Boxing
Byrd taking a curious flight
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network)

I'm all for "if at first you don't succeed..." and all the rest, but I've still got to wonder exactly what Chris Byrd is hoping to accomplish with his latest endeavor.

The 37-year-old, already a former two-time belt-holder in the heavyweight division, will take step one on the path toward a hoped-for third title Saturday night when he meets unbeaten Russian slugger Alexander Povetkin in Germany.

Chris Byrd
Chris Byrd will take step one on the path toward a hoped-for third title.
The bout is the first of a four-man elimination tournament that will reward its winner with a shot at IBF champion and consensus weight-class kingpin Wladimir Klitschko, presumably some time in mid-to-late 2008. Eddie Chambers and Calvin Brock make up the other half of the bracket and will meet on Nov. 2 in Tacoma, Wash.

For a man of Byrd?s talents, it's a do-able process.

All that said... I still don't get it.

Long one of the sport's undisputed good guys, the undersized Byrd has survived the championship chase twice before, initially capturing the WBO title in 2000 and later grabbing the vacant IBF crown in 2002. He made four defenses of the latter laurels between 2003 and 2005 and is a respectable 40-3-1 in 44 career fights.

My concern, though, is with two of those losses.

Both of Byrd's championship reigns were ruined in violent style by the very same foe he?s once again pursuing -- first by a wide 12-round decision in which the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Klitschko scored two knockdowns, and subsequently via bloody seventh-round TKO last year, a bout perhaps better remembered for the incessant ringside screeching of Byrd?s wife, Tracy.

Neither the one-sided give-and-take over those 19 rounds, nor Byrd's most- recent outing - a seventh-round TKO of journeyman Paul Marinaccio in April - provide reason to believe a third match would turn out any less painful for the 6-foot Michigan native, who?s never weighed more than 219 pounds since becoming a full-time heavyweight in 1994.

Based on his impressive sixth-round erasure of 228?-pound ex-champ Lamon Brewster just three months ago, Klitschko isn't going anywhere. And sanctioning-body politics aside, even Byrd's got to know that beating another current belt-holder to simply claim the label "champion" would be an empty accomplishment at best.

Meanwhile, recent comments by Byrd himself, in an Oct. 10 piece on British- based Web site frankwarren.tv -- headlined "Byrd Alleges Heavies are on Drugs" -- seem to reflect the realistic futility of even continuing the whole small man/big division venture, regardless of opponent.

"I'd say 65 percent to 70 percent are on something. The sport is full of cheats. Maybe they don't know it because they have a nutritionist that?s giving them something, but these guys are big and they're ripped. Everybody who does this stuff knows that you can beat those tests.

"These guys are going on cycles and know exactly how to beat those tests by the time they take them. It?s going to get worse and worse, because it?s just going to get harder and harder to detect. They're already using stuff that there are no tests for."

The piece mentioned the challenge Byrd faced in his third title defense, a split-decision win over Jameel McCline in November 2004, in which the weight disparity - McCline weighed 270 pounds to Byrd?s 214 - was among the largest in heavyweight history. Byrd was knocked down in the second round, but recovered to win on two scorecards by 115-112 and 114-113 counts.

McCline, who lost a 12-round decision to WBC interim champion Sam Peter earlier this month in New York, was reportedly being investigated by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney for allegedly receiving $12,000 worth of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs from a company in Orlando, Fla., between 2005 and 2006.

"His arms were massive," Byrd said. "He was ripped. Everything he hit me with hurt. I just had to keep fighting because he was so big.

"I've gotten this far with my God-given abilities and I'm going to stay true to that. It makes me feel good when I've beaten these guys who needed help and I didn't. I'm small for a heavyweight, but the Lord will take care of me in there. It just gives me extra motivation when I know I'm outgunned every time I step into the ring."

The fight is still six weeks away, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. is already in shape.

Well... at least in talking shape.

Unbeaten in 38 pro fights and a champion in five weight classes, the flashy 30-year-old was at his vitriolic best this week while hyping his Dec. 8 WBC welterweight title bout -- labeled "Undefeated" -- with popular Englishman Ricky Hatton at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

"It is what it is, baby," Mayweather said, on a media conference call. "Dec. 8. Live in Vegas. Pretty Boy Floyd. Money Mayweather. Flashy. What I'm going to do to that boy, I'm going to punish him. He?s going to get punished."

The chat came on the heels of a similar call with Hatton, in which the 29- year-old challenger -- a two-time champion at 140 pounds and a brief claimant at 147 -- said his foe was taking him lightly and would be in for a surprise on fight night.

"In my eyes, this fight is already over," Hatton said. "Floyd is going to get the shock of his life. I think he has taken me lightly. I think he just thinks the obvious, (that) I'm a strong kid, high work rate, loads of punches, body punches. I've fought 500 of them. Well, I think he?s going to get a shock."

Hatton, whose last fight was a fourth-round stoppage of veteran Jose Luis Castillo in June, claimed he's been gleaning strategy from watching videos of past Mayweather fights, including his pair with Castillo in April and December 2002 -- both of which ended in narrow unanimous decisions.

Foremost in his fight plan is a heavy dose of pressure, similar to what Castillo tried, vainly, in his two shots at the speedy Vegas resident. Hatton, now 43-0 with 31 knockouts, has displayed a similar M.O. in his most successful wins, including an 11th-round TKO of Kostya Tszyu in June 2005.

He's fought once at 147, taking a split decision from WBA belt-holder Luis Collazo.

"Because (Tszyu was) such a formidable champion, I think pain and tiredness didn't even come into the equation that night," Hatton said. "I didn't feel any of it. I intend to do the same against Floyd. In fact, I think my heart will explode before I leave him alone for one second."

And predictably, it's just that sort of attack that Mayweather and Co. believe he'll blunt.

"We've had a number of great trainers who have worked with several fighters that Floyd has faced, and they all seem to think that that?s the way to make Floyd uncomfortable," said Leonard Ellerbe, the champion?s lead trainer. "But actually, we welcome that. I mean, because they all have tried and they all come up with the same result."

A gaming-enhanced hamlet at the southeast end of Georgian Bay, about two hours north of Toronto, serves as home to the weekend?s lone significant world title fight.

Canadian hero Steve Molitor, a native of nearby Mississauga, Ontario, will make the second defense of his IBF super bantamweight title on Saturday night when he faces 33-year-old Thai veteran Fahsan 3K Battery in a scheduled 12- rounder at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario.

Molitor, a 27-year-old southpaw, won his belt with a fifth-round stoppage of unbeaten Michael Hunter last November in Hunter?s native England. He defended for the first time eight months later, stopping South African slugger Takalani Ndlovu at 1:42 of round nine at Casino Rama.

The triumph improved him to 24-0 as a pro and was his 10th win by KO.

Meanwhile, 3K Battery - who?s given name is Narongrit Pirang - is unbeaten in 14 fights since a fourth-round TKO loss to Manny Pacquiao in an IBF featherweight title eliminator nearly three years ago.

He?s defended his IBF Pan-Pacific super bantamweight belt 11 times in that subsequent winning stretch, including a two-round blowout of Indonesian challenger Yuvensius La Ende on June 22 in Bangkok that moved his career mark to 58-8-1 with 35 KOs.

Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show, broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com).

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.