|Chris Byrd: "This is a challenge for me, and I am ready!"
Interview by Benny Henderson Jr. Doghouse Boxing (May 16, 2008) Photo © Everlast
Coming up this tonight from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV, to be televised live on ESPN Friday Night Fight, fight fans will witness the return of former two-time heavyweight titleholder Chris Byrd 40-4-1 (21) as he takes on former cruiserweight contender Shaun George 16-2-2 (7) in Byrd's light heavyweight debut.
From winning a bronze medal as a middleweight in the 1992 Olympics to earning himself two heavyweight titles as a professional, Chris Byrd has etched out a very credible and successful boxing career.
Although often entering the ring with substantial weight and size disadvantage, Byrd competed as a heavyweight for fourteen years and defeated the likes of Vitali Klitschko, David Tua and Evander Holyfield while defying the critics who belittled his size and lack of punching power.
Despite banging out success as a major player in the big boy division, after dropping his last bout via 11th round TKO at the hands of Alexander Povetkin, Byrd decided to drop down two weight classes and try his hand as a 175-pounder. The question is, will he find success in the lighter weight class.
Only time will tell.
For now read on to see what Chris had to say about his light heavyweight debut, his regime to lose the weight and what his future plans shall be, enjoy.
Benny Henderson Jr.: You are just a day away from your 175-pound debut. Kind of funny putting Chris Byrd and debut in the same sentence together, but nevertheless you have the fight coming up tomorrow, how are you feeling mentally and physically for this one?
Chris Byrd: Ah man, I feel great. It is a little different and strange because I have not ventured in a long time. I am waiting to see myself, I am very curious to see how I feel in the ring. Training and sparring was great, I felt good and I was already down in weight when I started training. Training from the actual fight is totally different, you have a different feeling. During training I said I will feel better when I get into the ring but that remains to be seen, I want to see how I will feel.
BH: You'll be taking on former cruiserweight contender Shaun George. What do you know about George and how do you see this fight unfolding?
CB: Watching him on tape he is a good boxer, he has a lot of amateur experience. But one thing with all the guys my entire career is that I would watch a guy on tape as a heavyweight, he would weigh 250-pounds kind of out of shape, then he would come to the weigh in and I would be like, man this guy is in great shape. It was like that time after time, the guys would come in ready because they felt that I was small and tricky, and they had to be on top of their game. That is Shaun George, this is his chance to really make a name for himself as a light heavyweight, and I know he is going to come with his A-game and be in great shape. I am ready for it, I love guys that come in ready because they bring the best out of me.
BH: You competed as a heavyweight for about fourteen years, a division that all though did not put you out as far as skill goes, but most certainly put you in a size disadvantage. Now at thirty-seven you decide to drop down two weight classes. My question is, at your age, and the size differential, how much has your training regime and eating habits changed to keep it around the 175-pound mark?
CB: Oh it changed dramatically, I mean as a heavyweight I was able to eat as much as I wanted and take days off if I wanted to because it did not matter. I would lose so much weight as a heavyweight I had to take a day off to build it back up. Now I have to train everyday, eat healthy and do things the right way. It was a change and a healthy change for me. Now I am eating so much healthier, I have done everything just right to maintain this weight and keep my energy. It was a major change, but it was for the better for my lifestyle. The way of living.
BH: Do you feel stronger at this weight?
CB: I feel strong, but converting from heavyweight to light heavyweight we shall see when I get in the ring. I feel great but I can get into the actual fight and be like okay, you look good, your body looks good and you are still pretty fast but I am not as powerful as I thought I would be coming down from a heavyweight. People still have to remember, I weigh 175-pounds, the guy I am fighting weighs the same. I may be more durable as far as taking a punch and stronger, but as far as punching power I really don't know. It seems to me that I am much stronger but I won't know nothing until I get into the ring.
