News April 2016

Fury and Klitschko meet in Manchester


By @John_Evans79

Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko came face to face for the first time since the self styled 'Gypsy King' shocked the boxing world and stole the Ukrainian's prized heavyweight titles away with a punch perfect performance in Dusseldorf last November. The pair met at the Manchester Arena to publicise their heavily anticipated rematch which will take place at the famous venue on July 9th.

Klitschko, 64-4 (53 KO's), strolled into the press conference a few minutes before the champion and looked calm, relaxed and extremely slim as he happily chatted away with press conference host, John Rawling, and various other members of his team. Fury's appearance at the top of one of the cavernous arena's stairwells seemed to raise the hackles of the two time champion of the world and, by the time Fury had finished a long dance routine, Klitschko cut a taut, tense figure.

His decision to break out of his clean cut, professional image and explicitly tell Fury, 25-0 (18 KO's) and from Manchester, where to go was either a spur of the moment outburst provoked by the very sight of the 27 year old or a carefully planned comment designed to put Fury into an aggressive mindset from the very first press conference. Either way, it was a clue to the mindset of the 40 year old modern great who seems fully aware that something needs to change if he is to regain his belts.

Fury was Fury. His patter ranged from laughter and joviality to aggression and angst, he is a fighter Klitschko clearly struggles to get a hold on. He may well have stripped off to display his less than svelte physique but rest assured, his uncle, Peter, will ensue he arrives in Manchester on July 9th in optimum condition.

It was the first act of what promises to be a mesmerising few months. The fight will be screened exclusively live in the UK on BoxNation.

Video courtesy of those hard working boys at iFL TV

Davies gets Argentinian test to cement rise to No.8 in the world


Fresh from his recent stoppage win over normally durable Finn, Jarkko Putkonen, for the WBA continental super-lightweight title in Liverpool in March, rising scouse star Robbie Davies jnr. gets an early chance to defend the belt against another highly rated opponent – Argentina’s WBA Fedebol super-lightweight champion, Xavier Luques Castillo – in Wigan at the end of the month.

Scheduled for a suite at the town’s football stadium – the first time the venue has hosted boxing - Castillo is yet another significant step up in class for the hard-hitting and likeable 26-year old who is fast fulfilling his 2015 promise to both stay busy and, results dependant, continue his rapid and upward rise through the rankings.

Recently elevated to no. 8 in the world by the WBA, just one position behind former world champion Ricky Burns, Davies, trained by Dave Tonks in Liverpool, said: “The win over Putkonen was my ninth early stoppage win from 12 fights. I know I’m the hardest hitter in the division domestically. That’s why none of the lads supposedly ranked above me want to face me, but I need to get the rounds in and, in Castillo – who is Argentinian champion – I’m looking to get them. Saying that, if I get another early stoppage win then I won’t be complaining.”

The domestic super-lightweight division is certainly hotting up at present and a win for either Burns, who faces Italian Michele De Rocco – the current European champion - in Glasgow on 21 May for the WBA world title, the same night Willie Limond faces Tyrone Nurse for the British crown, could set up Davies for a contest against any of them. They are all chances he would relish.

“I know I’m ready for these sort of fights and, provided I beat Castillo, I would take them no problem. Whether they agree or not is the big question though isn’t it? There isn’t a super-lightweight in the country who hits as hard as me so I think it’d be a big risk for them – any of them. If they [the fights] can be made then I’m confident I would win. If they can’t be made, then that’s no problem either. My manager, Neil Marsh, has got me a good title and to no. 8 in the world - there are plenty of other options out there for me.”

Castillo, a native of Cordoba, near the geographical centre of Argentina, is a year older than Davies and, since turning pro in 2012, has 15 wins, five early, from 20 contests. Stopped only once, in December 2013, he won his country’s super-lightweight crown in devastating fashion in July last year – stopping 19-0 Mauro Godoy in the first round.

Davies heads a three-fight show at the DW Stadium, Wigan, on Saturday 30 April, which also features the return of unbeaten super-bantamweight Kid Galahad. Kirkham welterweight, Adam Little, and Preston’s heavyweight hope, Bill Hodgson, complete the card. All tables have been sold with £30 tickets available from the venue and Robbie Davies: @RobbieDaviesJr, Dave Tonk:s: @TonkGym, Adam Little: @adamlittle12, Bill Hodgson: @billhodgson1 and Alan Levene: @alanlevene

Massey delights fans. Murray returns with KO win


By @John_Evans79

VIP Promotions returned to the beautiful Devonshire Dome in Buxton for their latest show and local hero, Jack Massey, thrilled the capacity crowd with a clinical first round dismantling of Robert Rosenberg.

Massey didn’t allow himself to get carried away by the atmosphere inside the famous old building and patiently waited for an opening to present itself. When he did see an opportunity, he took full advantage. A right hand behind the ear dropped Rosenberg and although the Czech visitor clambered to his feet and just about beat the count, he wasn’t able to repeat the feat when Massey landed another right hand just seconds later. The hundreds of fans who made the short trip from Chapel-en-le-Frith were absolutely delighted and can probably pencil in another trip to the beautiful venue for this summer.

Exciting ticket sellers are all too rare these days but Massey’s manager, Steve Wood, has expertly guided multiple featherweight champion, Josh Warrington, to local hero status in Leeds and must have a similar path in mind for the 23 year old cruiserweight. The 200lb division is crying out for somebody to take hold of it and Massey, now 10-0 (5 KO’s), is one to watch. As his trainer, Bobby Rimmer, said after the fight, “The secret is out now.”

Joe Murray returned to the ring after a 14 month lay off and stopped Abdon Cesar in the second of a scheduled six round battle of Olympians. Murray represented Great Britain at the Beijing Games in 2008 while Cesar fought for Cameroon at London 2012. Levenshulme’s Murray, 29, was clearly eager to make a statement on his comeback and quickly grew frustrated by Cesar’s unorthodox, clinch friendly style. The ‘Genius’ is the type of fighter who relies on timing and hand speed and once he settled down the gulf in class between the pair began to show and Murray found his mark with more and more frequency. A right hand dropped Cesar as the second round drew to a close and, although he beat the count, he was on shaky legs and failed to convince the referee that he was able to continue. It was a perfectly timed stoppage.

