Klitschko roars to the top, stops Byrd
MANNHEIM, GERMANY --- Fighting with power and skill, Wladimir Klitschko, 46-3 (40 KOs), Ukraine, 241, scored two knockdowns enroute to stopping defending titlist Chris Byrd, 39-3-1 (20 KOs), Las Vegas, 213 ½, in 7 rounds to become the third man from a former Soviet bloc nation to hold a world belt.
Just as in their first meeting, the bout was never in doubt. Klitschko jabbed, Klitschko smashed sharp right hands, and Byrd could do nothing about it.
From round one the pattern was set. Klitschko peppered Byrd with an extended left hand and waited for opportunities to bomb with right hands. After a probing first round, Klitschko took away Byrd’s only possibility for winning rounds by effectively tying up his smaller foe on the inside.
After sweeping the first four rounds, (HBO’s Harold Lederman inexplicably gave the opening round to Byrd), Klitschko landed a picture perfect right hand to the southpaw’s chin putting him flat. Though still hurt, Byrd rose quickly only to face a measured barrage from Klitschko and offering almost nothing in return.
As Klitschko poured on the attack, doubts about his stamina and his propensity for punching himself out dissipated as he calmly worked in round 6 picking his spots wisely and maintaining adequate distance to land his thunderous right.
Round 7 began much as the round before with Klitschko finding Byrd’s chin with increasing frequency. After tagging Byrd with snapping combinations, Klitschko send him crashing to the canvas with a capstone right hand that was emblematic of the dominance he showed over the course of 19 rounds the two had engaged each other.
Byrd again rose and wanted to continue but a large gash over his left eye, wobbly legs, and no offense led to referee Wayne Kelly to halt the fight at 41 seconds of the round.
JEBoxing scored the bout 60-53 at the end of 6 rounds.
Keeping Byrd at arms length was the strategy that Klitschko honed to perfection.
The “trick was to keep his left extended,” said Klitschko trainer Emanuel Steward to the HBO audience.
The trick left Byrd without options.
“I was never in the fight,” said Byrd to HBO's Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley. Byrd entered the ring as the longest reigning of the numerous belt-holders.
Klitschko now wants to move on to the other three men who hold titles: Hasim Rahman, Nicolay Valuev and Serguei Liakhovich.
“Let’s go for some other belts,” said Klitschko. Although this is something that fans have clamored for, promoters and sanctioning bodies have little interest in allowing it.
Maybe it won’t matter if Klitschko continues defeating skilled fighters, such as Byrd, and big hitters, such as Samuel Peter.
“There’s nothing on the horizon” to stop Klitschko from “keeping the title until he retires,” said Steward.
For his part, Klitschko wants to defy his legion of critics by giving himself no way out.
Said Klitschko, “failure is not an option.”