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 Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 05:31 GMT
Byrd beats Holyfield for title
Chris Byrd (right) punishes Evander Holyfield
Byrd (right) proved too strong for Holyfield
Chris Byrd outboxed Evander Holyfield to take the IBF heavyweight title in Atlantic City on Saturday.

Byrd took the crown by a unanimous points decision, with two scores of 117-111 and one of 116-112.

The IBF title had been vacated by Britain's Lennox Lewis, who was ringside doing television commentary on the fight.

My goal is still to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world

Evander Holyfield

The 40-year-old Holyfield's immediate reaction was to say he would continue to fight on, despite having won just two of his last seven fights.

"My goal is still to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," said the four-time world heavyweight champion.

But in a fight featuring two small heavyweights, Holyfield struggled to land clean punches on his opponent.

He was not aided by an injury to his left shoulder, which he claimed to have suffered in the first round.

Byrd, whose slippery southpaw style has not made him popular with fans, was able to keep Holyfield at bay with a fast jab and flurries of point-scoring, if not devastating, punches.

Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis was commentating on the fight
"Now the world sees I can stay in there with the great heavyweights because I just beat one of them," said Byrd.

Punch statistics showed Byrd threw 747 punches to 344 for Holyfield, and landed 252 to 102.

There were no knockdowns, although Holyfield drew a large roar in the 11th round when he seemed to hurt Byrd with a right hand.

After the fight ended, Byrd went over to Holyfield's corner and the two heavyweights linked arms and prayed together.

"He threw more punches and he kept me off balance," said Holyfield, who had no complaints about the decision.

His record falls to 38 wins, six defeats, two draws with 25 knockouts, while Byrd improves to 36 wins and two defeats, with 20 knockouts.

Holyfield made $5m (3.15m) for the fight, while Byrd earned $2.15m (1.35m) , the biggest purse of his career.

Byrd's reward should be a fight against the winner of the John Ruiz-Roy Jones fight which takes place on 1 March.


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