Trained by his decorated brother, John, at the Murray Machines gym in Denton, Murray, 16-2 (7 KO’s), seems determined to make a real go of the second chapter of his career and if his undoubted natural talent is matched by a real commitment to the sport, he seems certain to be a major player on the domestic scene before too long. Murray will get better and better with each outing.

Glossop’s Adam Hague was awarded a decision victory over Plymouth’s Chris Adaway after an excellent six round contest at light welterweight. Although he was awarded a 59-56 verdict, the one sided nature of the scoring gives Adaway little credit for a gutsy, ambitious display and Hague was forced to work for every minute of there fight. Trained by former European welterweight champion, Matthew Hatton, Hague impressively used his feet to dart in and out of range during the opening rounds but was forced to grit his teeth and dig in during the middle rounds when Adaway began to find a home for his longer punches. Hague passed his stamina test with flying colours and can be extremely pleased with his evenings work. He moves on to 7-0 (1 KO).

Jake Bulger, 3-0, overcame the disappointment of a late change of opponent and outpointed Kristin Laight over four rounds. Failsworth’s Bulger fought Laight at the very same venue in his last outing but maintained his focus and discipline and went about his business in a professional manner. Laight answered the call at just a few hours notice and lived up to his ‘Mr Reliable’ nickname once again. Bulger, 23, is a talented fighter who currently trains alongside WBO lightweight champion, Terry Flanagan at Steve Maylett’s Finest gym and learned his trade in the same Fox Amateur Boxing Club that produced Anthony Crolla and Denton Vassell. Although it was probably a horrible and unpredictable day, experiences like last nights will do him the world of good.

Lee Gillespie got the action underway with a four round victory over Fonz Alexander at welterweight. Gillespie, 28, was only added to the card earlier in the week and performed in a relaxed manner. During the first three rounds he produced some of the best work of his professional career to date. During the fourth, probably due to tiredness, his work rate and concentration dropped and Alexander - who is one of the sports more ambitious opponents - rocked him with a big right hand. On the whole though, it was impressive performance for Gillespie who trains out of the Irlam Boxing Academy. He takes his record to 6-0.

Former two time heavyweight champion Chris Byrd talks career, Klitschko bros and AJ potential


By Michael J Jones

BEING A HEAVYWEIGHT boxing geek I find myself asking a question I’m genuinely intrigued by. “What do I weigh now? I’m 192lbs and still in good shape” replies former two-time heavyweight champion Chris Byrd, now 45-years-old.

Not many heavyweight champs drop a chunk of weight after retirement but it’s fair to say Byrd, from a big boxing family, is no ordinary man.

In an hour-long interview with, Byrd often refers to himself as “a little guy” when discussing various points of his 41-5-1 (22) fight career. For a smaller heavyweight at 6’1½” and around 210lbs, “Rapid Fire” didn’t do badly at all; twice winning portions of the heavyweight championship and claiming the scalps of Vitali Klitschko, David Tua and Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield among many others.

Amazingly, Byrd had won an Olympic Silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games as a slender middleweight, losing a close decision to Cuban Ariel Hernandez in the final.

After an outstanding 275-33 amateur career, it was early into his pro campaign the prospect made the decision to bulk up to compete with the big men of boxing.

“I started boxing very young and my Father (Joe Byrd who coached his son all through his career) wanted me to box regularly so I was boxing exhibitions for a long time before I started competing at the age of ten. Back then me and all the other boxers would fight every single weekend my Father took us everywhere through Canada and all over the USA to box.”

“I was a three-time US champion in 1989, 91’ and 92’ but I also made every final from 1988 to 92’ which meant I made the finals for five years straight which was a big accomplishment for me. I went to the Olympics and was one step from a Gold medal and I lost a close decision I really thought I won.”

“When I turned pro as an Olympic Silver Medallist, I expected to live for a while off my medal but I ended up on independent shows. After a couple of fights like that I ended up not boxing for about a year and a half. A manager contacted me about signing me and I agreed to meet him in Vegas. I went up there and put all my hopes on that meeting only to be told he’d signed a heavyweight instead.”

“I was so distraught I nearly cried so I decided there and then; I was going to become a heavyweight.”

The determined southpaw ate himself to his new weight division and fully admits he never bulked up in the correct way but stayed hungry in his quest to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

“I trashed my body in that time just eating bad foods but I kept at the weight. I boxed often on the Tuesday Night Fight shows in front of small audiences and I was like ‘wow I’m an Olympic Silver Medallist and this is how it is?’ People looked at me and said I looked fat but I was still elusive and determined. I didn’t care how small I was I worked hard to succeed.”

Although the Michigan heavyweight remained under the radar for much of his first five years as a pro, his early record is littered with familiar names in the heavyweight ranks such as former world title challengers Phil Jackson and Bert Cooper plus solid contenders like Jimmy Thunder and Elieser Castillo.

“I fought, at that time, a lot of guys who were fringe contenders and guys who had just fought in major fights; like when I fought Lionel Butler it was just after he’d fought Lennox Lewis. They were fighters who had been good and were veterans but also there were a lot of other guys then who just didn’t want to fight me.”

“I was 15-0 and I called out the big three; Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. When George Foreman won the title (in late 94’), he gave HBO a long list of guys he was willing to face (in his first defence), and then he had a list of one guy he didn’t want to fight; and that one guy was me.”

“Years later when the IBF elimination tournament was arranged David Tua even tried to sue me saying I wasn’t worthy of fighting him all because he didn’t want to fight me. That’s why I give Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko a lot of credit they actually wanted to, and were willing, to face me.”

After making his debut in January 1993, Byrd would stay undefeated for over six years and accumulate a 26-0 (14) record. Fast becoming one of the most avoided fighters of recent years, Byrd was eventually pitted with the menacing Ike Ibeabuchi in March 1999 in Washington.

