Klitschko Batters Byrd - What's Next?

MANNHEIM, Germany -- The supremacy of American heavyweights was shattered at the SAP Arena in Manheim, Germany, when Wladimir Klitschko (46-3, 41 KOs) stopped Chris Byrd (39-3-1, 20 KOs) in seven rounds to capture the IBF heavyweight title.

Vladimir Klitschko of Ukraine celebrates as he is declared the winner and new International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight champion by after defeating Chris Byrd of the U.S. in their title fight in the west German city of Mannheim April 22, 2006.

This was a rematch of bout which took place in October 2000 and on that night, Klitschko busted up Byrd en route to capturing the WBO heavyweight title. During the course of the fight, Byrd was knocked down twice and took a beating. The rematch was far worse, as a more stationary Byrd was hit with the huge right hand of Klitschko almost at will.

The strategy of Byrd was to make Klitschko fight at an aggressive pace in order to zap him of his stamina before the second half of the fight. Byrd was attempting to use the same strategy his cousin, former champion Lamon Brewster, successfully used against Klitschko in 2004.

The problem with Byrd's strategy is the fact that while constantly going to the body, he left his head wide open and despite the best efforts of his corner, he was not showcasing any form of head movement to get away from Klitschko's right hand.

The bout began with both fighters being very tactical. By the second round, Klitschko began to unload with hard jabs that were punctuated by right hand missiles. The right eye of Byrd began swelling rapidly by the third round.

In the fifth round, Byrd was sent to the canvas for the first time in the bout, courtesy of a Klitschko right hand and barely made it out of the round as Klitschko pounced on his prey and threw a voluminous amount of punches to Byrd's head. To his credit, Byrd was able to take the punches and made it out of the round. Byrd was attempting to lure Klitschko into extending a lot of his energy, but a smarter Klitschko picked up on Byrd's strategy and began to pace himself as he battered Byrd for the remainder of the round.

There was no change in the sixth round with Klitscko landing more right hands and Byrd barely landing any punches that would even remotely hurt his opponent. The seventh was the beginning of the end as Klitschko began to impose his will by being more aggressive with his punches. Following a combination and two hard right hands, Byrd was sent to the canvas once again and this time he appeared to be a physical mess once he rose off the deck.

Byrd was wobbling, his face was a bloody swollen mess and the referee, Wayne Kelly, had seen enough and stopped the contest.

Klitschko, only 30-years-old, can make a serious case for himself as once again being the best heavyweight in the division. Now that he holds one fourth of the heavyweight crown, he is looking to unify the division.

Hasim Rahman, the WBC heavyweight champion, already has two fights to contend with and will likely not be an option until 2007. There is a mandatory date in the wings for Rahman to meet Oleg Maskaev, who knocked Rahman out several years ago.

Should Maskaev once again win, all of the heavyweight titles will be held by European fighters from the former Soviet union. Regardless of the winner, the WBC has ordered the winner to face James Toney, which should take place by the end of the year if time permits.

The newly crowned WBO heavyweight champion, Sergei Liakhovich, has a rematch coming his way with Lamon Brewster. The winner of that bout could end up in the Klitschko sweepstakes. Of course Klitschko would be banking on Brewster to win, in order to set up a big-money rematch to avenge his 2004 defeat.

Last, but not least, is the seven-foot Nikolay Valuev, who is undefeated and holds the WBA heavyweight title. A clash between Klitschko and Valuev could be the biggest heavyweight fight to come to either Germany or Ukraine in the history of the two countries. The fight is still big in the United States, but the amount of money involved with staging the fight overseas would absolutely send the promoters packing across the ocean.

All of these fights are possibilities and right now Klitschko is back to being the fighter everyone within the division wants to fight, because he draws the most money among the current crop of heavyweights. Should none of these fights come to fruition, the Klitschko camp is already looking towards a fight against undefeated Calvin Brock, if Brock defeats undefeated Timur Ibrigamov in June.

Source: FOX Sports