Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wladimir Klitschko vs. Chris Byrd: A prediction

The only question of any substance about the upcoming Wladimir Klitschko vs. Chris Byrd II fight in Germany is clear: Why should this fight be any different than their first meeting?

In the 2000 meeting, Byrd was a 30 year-old titlist defending his belt for the first time. His only significant win came in his previous bout – a fight in which he was being trounced before his opponent, none other than Vitali Klitschko, quit in his corner due to an injury. However dubious that win, Byrd had persevered.

Byrd was quick, determined, and unafraid.

Young Wladimir, on the other hand, was a 24 year-old rising star. He had hit a bump in the road against journeyman Ross Puritty but subsequent wins over the likes of Axel Schulz and Monte Barrett excited the boxing world.

Klitschko was fast, powerful, and huge.

That first meeting was decided on Klitschko’s attributes of speed, power and size. Byrd’s quickness was exceeded by that of Klitschko. The power of the bigger man sent Byrd to the canvas hard – twice. And, Klitschko’s size, coupled with the light-punching of Byrd, insured against a test of the chin that would undermine him in future fights.

At no time in their first meeting was the fight in doubt. Byrd won two rounds on one scorecard, one round on another, and zero on the third judge’s ballot. In truth the first two judges were far too generous.

So what can be different nearly six years later? Byrd, approaching 36, has visibly slowed in the last few years. Further, in all the years intervening since his blowout loss to Klitschko he has scored precisely one stoppage victory. He has also developed a penchant for standing close and trading shots.

Klitschko of course went from his title-winning effort against Byrd to five successful defenses of his lightly-regarded belt. Then came the crash. A knockout loss to Corrie Sanders was followed three fights later with a meltdown loss to unheralded (at the time) Lamon Brewster.

Questions about his chin and his heart persist to this day following the two disastrous losses. Despite this he has pressed on.

In his last bout, Klitschko took on an undefeated and menacing puncher in one Samuel Peter. The big Nigerian pounded on Klitschko, but despite three knockdowns (two of which were questionable), Peter was thoroughly outboxed over 12 hard rounds. Perhaps the knockdowns left doubts about Klitschko’s chin hanging in the air, but the fact that he rose to win answered critics concerned with his heart.

In truth, there will be nothing different in this bout from the first meeting unless Byrd continues his recent trend of slugging it out. Should he choose that tactic he will find himself plastered to the canvas for keeps.

That is not to diminish the overall worthiness of Byrd. He is someone American fans can be proud of. An Olympian, an undersized heavyweight who has achieved far more than his physical tools should allow him, and a stubborn pride are all attributes that have made him a champion.

Unfortunately for him, those traits still leave him significantly short against Klitschko. The Ukrainian is faster, hits harder, and is a better boxer that Byrd. It’s as simple as that. He does not have enough guns to test the weaknesses of Klitschko.

If Byrd could hit with authority, things might be different. Klitschko’s two relatively recent losses were to big hitters. No one would describe Byrd thusly.

As it stands, Byrd has but one clear (and real) chance at victory. Klitschko was far ahead and pulling away from Brewster when he came unglued. No big punch felled Klitschko. Something went haywire in his head that resulted in him falling apart.

Byrd is a fighter with a giant heart who will press hard to win. He will never fall apart mentally. If he can push and prod Klitschko and force him out of his game, perhaps he can watch his large opponent crumble under the weight of his giant Ph.D. brain.

If that sounds like a far-fetched notion, it is. Don’t expect it to happen that way.

Byrd will attempt to rattle Klitschko early but will fail. Klitschko will launch his long jab and crisp right hands and will likely hit home more often than in the first meeting. If Byrd decides to contest in the middle of the ring and swap punch-for-punch, he will not last five rounds.

More than likely Byrd will feel the heat early and try to steal rounds as he twists and turns along the ropes through most of the fight. His chin is better than most heavyweights – he’s been stopped only once – and he can survive if he chooses to make it a distance fight. Klitschko will give chase and will land often enough to sweep round after round.

So, the answer to the opening question is, no. Nothing will be different from the first meeting.