Ibeabuchi, nick-named “The President”, was 19-0 (14) and feared after coming through a war to take David Tua’s unbeaten record two years previously. It was thus a match between two young, talented unbeaten heavyweight prospects yet Byrd held no fear ahead of the bout.

“I felt they put Ike on a pedestal after he beat Tua” Byrd reflects some 17 years later. “With big muscular guys like that I always had the intention to drag them into the second half of the fight. I’d make them miss, frustrate them and then when they tired, take over.”

“I did that with another big muscular guy in Jimmy Thunder (stopping him in the ninth) and I honestly thought I’d do the same to Ike. He had great stamina against Tua but its more draining hitting air than hitting the target so I really thought I was going to wear him down.”

For four rounds, Byrd kept Ibeabuchi at distance and avoided any big punches. Quicker of hand and foot, “Rapid Fire” was more than holding his own until a devastating left hook turned the fight on its head in the fifth round.

“I weighed in at 208lbs for that fight. You see I was never a heavyweight, that was 208 weighing in fully dressed with my body full of liquids. In essence, as in many of my fights, I was a cruiserweight against a heavyweight. He was a solid 244lbs…its heavyweight boxing and he just caught me before I could take the sting out of him.”

“The shot he caught me with; any other heavyweight would have gone down. I give him credit but it was something I worried about my whole career. I was a little guy and with these bigger guys they hit unbelievably hard and throw massive shots.”

“I was still avoided after Ike beat me though.”

Following his first defeat, Byrd reeled off five wins by way of knock-out before gaining a late call to challenge WBO champion Vitali Klitschko in Germany following the late withdrawal of “Razor” Ruddock.

“I got the call on the Thursday, left for Germany on the Sunday so I only had three days of training at home and a few days there in Germany to prepare it was like a whirlwind. I always said I’d fight anyone, any-time and I was just glad he was willing to fight me.”

The contest 16 years ago to the month, began with the older Klitschko brother looking to hammer home his lead hand against his much-smaller opponent. Byrd struggled to make much of an impression but had more success as the bout progressed and by rounds eight and nine was actually bringing the fight to the defending champion.

The 27-0 Ukrainian was way ahead on the cards after nine rounds but, shockingly, retired on his tool citing a torn rotator cuff to the disgust of the US commentators. Chris Byrd was the new WBO heavyweight champion of the world.

“Vitali was big, strong and good…but you just don’t quit” says Byrd critically, one of only two men to ever claim victory over Vitali. “I once fought a ten-rounder, broke my nose bad in the second and still went nine more rounds and won. Another time I had my ribs smashed and carried on…I was always taught by my Mother and Father ‘don’t ever quit’ …see I was all about being a finesse guy but I was also very tough.”

Was the winner sure the injury was real following his upset of Vitali?

“Well…he was a guy who was used to knocking guys out and dominating. He never came close to knocking me out so he was probably tiring and there I was coming on so he probably lost some heart. I also was throwing good body shots and I’m sure a few of those hurt him but it was still a huge surprise when he quit. I had all kinds of injuries through my career and never complained.”

“I watched the British guy Danny Williams dislocate his shoulder in a fight that wasn’t even for the world title and he just carried on and knocked the guy out…fighters should never quit!”

Alas the euphoria of being the new WBO champion was unfortunately short-lived as Byrd was prevented by a man hell-bent on avenging his brother’s loss…

“It was crazy as they made (Wladimir) the number one contender and then wouldn’t let me fight until that match was made. I ended up out of the ring over six months while he boxed twice in that time. They kept saying the fight was made and then finding an excuse to postpone and change the dates. I lost the fight but I got played big time and I realised I wasn’t the main man at all.”

The twelve round world title bout in Cologne turned out to be a bad match-up for the defending champion who was out-muscled and down twice before dropping a 120-106, 119-107 and 118-108 points decision.

“It was just a tough match-up for me” sighs Chris. “Vitali was a big strong guy but it was just totally different with Wladimir. It was something about his size, jab or style and he gave me a good licking.”

Not dwelling on his second pro reverse, Byrd regrouped the next year to lift the USBA belt with a decision over dangerous-but-erratic Maurice Harris before being pitted against murderous punching Kiwi David Tua as part of the IBF’s tournament to find their new top contender. Most people thought Tua would prove too strong but Byrd had other ideas…

“Tua was a guy I’d actually wanted to fight my whole career” Byrd reveals to Livefight. “I thought he beat Ike (Ibeabuchi) in that fight; it was close but I felt David won. Everybody thought I’d get knocked out because he hit so hard but he was shorter than me and I always liked fighting guys who were smaller than I was.”

“Short guys would never beat me or get anywhere near me; that’s why I always wanted to fight Mike Tyson. Little aggressive guys would march at me and play into all of my traps and get frustrated. He tried to sue me to stop the fight happening as he probably knew what was going to take place.”

Byrd beat the slimmed-down Tua on a unanimous decision to retain the USBA title and lift himself to the spot of IBF number one contender in line to face linear world champion Lennox Lewis. The Brit star had just demolished “Iron” Mike Tyson in eight rounds but decided not to defend his titles against Byrd.

Shortly after “Rapid Fire” bested Tua, Lewis vacated the IBF title.

“I was so excited after beating Tua that I was going to fight Lennox Lewis who was the best of his era and the number one heavyweight on the planet at that time but it wasn’t meant to be. You see many people all the way through my career, didn’t want to fight me and it’s only after I stopped boxing I really understood that.”

“There was 24 ex-heavyweight champions who all met up recently in Florida and a few guys brought out their long-held grudges. Pinklon Thomas went at Larry Holmes bad, he’d obviously held on to that grudge for thirty years. Afterwards, Lennox came up to me and asked me why I hadn’t asked the question to why he never fought me and I just said there’s no grudge or animosity with me now my boxing career had ended.”

“I heard from various guys who had worked in Lewis’ camp that I had been discussed and was deemed a guy who was awkward and had a style which was hard to look good against but if I’d have fought Lewis and been knocked out I would have just been proud to say I fought the best guy of my era.”

