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Time to hang 'em up for Chris Byrd

Bad Left Hook Unofficial Scorecard
 Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total
 Chris Byrd 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 9     71
 Shaun George 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 TKO   80
Bad Left Hook Unofficial Scorecard
 Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total
 Koba Gogoladze                  
 Jin-Hoo Kim TKO                
Bad Left Hook Unofficial Scorecard
 Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 Total
 Ruslan Provodnikov 9 10 10 10 10 9 58
 Brian Gordon 10 9 9 9 9 10 56



Chris Byrd's 40-pound drop to the light heavyweight division at age 37 didn't go how he wanted it to, and in light of his performance on "Friday Night Fights," it is clearly time for the former two-time heavyweight titlist to turn his gloves in and move on.

A motivated, strong, and in-prime Shaun George was way too much for the ex-titleholder, knocking Byrd down in the first round and twice in the ninth before Byrd told referee Jay Nady to stop the fight in that ninth round, giving George a dominant TKO win against a man hoping to find a career rebirth with a newly conditioned physique that failed him when the test came to pass.

It was pretty obvious from the get-go that this was just plain it for Chris Byrd. Floored in the first round, you could tell that he just wasn't himself anymore. His losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin in recent years were very predictable; at his age, he had too long extened his natural physical capabilities by fighting bigger, stronger men in the heavyweight division.

But his swan song was something else. An unheralded fighter with obvious physical gifts but several flaws that have kept him at the level he currently resides, George (17-2-2, 8 KO) manhandled Byrd with counter and lead right hands, punishing him with ease as the fight progressed. In the middle rounds, Byrd was at least able to marginally slow George. But in the end, he ate one shot too many without dishing anything back, and a brutal fall in the ninth on the first knockdown separated his shoulder. He was taken to the hospital after the fight.

And it was a fight that, despite the conclusion, saw Chris Byrd go out on his shield. No one will mistake Byrd for a mix-it-up warrior, but he was always very tough. He'd have to be to fight those guys he did. Both Klitschko brothers, Ike Ibeabuchi, David Tua, Evander Holyfield, and others found themselves in the ring with Byrd, who always refused to back down or give up on himself. Even though he probably did the best he could do last night, it was not enough. Or even close to enough.

All kudos to Shaun George, who was simply much, much better than Chris Byrd. With any luck, George could find himself main eventing another ESPN2 card or on a bigger undercard sometime soon. A fight I'd like to see to test him would be one against Chris Henry, who recently lost a competitive bout to Adrian Diaconu. George has fought mostly at cruiserweight, but he looked very comfortable and very strong at light heavyweight.

For Byrd (40-5-1, 21 KO) this has to be the end. His lean, trim physique was enough to keep me wondering what could have been had he fought at 175 pounds for his career, but he did not. He was a heavyweight, and he was a good one.  And he was always a good guy, never caused any controversy by complaining about losses or claiming he was drugged or any of the other crap that we hear from other fighters. When he was beaten, he was beaten, and he left it at that.

In fact, at one point tonight, ringside commentator Brian Kenny said that Byrd came over to he and co-commentator Shannon Briggs and said, "I look like crap." He understood it was a lost cause, but he never stopped trying.

On the undercard, Jin-Hoo Kim upset veteran Koba Gogoladze with a first round TKO, dropping him with a short counter shot reminiscent of Vic Darchinyan's loss to Nonito Donaire, and stopping him just moments after Gogoladze got back to his feet. In the TV opener, junior welterweight prospect Ruslan Provodnikov stirred the memory of Kostya Tszyu with a six-round unanimous decision over an extremely game Brian Gordon in a hell of a good fight, a six-round shootout. Here's looking forward to seeing more of Provodnikov, and more of the gutsy, double tough Gordon, for that matter.

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