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Chris Byrd Laughs Last
By Ted Kluck
Flint, Michigan is a gray industrial giant - all highways and smokestacks, it is the kind of place that keeps its residents modest, despite their successes. It is a place where sons follow their fathers into factory jobs, sit on the same barstools, and fight in the same alleys. As a town it is an honest and appropriate reflection of its champion, Chris Byrd, a fighter who seems out of place amidst the bluster, bravado, and debauchery of the division he inhabits.
For most of his 31 years, Chris Byrd has gone to work with his father, training for fights at Joe Byrdís Academy in Flint. For Byrd success has had the unfortunate effect of keeping name heavyweights out of his path - his fights serving as showcases of speed and defensive skill that often leave opponents looking bad. He is a fighter who loves and appreciates the workmanship of a fight Ė the art of landing more punches than he takes.
He lives, trains, and fights in relative quiet but one gets the distinct impression that Chris Byrd, by retaining his dignity, will always have the last laugh.
TK Ė Chris, growing up, what fighters did you admire? After whom did you pattern your style?
I never really patterned my style after anybody but I grew up watching everybody. We were absolute boxing fanatics at my house, and I remember watching guys like Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello, Ray Leonard, and a lot of great amateur guys like Mark Breland, Pernell Whitaker,and Meldrick Taylor, I followed everybody. I also really admired my two brothers who fought as amateurs and professionals.
TK Ė You had a long and successful amateur career (275 wins). Was it tough to make the transition to professional boxing?
(Laughing) Iíve always been a slickster Ė I never was a puncher anyway. I just put more rounds with it. Marketability wise itís great to have big punching power, but my thing is, if you donít have it; donít change your game to try to get it.
To me, coming up from being a middleweight as an amateur, everybody can hit. Every one of the guys I face can throw a punch.
TK ĖChris, How has being trained by your father affected your relationship with him?
Itís been pretty positive, I mean you go through certain changes as you get older, and you have to have that understanding with your father that says, ďOkay, now Iím a grown man and now I can take care of a lot of things myself.Ē
Once you get those things ironed out any father-son relationship should be great. I see a lot of father-son relationships where the father tries to control too much of his sonís career, and when the son gets older he wants to control some of those things too. Thatís where the major problems come in.
TK ĖNobody in the division seems to want to fight you. Why is that?
Style of boxing. Iíve been criticized by every major writer, commentator, and boxing ďexpert,Ē but the fighters know. Iím the smallest contender in the division. A ďblown up middleweight.Ē But still I get respect from the boxers in the division. I get as much respect from the boxers as anyone. Iím willing to fight anybody in the division at any time. Iím just a competitor and I enjoy fighting them.
TK Ė Whatís your take on the heavyweight division as it stands right now?
Wide open. Everyone says itís a weak division Ė but I look at it as being competitive. Anybody can win on any given night. There are a lot of good fighters, but just not the one standout guy that everyone can point to and say: ďHeís going to carry the division.Ē
The Mike Tyson name is still there, and youíve got to give it to him, heís still the biggest draw in boxing. He can still fight. But heís not the same Ė he can be beat on any given night now. But if you go into the ring intimidated by Mike, heís still the most dangerous guy in boxing.
TK Ė How would you approach a fight with Mike Tyson?
His style is tailor-made for my style of boxing, but you still can get caught so you have to be careful. But if things went well for as long as the fight took, 10 or 12 rounds, it would be a simple fight. Heís got one-punch knockout power. But heíd better knock me out because if he doesnít Iím going to get up and keep fighting.
TK Ė What do you think it would take to get a fight with Tyson at this stage in your career?
Heíd have to be champion and Iíd have to be the number one contender. It would have to be mandatoryÖbut then he still probably wouldnít fight me.
TK Ė What was your toughest fight as a pro, and why?
(Laughing) Obviously the two losses. Arthur Williams was a tough fight for me, because I came in at 10-0 and was very cocky. That really changed the outlook of my career because of style. I came into the fight thinking I was just going to run through the guy, no problem, but it was a tough fight for me. (A 10 round split decision victory)
TK Ė Whatís next for you in terms of fights?
David Tua. The IBF has ordered the fight and theyíre looking at August 18 as a possible date. Itís for the mandatory spot, which Iím looking at almost more than the fight itself.
Heís a dangerous guy but Iíve just got to stay on top of my game for 12 rounds.
TK Ė If you could change one thing about boxing, what would it be and why?
I have never really experienced a manager so I canít comment on thatÖprobably the organizations that control boxing. The ratings system is a joke. You have guys youíve never heard of, no TV exposure, and all of a sudden theyíre fighting for a title. Itís crazy and that happens in every weight class. Not just the heavyweights.
TK Ė Have you thought at all about your plans after boxing?
My family and I are looking into some business options now. Also, I need to be open to any ministry opportunities that may present themselves.
The main thing for me is to stay active and stay stimulated. I canít sit around. I almost get depressed after fights because Iím supposed to rest and if I go right back into the gym Iíll burn myself out. I always need new things to do and think about.
TK- Youíve been very vocal about your faith in God, how has that impacted you in and out of the ring?
Itís huge. Itís everything to me. I pray before every fight, not only for my own health but for the health of my opponent. Iím a competitor and I fight hard, but I donít go in with the mindset that ďIím going to kill this guy,Ē or ďIím going to mess this guy up.Ē Itís not about that for me Ė Iím a professional doing a job.
TK Ė How would you like to be remembered as a fighter?
I want to be remembered as a skilled fighter, with real boxing ability, who had a unique style for the heavyweight division. I also want to be remembered as a good guy, a guy who had a strong faith in God and stayed true to it, and a guy whose actions in and out of the ring donít contradict his beliefs.
Chris Byrd has fought to a career record of 33-2 with 19 KOís.