In December 2002, Byrd was matched against former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in Atlantic City with the IBF crown up for grabs. Holyfield was 40-years-old but still a capable war horse who had only ever lost to Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer, Lewis and John Ruiz.

The slick Byrd was not to be denied though and put on a boxing master-class to thrash Holyfield on points to become a two-time champion.

“When I started out I wanted to face the big three; Lewis, Holyfield and Tyson. I only ever got to fight Evander and I would have liked to have boxed him when we were both in out prime and I said that to him after the final bell.”

“I saw Holyfield as a former small guy like myself and I just knew he wouldn’t be able to hit me with nothing as I was too elusive and hyped for the fight. I call that a fun fight as it was an easy one for me. He probably knew it would be tough but he had nowhere else to go; I was number one and he was number two so he had to box me.”

Following arguably the finest victory of his career Byrd would then engage in three tough distance fights back-to-back over the next two years. A close unanimous decision against Fres Oquendo was followed by a draw against the determined Andrew Golota in New York. A final, punishing, war against former sparring partner and friend Jameel McCline concluded the trio of close, many said controversial, contests.

“I didn’t really rate Oquendo but my former Olympic team-mate Montell Griffin warned me he was awkward with sneaky power and he was completely right. Oquendo hurt me a few times but I felt I did enough. My wife Tracy said during the fight I should cut off my dreadlocks as it looked like I was getting hit more than I was but I underestimated him.”

“When you win a world title you think ‘this is it’ and that’s the time to enjoy everything but it’s actually the time when people come gunning for you and start bringing their 'A plus' game because they want what you have and it was the same with Andrew Golota.”

“If I’d have boxed a non-title ten-rounder against Golota I probably would have won easily but, because I had that title, he came at me with everything…and he was absolutely huge too.”

Byrd escaped with a draw with two judges marking a score of 115-113 to each man while the third had it even at 114-114. If the champion had found Golota huge he was going to face an even bigger challenger next time out in the shape of 6’6”, 270lb Jameel McCline.

“I’d sparred Jameel and it was all OK but in the fight with those smaller gloves on it was completely different and he really put it on me. I was down in the second, rocked badly in the third and barely made it through. I honestly think that was the fight which pretty much retired me as it took so much out of me.”

“I took three months to recover from that fight. The night of the fight I didn’t want to go to asleep because I was afraid I’d never wake up. I stayed awake the whole night and never slept until the next day.”

Byrd would have one more successful defence of his IBF belt when scoring a clear decision over DaVarryl Williamson in Reno. His fifth and final defence would see him lose his title when Wladimir Klitschko scored a seventh-round stoppage win in the two men’s’ rematch.

“His lawyer called me about a fight with Klitschko and I assumed they meant Vitali” explains the 45 year old former champion. “When they said it was Wlad I was confused but it still wasn’t hard to take the fight. If I was offered right now the fight with Wlad, with seven years out of the ring and 45-years-old, I’d still take it straight away because I’m a competitor.”

“By then Wladimir had me figured out and beat me well again but it was always my intention to fight the best. My plan beforehand had been to beat Wlad and then face that giant Nicolai Valuev (then WBA champion). I never ducked nobody and I never turned any fight down even when it was for short money.”

“It’s absurd when you think about how I was this lanky, skinny kid in the 92’ Olympics and I ended up facing the hulking 96’ super-heavyweight champion twice as a pro. I was never a heavyweight but God gave me super-natural talent to achieve what I did because a man my size had no business winning anything in the heavyweight division.”

Now in the position of contender again having reigned for four years as the IBF holder, the former champion took a year out before returning with a stoppage win in the Bahamas. He would then face the streaking Alexander Povetkin back in Germany. Povetkin proved too young and strong and wore Byrd down for a late stoppage win.

Shortly afterwards, Byrd then made the bizarre decision to drop weight to compete in the 175lb light-heavyweight division. His debut at the weight was a disaster however as the bullish Shaun George pasted the jaded 37 year old in nine one-sided rounds.

“I had it in my head that I was going to show everybody I wasn’t ever a heavyweight by dropping back to light-heavyweight and that was truly the end of my career. I dropped 40lbs in five weeks and then stayed at that weight for another five before the fight. I was a marathon runner and was running 13-14 miles every day but I just didn’t look healthy.”

“At the weigh-in the commission didn’t want to let me fight; I looked anorexic and everyone said I didn’t look good. I had visions of fighting Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr but losing was the best thing. If I’d have won I may have kept fighting but, after one more fight, it was very easy to walk away.”

“What happened was, I little later got a call to go over and spar Vitali Klitschko and I did really good against him. I weighed in as a cruiserweight while he was 255lbs but I did real good; I was even the first to spar him every day. They got me a fight over there and I won but I just didn’t have the desire and passion anymore.”

“I’m very proud of what I accomplished in my career as both an amateur and a professional and many don’t get to walk away like I did with everything still in good condition so I’ve truly been blessed by God.”

Byrd still follows boxing closely and keeps a close eye on his former division and one man in particular has impressed the former champion greatly in recent years.

“Anthony Joshua man…just wow” he praises of the newly-crowned IBF champion about Britain's newest heavyweight star. “In an era of big men he’s an absolute monster. He’s young and unbelievably still improving and he has that attitude that he wants to get even better. If he works on his defence and a couple of other little things I really think he can be a very dominant heavyweight champion.”

“He’s got huge potential, a lot of ability and, if he stays hungry, the sky really is the limit.”

America’s leading heavyweight, WBC champion Deontay Wilder faces a dangerous defence on May 21st against former champion (and former Byrd opponent) Alexander Povetkin. I ask Byrd whether Wilder can come through his toughest test to date away from home?

“It’s an interesting fight and I feel Wilder is still in the learning phase of his career but he has that big right-hand. People question him but there’s no doubt he carries serious, fight-changing, power in that right. With Povetkin he brings the pressure and, if he can avoid the Wilder right, the fight will fall into his favour.”

“Some smaller guys have gotten to Wilder pretty easy and Povetkin can also but Deontay has the length and that right…I don’t want to call it but it should be a good fight.”

…and Fury-Klitschko 2 in July?

