In this special “On The Ropes” interview, I talk to one of that last American heavyweight champions, former 2 time title holder, Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd. While being undersized for most of his career, Chris Byrd fought and beat some of the biggest names in the heavyweight division, holding wins over Vitali Klitschko and Evander Holyfield.
Chris gives his thoughts on the current state of the division and some of the contenders coming up, such as Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Byrd also gives his view on the future of Adrien Broner and where goes after his defeat to Marcos Maidana. Additionally Chris discusses what could be next for boxing stars Floyd Mayweater Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, breaking down each of their potential fights, and also giving a look forward to what fights he would like to see in the 2014. Here is what Chris Byrd had to say.
Jenna J: Chris, it has been a little bit since we’ve seen you in the boxing ring, you’ve been retired. Can you tell the fans what you’ve been up to?
Chris Byrd: Well I have an internet boxing show called The Byrd’s Eye View http://www.youtube.com/user/CHRISBYRDBOXING, I’m training boxers also and motivational speaking, I’ve been pretty busy.
Jenna: I want to get your view on the heavyweight division, where it sits today. What do you think about Wladimir Klitschko still being perceived as the best guy out there, Vitali Klitschko retiring, and some of the guys coming up?
Byrd: Yeah it’s kind of interesting, you still got Wladimir as that guy that is really unbeatable and in talking to him recently, he loves being champion. He’s gonna take on all challengers, he feels like can’t get beat right now. He’s a hard task to handle for any young heavyweight coming up, but you do have some young heavyweights that are coming up that are gonna take over after Wladimir gets older or retires.
The heavyweights are really coming back, a lot of guys are starting to pop up, not great talent but a lot of size, height and strength, and I think eventually the talent and skill set will be there to make a great heavyweight champion some day out of one of these guys.
Jenna: Chris, the top American contender right now is Deontay Wilder, and while he has knocked out everyone he’s faced, people have questioned his opponents to get this point. What do you think of the road Wilder has taken?
Byrd: They can question the talent level he’s been facing of course, he’s got 30 fights, 30 knock outs, but at the same time, he started boxing fairly late and won a bronze medal at the Olympics, so he’s a guy that is on the fast track because of the Olympics and winning a medal and just the amateur background, that was short as far as experience, so you gain it in fights in the professional ranks.
I look at 30 fights and not really fighting anybody and him really learning how to be that complete heavyweight, hey it takes time. His time’s gonna come, just like anybody else, they’re not rushing him. He has height on his side, which you can’t teach height, it’s a hard thing.
People can look at match ups of guys and say, “This guy is good” and he can be 6’1 but got better upper vision, but you still got to face the height, the size and the punching power of Deontay Wilder, so it makes him a hard match up with anybody.
Jenna: There is another guy that is getting some attention, and it’s not all for what he has done in the ring. Tyson Fury talks as well as he fights, what do you think of him and the path he has taken?
Byrd: Well everybody knows him, especially in the boxing world in his home country in England, everybody knows him. It’s a ploy to gather attention for yourself as you gain momentum of fighting for the title and it gets you into those kinds of fights.
But just like anything else, if you talk it, you have to continuously back it up, but he’s proven it, he’s backing it up, willing to fight anybody and I give him credit on that. A guy that’s willing to fight guys, that talks trash but is willing to back it up also, hey that’s an A+ in my book because that’s what it’s about. If you want to be the best, and you talk trash, back it up and fight the best.
Jenna: Speaking of fighters that talk, Adrien Broner ended 2013 losing convincingly to Marcos Maidana. Where do you think he goes after that defeat?
Byrd: With Broner, in my opinion it all depends on, is he gonna come back at 147? or is he gonna go back to 135 or 140? and how is his mind set going to each fight now, is he gonna take these guys seriously? You can talk the trash, that’s cool, everybody can talk trash and say how great you are and this and that.
