August 10, 2001 – By Paul Upham: IBF No.2 Chris Byrd (left) is expecting a tough battle when he faces IBF No.1 David Tua over 12 rounds at the Thomas & Mack Centre in Las Vegas on August 18. The card will be televised on Showtime in the US and will determine the IBF’s mandatory contender for heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.
“I do consider this to be one of my toughest challenges. Tua is the No. 1 contender. He has fought a lot of the top heavyweights,” said Byrd, 33-2 (19).
“I do not think Tua will be easy to box. I think he will be more determined. I am training for a guy that will come forward and try to knock me out.”
Byrd earned his No.2 ranking with a unanimous points decision win over Maurice Harris in April on the Trinidad-Joppy undercard in New York. “I was sort of happy with my performance against Harris. Certain things happened during the fight that weakened me, but I have to be happy with the win,” continued Byrd.
The former WBO heavyweight champion lost his title to Wladimir Klitschko last October and has tried to strengthen himself physically whilst maintaining his slick defensive boxing style.
Byrd’s only other loss was to the now imprisoned undefeated heavyweight Ike Ibeabuchi in March 1999. “For the Tua fight, I am concerned with being in great shape, confident and focused on what I have to do. The Ike Ibeabuchi fight was even. It was not like he was just wearing me out,” said Byrd, who turns 31 next Wednesday.
“I just got caught. They said throw and just hit anything. Wherever it lands, it lands. The big punch landed. I just have to be more cautious about what I am doing and stick to the game plan. I am not worried about the pressing style. Everyone presses me because I am a small guy. I am more than ready for the challenge.”
“The heavyweight division is changing. When I first moved up in weight, I was considered just a normal size heavyweight. Now, I am basically a cruiserweight fighting against these big guys. I am very competitive and more than willing to take on any challenge.”
Despite being out-weighed by in some cases 20 and 30 lbs., Byrd seems himself as a genuine world title contender. “Right now, I am about 217lbs. By the fight, I probably will be 212lbs. I have a little man mentality. You rarely see little guys quit in the boxing ring. You see a lot of big guys quit. We have to get in there and fight these big guys and show them we have got heart too,” said Byrd.
“I am a pure boxer and I like to use my boxing skills to my advantage. You have to come forward against these big guys that outweigh you and have the reach and height advantage. It throws your game off a little. However, you cannot quit. You have to stay in there and attempt to win the fight.
“I am just more determined. I am just going to stick to what I do best in the ring. Iknow Tua is a very strong, determined guy, but I am equally strong and determined. You can hit me with three punches. I am going to come back at you with three or four. My thing is to fight.”
“Chris is the most feared voluntary challenge out there for any heavyweight. My brother (Joe Goossen) always says that he is just like a big Michael Nunn, which is a tough guy to fight and a tough guy to beat,” said Tua’s promoter Dan Goossen, who is very happy with the response to this important clash title ‘Mandatory War’.
“Tickets are going very, very well. We have got over half the arena sold. For anyone that doesn’t know anything about the Cox Pavilion, it’s a sister arena to the Thomas and Mack Centre and is attached to the Thomas and Mack Centre. It’s about 3,100 seats and when people see this in person or on TV they are going to love it,” said Goossen.
The next mandatory defence of the IBF title held by Rahman is due in April 2002. With a Rahman-Lewis re-match appeared to be scheduled for November 10 with the winner scheduled to defend the WBC title against Mike Tyson next, the winner of Byrd-Tua will be waiting a little while to find out who their world title shot will be against.
“If I beat David Tua, I want to fight Mike Tyson. By then, I know I will have the style to beat him,” said Byrd, who realises a loss will seriously derail his plans for another heavyweight title.
“If I lose convincingly, a trip to cruiserweight could be in my future. I look at that and I know I could clean up in the cruiserweight division. If Tua beats me, there may become a point where I may have to move down in weight,” said Byrd.
In what is a classic boxer versus puncher match-up, both fighters enter the ring knowing that victory will guarantee them a shot at the world title and a bigger pay day, but Byrd is only focused on beating Tua, 38-2 (33).
“I am going to have to take Tua’s punch if he connects. We are going to find out. I am a very determined guy. I can take a pretty good punch. They are going to have to take me out on the stretcher because I am the type of guy that will not quit. Tua can take everyone else’s punches. I have never seen him go down when guys hit him. I am very fast and I am at the top of my game, so he better be very prepared,” said Byrd
“I am going to have to get Tua off of me. I am not going to have him walk straight in and bully me around. I am going to use whatever it takes to use the things I do best in the ring. A lot of people think he is going to just rush in and blow me out. That is crazy.”
David Tua will be looking for the knockout through the fight, but if it does go the distance, Byrd is very confident of victory. “If we go 12 rounds, he is not going to beat me. He better knock me out clean. I am in great shape and I am looking to win rounds and move on. Even though he puts out pressure, I do the same thing.”