“Fury went out last time, moved, boxed and kept it long and Wladimir wasn’t used to that. Fury can do the same things and still win so it’s Klitschko who has to change from last time. Klitschko I don’t think is as confident as the smaller guy and will have to be the aggressor in the rematch.”

“The first fight favours Fury but Wladimir will need a better game-plan this time or it’ll probably be the same result again.”

The former champion has been far from idol in his seven years away from the ring. As well as coaching fighters he also has a weekly boxing show and is currently promoting ‘Champions Cigars’ alongside fellow boxing stars Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Lamon Brewster (Byrd’s cousin) and James “Lights Out” Toney.

“I’m still having a lot of fun training fighters and I’ve been promoting ‘Champs Cigars’ with the other four. We’re also trying to get a reality show on TV which would be fun.”

The southpaw David who took on the heavyweight Goliath’s and lived to tell the tale, Chris Byrd was a silky-slick, quick-handed southpaw whose style masked a grit and determination which saw him scale the heavyweight heights to twice become heavyweight champion of the world.

He was rarely appreciated for his efforts in his prime but there was no doubting he was a true world champion is a very tough era…and accomplished all as “a little guy”.

Chris “Rapid Fire” Byrd’s website

Champions Cigars website

To follow Byrd on Twitter it’s @Slipmaster92

Many thanks to Chico Sherwood for setting up this interview.

Warrington and Hall move on. Spence becomes Brook's number 1


By @John_Evans79

Josh Warrington and Stuart Hall will have both woken up feeling extremely sore but content after emerging triumphant from a noisy night at the First Direct Arena in Leeds last night.

Home town hero Warrington gritted his teeth and walked though some heavy artillery from Hisashi Amagasa and thoroughly deserved a close but clear decision whilst Hall engaged in a close quarters brawl with the incredibly tough Rodrigo Guerrero and emerged as the mandatory challenger for Lee Haskin’s IBF bantamweight title.

Neither man needed any help last night but they received some assistance anyway. Despite the brutal nip and tuck nature of his fight with Guerrero, each judge awarded Hall his victory by a six point margin. Those scores look sane compared to the cards handed in after Warrington’s battle with Amagasa. 117-111 was bad. 118-111 was worse. 120-107 is the worst scorecard I have ever heard. In each fight, the right man got the decision but the judges' cards would be laughable were they not so disheartening.

Amagasa is the most un-Japanese fighter it’s possible to imagine. Japan certainly has a flair for the unorthodox but it usually provides neat, tidy and perfectly engineered solutions. Amagasa is the antithesis of that approach. Incredibly tall for a featherweight, the Tokyo resident manages to create some serious power despite appearing off balance, disorganised, or both for the vast majority of his fights. Amagasa does possess one trait which is synonymous with his homeland. That of 'gamanzuyoi' or having a high capacity for stoic endurance. He and his team laughed their way through the supposedly intimidating atmosphere created by Warrington’s fervent fans and he shrugged off some tough moments and cut eye - caused by an accidental head clash - to provide Warrington with a stern test. People who may not have seen the fight and just glance quickly at the scores will be totally misled by the margins of victory. Amagasa deserves to return home with his head held high.

Warrington, 20-0 (5 KO’s), passed yet another test. There seems to be a tendency to underestimate the 25 year old or attribute the opportunities he receives to his fanatical support. Within the space of two and a half years, Warrington has managed to vacuum up English, Commonwealth, British and European titles and also record two wins at fringe world title level. Critics point to his perceived lack of punching power but the impression is that he hits hard enough to earn his opponents respect and his work rate and desire make up for a lack of one shot snap. Maybe he is guilty of sometimes fighting to please his supporters but a calm head will come with experience.

IBF featherweight champion, Lee Selby, is an extremely talented fighter and would be rightly favoured should the pair clash but did the Welshman face much stiffer competition than Warrington before being granted a shot at then champion, Evgeny Gradovich? A fight between the two would generate too much money for it not too happen. Selby would be wise not to follow the trend and underestimate Warrington if and when the fight does come off.

Stuart Hall, 20-4-2 (7 KO’s), continued his career renaissance with yet another hard fought victory. Rodrigo Guerrero tried manfully to make a dent in the 36 year old from Darlington but at times it was like watching somebody wale away at a marble statue. The supremely conditioned Hall was too big and strong for the game Guerrero but spent periods of the fight exhibiting the same punch output as the aforementioned statue, allowing the Mexican to rack up some rounds. When Hall upped his workmate, ‘El Gato’ struggled to keep pace. Guerrero deserves praise for dragging himself back into the fight after seemingly wanting out early on after coming off worse in a couple of head clashes with the stone skulled Hall. Again, the scorecards do the loser absolutely no justice. The former IBF super flyweight champion lost his first fight since dropping a decision to Daiki Kameda in 2013 and, at just 28 years old, will give plenty of other fighters tough work in years to come.

Since outpointing Sergio Perales back in 2013, Hall has proven himself a solid operator at world level. Lee Haskins defends his IBF bantamweight title against Ivan Morales at the Cardiff Arena in May and the winner must face Hall within 90 days.

Errol Spence, 20-0 (17 KO’s), looked sensational in stopping Chris Algieri in five rounds on Saturday night. Following the victory, Spence announced his status as the number one contender for Kell Brook’s IBF welterweight title.

It is common knowledge that Brook is desperately seeking a ‘name’ opponent next and although his next mandatory challenge isn’t due to take place until 2017, the shadow of Spence will loom large until Brook determines his path. There is a simple solution to the problem of ‘The Truth’. Face him next.

It it unfathomable that a fighter as talented as Spence would prove a hard sell. Should the Texan’s pure ability not engage the so called ‘casual’ fans then resort to the tried and tested Plan B and push him relentlessly. Spence is cool and articulate. He also has the backing of the biggest name in the sport. A ten minute vignette on Sky Sports News with Floyd Mayweather Jr extolling the virtues of the 26 year old would sell more PPV’s than months spent trying to reinvent Timothy Bradley as a 154lber or trading on Lamont Peterson’s controversial decision victory over Amir Khan. If Brook can nail down a genuine super fight at 147lbs, great. If not, then Spence is the next best option.