BH: You flourished as a heavyweight, you are a former two-time heavyweight titleholder, you defeated the likes of Vitali Klitschko, David Tua, and Evander Holyfield, really nothing left to prove. So what made you decide to stay in the game, as well as drop down two weight classes?
CB: It is a combination of a couple of things. I think my time as a heavyweight really ran out. Because… guys still did not want to fight me… I still was not getting the fights that I really wanted. I won the title twice so I was like okay, it is time for me to make a change. I was going to move down to cruiserweight, but my good friend Steve Cunningham holds a title their, and I was like man this is your division. I knew that if I went to that division we were going to have to fight. I know how things happen because that happened to me at heavyweight. So as I was running more my weight kept dropping and I prayed about it. Just like I prayed about it when I decided to move up to the heavyweight division. I prayed, Lord, if you want me in the lower divisions allow me to lose weight, and 175-pounds in my mind was a bit crazy. (Laughs) But I kept dropping the weight, it was crazy, I was like man I am in the eighties now, I weight eighty-nine, then down to eighty-four, I was like wow. Lord, you allowed me to go to heavyweight when I never weighed over 173-pounds in my life, now I become a heavyweight, now on my way down I have become a light heavyweight. It was just the power of prayer, it was God's will for my life to get to this weight. I don't know why, for me personally, but I know what His will is. It is to glorify Him in this weight class, so if Steve has the cruiserweight division and I have the light heavyweight division, hopefully in every weight class there will be a representative of Jesus Christ, we are putting it out there. So I am hoping that every weight class can have a major Christian in there representing in there boldly because has given them a stage to do it. That is what my career is about right now, it is about Him, all glory goes to God. I know I have the opportunities to speak about God in interviews and I am going to represent Him as well in the ring, it is for His glory.
BH: One of your greatest accolades in the heavyweight division was your speed, you used it well against the much bigger opposition. It has been said that your speed and reflexes decline with age, and factoring in that you will be facing smaller as well as faster opponents than the heavyweights, do you feel your speed will still be a major key to victory?
CB: Oh yeah, my hands are still really fast, as a heavyweight it was a major challenge because guys were bigger and stronger. Now they say guys are faster, what, they think I have slowed down? I am going to surprise a lot of these young guys, these people who are so called critics talk about with age you lose your timing and reflexes, I am blessed to still have them. I can slip punches, it is competition and it is a challenge for me. I want to wins titles and be the best that I can be.
BH: I know that you are not looking past Shaun George, but assuming you get the W, and rack up a few more, it puts you in a good spot with some really good names: Dawson, Hopkins, Jones Jr, Calzaghe. These names here not only would be good fights but lucrative ones for you as well. Out of the names I mentioned, which one interests you the most?
CB: Roy Jones Jr of course. I have always looked at Roy as the mark of boxing for me. Skill wise, I always thought “man, if I fought Roy how would I match up in skill and speed and elusiveness”. In any category, he has always been the major benchmark, I respect Roy as a boxer and always have, and now as a pro he was a former heavyweight champion at the same time as I was, now to make a match-up at light heavyweight, it would be strange to the public thinking about it, but me personally I am like wow. Who would of ever thought that Chris Byrd and Roy Jones Jr would meet up as light heavyweights. I think it would be a great match-up.
BH: Is there any message you would like to send out to Shaun or the 175-pound division?
CB: No, I have done enough talking, talking was to tell people that I was getting into this weight class, I have no boxing message for anybody. My thing is the Gospel, I have a message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for people that don't know Him personally, I would like to get that message out.
BH: Anything in closing?
CB: To the boxing fans, I appreciate them, I am thankful for all the prayers, and hopefully as a light heavyweight I can do the same thing and win titles. And make entertaining fights for the fans.
I would like to thank Steve Cunningham as well as Tracy Byrd for helping out with this interview. A thanks goes out to Chris Byrd for his time and thoughts. For more info on Chris, please visit: www.chrisbyrdboxing.com.
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