At the same time, when the referee says “Seconds out” and everybody gets down, it’s just you and the boxer, that’s when you got to take it serious. When that bell rings, all the trash talking goes out the window, guys are coming to win belts, and they’re trying to win off the main guy who’s Adrien Broner, he’s the target every time he gets in the ring, so you take everything serious, just like Floyd Mayweather.
Floyd can talk anything he wants to say outside the ring and what he’s gonna do, but he backs it up with a skill set because he takes these guys seriously every time he gets in the ring. That’s the difference in my opinion between Floyd and Broner, Broner’s not taking these guys serious, Floyd’s taking them serious and he truly believes in his skills that he’s gonna dominate every fight.
Jenna: There is a lot of talk right now about who Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight next. Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana are the front runners, but is seems no one want to see Khan get the fight. Which fighter will make for a better match up for Floyd?
Byrd: In my opinion, style wise I think Amir Khan gives Floyd a better fight. I think Maidana plays into Floyd’s hands, I mean I was a pure boxer, a slickster, I wanted guys like Maidana for my style, which is Floyd’s and he loves those types of styles, come swinging, make them miss, make them think, slow the fight down and it’s an easy run.
It’s style wise, I’m not saying Maidana is not worthy, of course he is, he can fight and punch, but his style is perfect for Floyd Mayweather, where Amir Khan changes it up a little bit. He’s a little taller, a little longer, he can box, he’s got pretty fast hands and can throw combinations.
If he can do things right, he can give Floyd problems, more problems than Maidana. Anything can happen in a fight but style wise, I think Amir Khan is a harder match up for Floyd than Maidana.
Jenna: I can’t mention Mayweather without also talking about this other fighter. Manny Pacquiao, he’s coming off a win, and now he is looking for his next fight. Between Timothy Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov, what fight will be a better match up for Pacquiao?
Byrd: Well I think the rematch with Bradley and Pacquiao would be interesting because they know each other. Everybody feels that Pacquiao won and I think they both would change up, especially Bradley would change up a little more in the fight in the way he goes about it to try to win the fight clear cut.
It’s an interesting match up in my opinion with Provodnikov and Manny. Provodnikov, I call him the new boxing action hero, he brings the fire, he brings it till the end and he just keeps coming and fighting, but that can play into Pacquiao’s hands also because now Pacquiao with the angles, being a lefty, combinations, and he still has some pop in his hands.
If he can keep him off for 12 rounds, that can turn into a fight where Pacquiao can dominate, but at the same time, Provodnikov brings the fire. I think the crowd, and all the people want to see Provodnikov-Pacquiao and see how that fight comes about, then the winner of that fights Bradley. I look at Provodnikov-Pacquiao as the main match up.
Jenna: If it is Bradley next, who do you think the rematch goes to based on what you have seen from both their last fights?
Byrd: Well honestly how Pacquiao fought Brandon Rios, throwing the combinations, using angles, of course in the first fight everyone thought he won. I thought he slightly edged Bradley, great fight but I think he edged him.
I think him being smart and if he’s staying on course like he stayed in his last fight, just boxing and throwing those combinations, using the angles and being smart. The edge goes to Pacquiao.
Jenna: Looking forward to 2014 Chris, there are a lot of fights that could be made. What fights would you like to see happen?
Byrd: Oh man there are a lot of fights out there, I can think of two names I really want to see, it’s Kovalev-Stevenson at light heavyweight, I mean that class of two guys, two punchers, two guys with different styles, I think for the light heavyweight division that could be a big one, a barn burner.
There are so many guys, so much talent out there, rich in almost every division there are just great match ups. You got Cotto vs. Martinez, heck you go Martinez and GGG, heck you go GGG-Andre Ward, you go Andre Ward vs. whoever, it endless! You go from light weight to junior lightweight, to welterweight to 140.
Think about how loaded 140 is, there are so many match ups, so much talent out there that I think 2014 is going to be an explosion, cause 2013 was huge! I mean it was a great year of boxing, boxing is so alive right now I think 2014 is going to be even better.