There are major advantages to be gained by taking Spence now. Should Matchroom win the purse bid for the fight, Spence would be forced to travel to the UK for his first world title opportunity. There is also the boon of getting Spence before he fully develops into the fighter almost every boxing expert expects him to become. From a purely financial point of view, under IBF rules Brook would be entitled to 75% of the total purse bid or the heavy side of any agreement. Again, if Spence becomes the star people think believe, the chances of getting such favourable monetary terms for a future clash are minimal.

Brook could make a major statement and derail one of the brightest lights in world boxing. High risk, high reward.

Tevin Farmer wants Smith or Selby in England. Talks Joshua conversations


By @John_Evans79

When IBF super featherweight champion, Jose Pedraza, defends his belt against Liverpool’s Stephen Smith in Connecticut this weekend, one man certain to be casting a keen eye over proceedings is new NABF 130lb champion, Tevin Farmer. In March, Philadelphia’s Farmer, 21-4-1 (5 KO’s), dropped tough former WBC world champion, Gamaliel Diaz, three times en route to a unanimous ten round decision and is awaiting his own world title tilt.

Farmer has rebuilt his career after a defeat to Pedraza four years ago and has created a unique, impulsive style. The 25 year old possesses some of the quickest reflexes in boxing and can be beautiful to watch when he uses a hit and don’t get hit style but told me recently that he had made a promise with himself to stop four of his next five opponents. That determination saw him stand toe to toe with Diaz for spells of their fight but although he hurt the tough Mexican on numerous occasions, he just couldn’t finish him off.

“I’m back in the gym already. I came out of there without a scratch,” Farmer told Livefight. “It’s a blessing. Every fight, I come out of there with nothing [wrong with him]. I stood and banged with Diaz a little bit but my defence is excellent so I avoid a lot of shots. I thought I was gonna get him out but I’d been out for eight months and I felt a little rusty. I knew that after the first round. I tried to do everything I could to get him out but I ended up just settling for the win. My timing was way off and I wanted to throw more combinations but they just wouldn’t come off. I want to be back in the ring no later than June.

“I’m ready to fight anybody, I just don’t know if they’re ready to fight me. We’re trying to get something and Lou Di Bella [Farmer’s promoter] is pushing really hard to get me something big. I’ll fight any of the champions. Any of them. Anywhere, any time, any place. They look at my record and see four losses but I have a good name. If I’m so easy, come and give me my fifth loss.”

Farmer is exactly the type of fighter that a champion might look to spring a short notice offer on as they try to get him in the the ring in less than peak condition. Fighters who turn such opportunities down tend to get blackballed. With that in mind, Farmer is determined to be ever ready.

“They could try to do that but I’m not taking anything on less than a weeks notice. Nothing less than two weeks. I’m gonna always be in shape. They might think they’d be getting an easy touch but they really wouldn’t. I won’t take a fight on less than a week. I don’t care what it is. My dignity and pride mean more to me.”

Farmer is well aware that it won’t be easy to engineer him a voluntary shot at a world title held by any of the big names who operate across the atlantic so could be forgiven for hoping that Smith pulls off a shock victory and takes the IBF title from Pedraza this weekend. Farmer isn’t adverse to taking his show on the road and is a far more complete boxer - physically and mentally - than the enthusiastic but reckless fighter who would jump at any opportunity presented to him a few years ago. Should Smith win, he is likely to aim to solidify his status as champion by defending his title in the United Kingdom before looking for eventual unification clashes. A defence against a respected American with four defeats littering his record might just be far more appealing to Smith than his contemporaries, WBC champion, Francisco Vargas, Japanese star and WBA king, Takashi Uchiyama ,and WBO champion, Rocky Martinez. Should the opportunity present itself, Farmer would love to travel to the UK. If his rivals continue to see him as too much of a risk, ‘The American Idol’ will simply grit his teeth and work his way into a mandatory position.

“I boxed Pedraza when I wasn’t really taking boxing seriously. If I had gotten in the ring with him being the fighter I am now, it’d have been a different story. I like Pedraza, though. He’s pretty good. I’ve never seen Smith fight but I would love to come to England to fight Stephen Smith. I would love to come to England to fight anybody. I fight at 130lbs but would come to England to fight [IBF featherweight champion] Lee Selby. I would drop weight to fight Selby.

“I’m probably the most avoided 130lber out here. I would definitely come to England. I seem to be building something of a UK fanbase. They really love their boxing out there and I’d love to come over and show them my talent. I want the UK to see me in person. I have a fanbase everywhere in the world and my style attracts fans so even if you don’t know me, after one round you’re gonna be rooting for me.

“I was actually talking to Anthony Joshua on direct messaging on instagram the other day. He’s a good dude. I congratulated him and he said he’d watched some of my fights and that I look good. Mutual respect. I’d love to fight on one of Anthony Joshua’s undercards and I think he’d like that too.

“Right now, I’m waiting for the WBC rankings to come out. I should be rated in the top ten of the WBC rankings very soon. After that, I’ll be one or two fights away from a mandatory position. Nobody is gonna volunteer to fight me, I can virtually guarantee it.”

Follow Tevin on twitter @TevinFarmer22

Brilliant Joshua deserves praise but sterner tests await new heavyweight champion


By Michael J Jones

LAST SATURDAY at the O2 Arena, Watford heavyweight Anthony Joshua MBE lived up to his exceptional potential by dismantling American southpaw Charles Martin in just two rounds to become the IBF heavyweight champion of the world.

In the brief clash, Joshua was punch-perfect. Setting a typically fast pace from the first bell, Joshua hurt the reigning champion with several hard shots in the first before a counter right-hand to the chin put Martin over early in the second. The 29 year old rose from the knock-down but a similar shot just moments later put him down and out after just 4 and a half minutes of action.

The groggy American stood up a fraction after the referee’s count of ‘ten’ and complained about the stoppage but, such was the ease of his demise, it’s doubtful he would have lasted another twenty seconds let alone turn the fight around.