Prediction: Klitschko by 12 round shutout decision.

13 Comments:

Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Well,well,well...What do we have here? Haven't read it yet,but I will go one step further.(I cheated a bit and read the prediction.)

I think Klitschko will likely STOP him this time.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

SUPERB read JE.Let's face it--the odds,are just TREMENDOUSLY against Byrd in this fight.I have Vlad at 3-1,and personally--I feel that is a bit of a 'steal'.Folks,how many (top) hvy's can you think of,that have come back from a 12-round one-sided 'drubbing' like that,to emerge victorious? Factor in the SIZE and AGE factors,and that 'grows' even less.Quite frankly,if it wasn't for some rather 'unique' circumstances,this rematch-in this day and age-wouldn't even be happening.The problem for Byrd here,is that he is up against a guy who is not only BIG,but skilled and fast as well.I can't see Byrd outboxing him for a decision win (If he does,it would be verging on brilliant)and even though Klitschko doesn't have a good chin (not as bad as some think either IMO)and anything can happen with two guys over 200.lbs,I find the thought of Byrd 'whacking him out' to be a reach of immense proportions.The only guys who have 'whacked out Wlad'--have been BIG punchers,and TRUE hvy's.The only (real) possibility I see for Byrd here? If Vlad runs out of steam,and suffers one of his somewhat 'mysterious collapses'.THAT...I find unlikely,but PLAUSIBLE.

P.S-Not sure if I would say Vlad is a 'better' boxer JE.He's just a very good one,and MUCH bigger.Byrd,while a good hvy,would have made a very good 200-pound cruiserweight.

*If he wins here though,I will officially call him a very good hvy as well...:-)

9:50 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Oh...

I have a gut-feeling Vitali may come back for ONE more fight sometime in the next 12-16 months.If it's not within that time frame--he won't ever IMO.

9:53 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Now that Vitali's political career is over I also think a comeback is likely. He better move soon.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

I would put it at better than 50% right now JE.After Wlad (likely) beats Byrd...Can you say Vitali-Rahman for the much 'vaunted' brotherly "World Domination"? I think if Vitali does,it would be for one fight,and one fight only.Win OR lose.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

...Of course,if Wlad by chance LOSES here,it would either set-up a best 2 out of 3 with Byrd,or of course...

"Revenge of the Brother".

(HAHAHA!!! Hey,that's why they pay me the big-bucks...:-)

P.S-Klitschko 241.lbs Byrd 213.lbs.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

In all seriousness,win OR lose,I think Byrd should retire after this one.(He's 35,almost 36.)

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Toney said...

You boys want Klichko to win but he will lose today. Byrd and Rahman will clean out the europe chumps.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

THIS JUST IN:

The world's best HEAVYWEIGHT,has just beaten the worlds best CRUISERWEIGHT (but a damn good hvy and courageous one at that) in VERY convincing fashion today.In betting Sergei over Brewster,I went against 'conventional wisdom'.This one here? I went with (TRUE) conventional wisdom.What's the moral of the story here?

"Smoke the smoke,enjoy the smoke,but don't BUY INTO the smoke..."

*Puffs on pipe*

3:31 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

P.S-JE,here is your top-3 (in order) for next month...

#1 Wladimir Klitschko
#2 Hasim Rahman
#3 Sergei Liakhovich

Any arguments there?

(Didn't think so...:-)

3:33 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

That's about right.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Yeah...I think I would actually put Brewster at #4,and Byrd at #5.As tempting as it may be to drop Byrd further after such a one-sided 'drubbing',I'm not sure I would.It WAS Vlad,and the guy only has 3 losses,and 2 to the same guy.(Yeah...I know he had a few VERY close wins,and the Vitali win was a bit 'flukish',but still.) I actually expect him to announce his retirement relatively soon anyhow.Not certain,just a hunch.

As for the rest of the top-10? No changes.I suppose you could put Guinn in the top-15 or top-12 - but no higher.

*BB*

4:29 AM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I think Byrd could still beat most of the people in the Top 25. He simply can't get past Klitschko.

3:13 AM  

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