 seconds left in the round to drop Byrd awkwardly on his side. Byrd rose on shaky legs, and was immediately pummeled to the ground in the corner by six rapid punches from George. Byrd stood up once more, but referee Jay Nady waved the fight off at 2:45 of round number nine. Chris appeared to hurt his shoulder during the first knockdown of the ninth.
Shaun George called out every fighter he could think of immediately following the stoppage, much to the amusement of the ringside commentators. Chris Byrd left the ring without comment, due to his shoulder injury. Now that Mr. Byrd has been soundly defeated by an ostensibly smaller man, he is left without many options as a fighter.
A few fighters have found success in their old age because they changed their styles to adapt to their diminishing speed and reflexes. George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins may be the best recent examples of this. Others, like Larry Holmes or Evander Holyfield, simply grew older and less effective. Chris Byrd appears to (mostly) fall into the latter category. His defensive-minded quasi-praying mantis style worked wonders as a slippery and nimble heavyweight. But at 37, with shaky legs and slower reflexes, Chris had no fallback plan. Toward the end of his reign as IBF heavyweight champ, Chris did somewhat alter his approach, if not his style, and became more aggressive. He still found some success, albeit diminishing with each subsequent fight.
After his 11th round TKO loss to up-and-coming heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, Chris figured that a change was needed. Fighting opponents his own size appeared to be what he needed to continue his career. The weight loss apparently came easy to him, and he claimed to be comfortable as a light heavyweight. Despite the changes, he was beaten in a far more dominating fashion by 175lb Shaun George than he had been by 226lb Alex Povetkin. It may just be that he had an off night, or that he grew old before out eyes. It could also very well be that Chris Byrd lost something more than just 37 pounds of flesh when he moved down from the heavyweight division.