The impressive victory raises Joshua’s record to a perfect 16-0 (16) after just two-and-a half years punching for pay. The former Olympic champion has drawn mixed reviews of his title win with many raving the muscular AJ is destined to be one of the greats while some have been scathing of the quality of Charles Martin’s performance.

Let’s review Saturday’s performance by the new IBF champion…

No, Charles Martin should never have been the IBF heavyweight champion of the world. The 6’5” Californian was given an unlikely ranking with the IBF to find himself in a vacant clash last January against decent Vyacheslav Glazkov.

After two quiet rounds Glazkov suffered a knee injury and was forced to pull out handing Martin the title. The win took Martin to 23-0-1 with few notable other names on his record. With an air of unknown he journeyed to the UK to make his first (and last) defence against Joshua.

The visitor talked a good fight beforehand and several insiders suggested he was a good fighter but it countered for little against the hungry Joshua. The challenger won the fight without ever getting out first gear. The counter-rights were quality and thrown with excellent timing but it was still disappointing to see Martin surrender so timidly.

Joshua had a far more testing time last time out against Dillian Whyte.

Martin’s credentials and performance are no fault of Anthony Joshua though. The 26 year old new champion took his chance with both hands and did so in style.

Joshua so far in his short career has been everything a boxing fan has always wanted in a heavyweight fighter. A no nonsense punching machine with fast hands, an Adonis-like physique, viciousness in the ring and the quietly-spoken charisma to be adored outside of the ring and be a good role model for the younger generation.

BUT…let’s not get carried away just yet.

As brilliant as Joshua has looked so far he has still yet to face a genuine world class opponent, he’s never gone beyond the seventh round, he’s only faced one man who took his shots and fought back (Whyte) and he’s never so far had to endure serious punishment from a man who’s skills match his own.

That said, and as the fighter himself humbly admitted after the Martin victory, he still has a long way to go to being the finished article. Now as the IBF champion, his apprenticeship will continue as a ruling and defending world champion.

What’s next for the IBF king?

In the last IBF Rankings (published a couple of months ago following Martin’s title victory), the first and second positions were absent while third was Erkan Teper who is currently serving a drugs ban and will be out of action for another year.

Joshua filled the fourth position while fifth and sixth places were taken by Carlos Takam and New Zealander Joseph Parker, who clash next month in NZ. Seventh place was the injured Glazkov, rumoured to be out of action until early next year (following his knee injury).

The eighth and ninth ranked contenders, Kubrat Pulev and Dereck Chisora, collide in Hamburg on May 7th for the European belt while the remaining man in the top ten is Mexican prospect Andy Ruiz Jr.

Providing there are no shock new entries, we can assume one of the above fighters could well be matched against Joshua in June or July. Teper and Glazkov will not be able to box on that date and it’s very much doubtful the 26-0 Andy Ruiz will be called upon with such a low profile in the UK.

A Joseph Parker fight would make far more sense with a little more time for both he and AJ to further their names on the world stage (Parker is the big favourite to beat Takam next month). That leaves the Pulev-Chisora winner.

Both would be good opponents for the new champion’s first defence. Pulev has a good record (22-1) with his only defeat to Wladimir Klitschko while former British champion Dereck Chisora is well known over here after fights against David Haye and Tyson Fury.

Pulev is the firm favourite to prevail but you never know which “Del Boy” will turn up and you can’t rule out an upset if Chisora fancies it.

However, don’t be shocked if Eddie Hearn finds a lower-ranked fighter for Joshua’s first defence. It may be the strategy to build the Watford puncher up some more before tackling the big guns of the division such as (the real) world champion Tyson Fury and the come-backing David Haye.

Malik Scott's name is one getting mentioned with regularity with boxing folk.

Joshua is an Olympic champion who has already become the British, Commonwealth and now IBF champion in only 16 bouts. He’s done well so far but sterner tests await from guys who won’t grin their way to defeat after a handful of power punches.

The drive, talent and potential is there but only time will tell if Joshua will be a great and it’s ludicrous to say he is one already.

Parting Shots

Before Tyson Fury was stripped of the IBF belt after his win over Wladimir Klitschko last year the title had only three champions dating back to 2001. Lennox Lewis 2001-02, Chris Byrd 02-06 and Klitschko from 2006 until he lost to Fury.

Astonishingly, since Larry Holmes won the first IBF heavyweight title bout in December 1983, only three men have managed to keep the belt for more than two years; Mike Tyson (87-90), Chris Byrd and Wlad Klitschko.

Next month will be a huge one for heavyweight boxing with Chisora vs Pulev, Parker vs Takam and the WBC title bout between Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin. Come-backing David Haye is also in action on May 21st when facing Arnold Gjergjij.

Did anyone else feel a sense of irony that Tyson Fury beat a long-reigning heavyweight champion away from home to win the undisputed titles and gets bashed thoroughly in the media yet Joshua beats an unknown champion with ease for a lesser belt and is hailed as the second coming?

The current four world heavyweight champions; Tyson Fury (WBA Super, WBO and IBO belts), Deontay Wilder (WBC), Joshua (IBF) and Australia’s Lucas Browne (WBA regular) have a combined record of 101-0 with 90 knock-outs.

"I'm just a skinny kid with a hard punch." Luke Evans is one to watch


By @John_Evans79

Turning professional is the most exciting time of a fighters career. Everything is new. Tickets fly out to friends and family who may be new to the sport and see every fight as a potential threat. The arenas are all novelties and every opponent takes you a step closer to the inevitable world title.

Eventually, as a young fighter’s career settles into a groove, the venues lose their shine and tickets become slightly harder to sell but the opponents remain equally as negative and their Eastern European names remain just as hard to pronounce. The realisation that the road to titles is long and hard sets in and, for some, fighting journeymen and boxing in front of sparse crowds on undercards begins to take it’s toll. Some lose focus and allow their potential to go to waste whilst others drift away from the sport. The very best fighters embrace the challenge and see opportunities at every turn. It takes a real student of the game to enter the sport with their eyes wide open and relishing the climb they face.

