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Chris Byrd vs. Evander Holyfield

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2002-12-14 : Chris Byrd 214 lbs beat Evander Holyfield 220 lbs by UD in round 12 of 12


Byrd denies Holyfield title
By Tim Dahlberg, The Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Chris Byrd exposed Evander Holyfield as an aging fighter Saturday night, using his superior speed to frustrate the former champion and deny him a chance to win a heavyweight title for the fifth time.

Byrd resisted Holyfield's efforts to turn the fight into a brawl, making the 40-year-old Holyfield miss wildly throughout the fight to win a unanimous decision and the vacant IBF heavyweight title.

Even in the late rounds, Holyfield was game as desperation took hold and he threw big punches at Byrd in an effort to knock him out. But Byrd seldom let Holyfield get off a clean shot, and usually punished him with a flurry of punches in return.

In a fight that lacked the electricity and drama of most heavyweight title bouts, the left-handed Byrd threw punches from everywhere and landed many of them. Even a late rally by Holyfield that had the crowd standing on its feet after the 11th round failed to swing the tide.

"Now the world sees I can stay in there with the great heavyweights because I just beat one of them," Byrd said.

Two judges scored it 117-111 while a third had it 116-112. The Associated Press had Byrd winning 117-111.

The fight was for the IBF title that Lennox Lewis gave up rather than fight Byrd, a light-hitting former Olympic 168-pounder who likes to frustrate opponents rather than beat them up.

He did just that to Holyfield, who came in with suspect reflexes and only two wins in his last six fights.

Compubox statistics showed Byrd threw 747 punches to 344 for Holyfield, and landed 252 to 102 for the former four-time champion.

Neither fighter was down and neither was hurt, but Byrd landed far more punches and got out of the way when Holyfield tried to land a big hook or right hand.

After the fight ended, Byrd went over to Holyfield's corner and the two heavyweights who spent 12 rounds trying to hurt one another linked arms and prayed together.

"I got in there and fought for once," Byrd said. "I used my boxing skills to get around."

Holyfield was attempting to become the only fighter other than George Foreman to win a piece of the heavyweight title in his 40s. Foreman was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer in 1994 to win a title.

Holyfield complained to his corner after the seventh round that his shoulder was hurting, and he briefly switched to a left-handed style in the next round to throw right jabs.

"He threw more punches and he kept me off balance," Holyfield said. "I hurt my shoulder and I couldn't use my left hand. I could throw to the body, but that's it. And you know I like to throw left hooks."

Holyfield was trying to win a piece of the heavyweight title for a fifth time and put himself in line for a fight against the winner of the John Ruiz-Roy Jones Jr. WBA title fight March 1.

Even with the loss, he said his goal of winning all three major titles was still alive.

"It's still there and my goal is still to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," Holyfield said.

Holyfield (38-6-2) was clearly the crowd favorite in a fight that started slowly and soon developed a familiar pattern.

Whenever Holyfield caught Byrd on the ropes, the crowd would scream in delight. But many of his punches missed as Byrd dodged and darted on the ropes.

"He wasn't hurting me, but the crowd thought he was," Byrd said.

In the final two rounds, Byrd actually stood and traded punches with Holyfield despite taking a right uppercut in the 11th round that was Holyfield's best punch of the fight.

"There were so many naysayers saying I couldn't fight with these big guys," Byrd said. "I get a little more in shape, I think I can take them out."

Holyfield spent much of the early rounds throwing punches that hit nothing but air, as Byrd moved, ducked and took full advantage of the former champion's aging reflexes.

Holyfield began lunging at Byrd with his head, drawing a warning in the third round and complaints by Byrd between rounds.

"He's using his head like crazy," Byrd told his father and trainer, Joe, after the third round.

Holyfield finally cornered Byrd on the ropes in the fifth, landing a few punches to the head, then countering him with a right hand as the two exchanged punches in the middle of the ring.

"I wasn't able to be as aggressive as I would like," Holyfield said.

While the announced crowd of 8,543 roared with every Holyfield punch, but they were too few and far between.

As the rounds went on, Byrd's lead grew bigger and Holyfield's desperation became more apparent.

"You don't have any time to wait,"' trainer Don Turner told Holyfield as he stood in the corner before the 10th round.

Holyfield made $5 million for the title shot, while Byrd was paid $2.15 million, his biggest payday.

Holyfield was a 2-1 underdog, largely because he was expected to have trouble getting through Byrd's awkward style and delivering clean punches.

Holyfield never really wanted to fight Byrd, whose unorthodox style causes other fighters fits. But the lure of a fifth title proved too much, even though it was a title that Lewis sold to promoter Don King for $1 million and a Range Rover during an African tour.

Lewis, generally regarded as the top heavyweight in the world, was at ringside to watch one heavyweight he had beaten and another he didn't want to fight battle it out for the title he gave away.

Holyfield weighed 220 pounds, the second-heaviest he's been during his 45-fight career. With Byrd at 214 pounds, it was only the second time that Holyfield outweighed an opponent as a heavyweight. [1]


Preceded by:
Lewis vs. Tyson
IBF Heavyweight Title Fight
# 40
Succeeded by:
Byrd vs. Oquendo


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