“I want Fonz Alexander or Kristian Laight,” 19 year old Mancunian, Luke Evans, 2-0, told Livefight. without a hint of irony or sarcasm in his voice. “I was watching them on YouTube recently and those are the fights I wan’t and need now. I love boxing and I’m very passionate about it. Ever since I first laid eyes on it I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s for me.’

“It feels completely normal to me [fighting as a professional]. It’s more nerve-wracking to be working in the gym. When you’re in here you’ve got loads of people watching you in tough spars. I know there’s a lot more people in the arena but I don’t really notice them until after it’s over. Give them a good show and make sure their happy but keep your composure. The more relaxed you are, the better you'll be. I don’t burn nervous energy, I think keeping your composure is a good trait to have.

“I’m potential at the moment. That’s all I am. It doesn’t really mean anything in boxing terms because if you aren’t gonna give 100%, then what’s the point. I’m giving myself the best possible opportunity to achieve something good in the sport and make me and my family proud. I’d love a sponsor so that I could train twice a day. I like everything to do with the sport. Obviously I want to make a living from the sport but I also want to seize the moment and enjoy it. Some people treat it like a business but it’s a dream come true for me.”

Nowadays, unless a young fighter enters the professional ranks with an extensive amateur background or a high profile relative, it seems like they need to work extra hard to get themselves recognised. Those who turn over after multiple ABA titles, a stint with Team GB or hard rounds in the WSB will generally be fast tracked into title contention. Obviously, the experiences provided by the modern - and extremely professional - amateur setup are invaluable and provide opportunities that many young fighters can only dream of but there are numerous benefits to be gained by doing things the old fashioned way. Evans may not hold an array of international vests but he was pitched in with hardened professionals from an extremely young age. The hours spent driving up and down the country to spend tough rounds learning the ropes are now beginning to pay dividends.

“I met Steve Wood [who’s shows Evans has so far featured on] when I’d go around the shows. I always liked going around the boxing shows just to see how it all worked,” Evans said. “I went down to his gym for sparring a few times when I was younger and word must have got back to him. I’m grateful to Steve and Knockout Management. If they weren’t here, I’d have nowhere to aim.

“When I was an amateur I was sparring top level fighters like Tommy Coyle and Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd so it was top level experience. I got to move around with fighters like that an learn the trade more. It’s all just clicked into place now. I was only 16 or 17 and even prior to that I was sparring with Tyrone Nurse [the current British light welterweight champion] when I was about 15.

“It’s two totally different ways of doing it. You can take so much experience from it though. It’s a different ball game. I wouldn’t say they [fighters plucked from the amateur sport and prepared for stardom] are being spoon fed but they do get it all their own way. When they come up against somebody who’s had four or five fights they find out just how hard it really is.”

Evans might only be two fights into his career but he can clearly fight. The challenge now is to hone that ability. The raw materials are there - a tall light welterweight who seems to be as at ease on the front foot as he is when moving away and countering with a nice left hook - and now his trainer, former Champ’s Camp member, Gary Booth, must go through the design and engineering processes required to turn Evans into the finished product.

Plenty of talented young fighters pass through a boxing gym during their teenage years. For many the opportunity to release pent up teenage angst keeps them coming back, for others opening the gym door and stepping off the street takes them into a different world where they can escape potential troubles outside. The dream for a trainer is to unearth a youngster who sticks with the sport once various other temptations encroach on their lives.

“When I first opened the gym my dream was to get a group of kids together and hopefully turn them pro and it’s come true,” Booth told Livefight. “Luke just stuck at it. He’s disciplined and he want’s to be here. I honestly think he’s built for it. He’s got that desire and he want’s to be here. That’s the most important thing. Even as a kid he was always in and never made any excuses.

“I’m not gonna say anything about what he’s gonna do, we’ve just got to build him up and take it one step at a time. Our aim is to get him as high as possible but he’s got to develop his man strength, He’s a technical kid, I’d like to get him on the front foot a bit more but he can do most things.

“Boxing isn’t for the feint of heart but Luke wants it and this is what the game is all about. The desire to do this job is the most important thing. I’m excited about the future but I don’t want to sing a song when I don’t know the words. I really do believe that this gym has got what it takes to take a fighter like Luke and turn him into somebody who’s able to compete with the big boys.”

Although he would love to be able to spend the few hours he spends every week working with a local cleaning company hoovering up knowledge in the gym, Evans’ dedication to the sport and his own self improvement is total.

“I’ve had six years down at Irlam boxing club. I love every minute of it and there are hopefully many more years to come. I’ve been with Gary right from the start. My main goal was to turn pro and I wanted to give everything to it and earn a spot. Hopefully I’ve done enough to be able to continue that legacy. That’s all I wanted and I feel like I’ve cemented my dream. I’m really happy.

“When I first started boxing as a junior I was about to start high school. When you hear stories about big school you always hear about loads of bullies being involved so I thought I’d try and protect myself a bit. I had wanted to be a footballer to be honest with you because my dad was and I looked up to him [Evans’ dad played for Leigh RMI who managed a famous draw with Fulham back in the late 1990’s). I fell out of love with football and switched to boxing.

“I’m about 5ft 9in tall. I wouldn’t say I’m massive at the weight but I try and make myself look big. When I reload after a weigh in I put about six or eight pounds on, and that’s with a same day weigh in. I’m just a skinny kid with a hard punch.

“I watch all these fighters and try and put bits into my own arsenal. I watch lot of old fighters on YouTube but my favourite fighter is Ricky Hatton. I loved his style and his aggression. I loved everything really. He’s a very proud lad from Manchester too so I bought every pay per view and did everything I could to follow him. I don’t box like Ricky but I try to use the same shots he used to throw. I like to mix in the odd boxing shot even though I’m a tall fighter. I like to mix it up. I like to fight in close and be at range, I like to box on the back foot and get on the front foot. I like to give the good fight. My goal is to win but give the crowd a good show. If that means mixing in a little pivot or a nice slip and counterpunch to keep the crowd happy, that’s what we’ve gotta do.”

Follow Luke on twitter @evoevansboxing1

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