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Klitschko stops Byrd!

Repeat, rather than revenge, was the name of the game last Saturday night in Mannheim, Germany, as Wladimir Klitschko won his second world heavyweight title, the IBF version, by way of a dominant seventh round knockout over defending champion Chris Byrd.

The IBF (International Boxing Federation), you may recall, is the New Jersey based organization that chose not to vacate their welterweight title after defending undisputed champion Zab Judah lost to Carlos Baldomir, but to let their belt remain around Judah's waste due to the fact that Baldomir did not pay a sanctioning fee to the organization prior to the bout.

Yes, that IBF...

This was the second fight between the two pugilists, with the first taking place October 14, 2000, also in Germany. At that time, Klitschko won a convincing unanimous decision over Byrd to win the WBO title. On Saturday night, however, Klitschko would twice drop Byrd and end matters in the seventh round.

Byrd's best round seemed to be the opening round, when he was able to land some clean straight left hands to Klitschko's mid section. Klitschko, using the round as a feeling out round, basically pawed with his jab. In round two, Klitschko began firing more right hands. He could not miss Byrd with his right hand leads.

By the third round, Byrd, whose right eye was already beginning to swell, appeared to be frustrated at his inability to get to Klitschko. As the fight progressed into round four, Klitschko's confidence was continuously rising and the round produced more of the same as rounds two and three. Klitschko kept landing his right hand at will. In round five, Klitschko dropped Byrd really hard with a one two combination. Byrd, with a bloodied nose, rose to his feet, but took brutal punishment to survive the round.

After the sixth round, which was a slow, yet another ones-sided round won by Klitschko, Byrd would visit the canvas for the second and last time in the fight. Referee Wayne Kelly, noticing that a bloodied and battered Byrd could not continue with such a lacerated face, called a halt to the bout.

When asked by Larry Merchant what his future plans are, Klitschko responded, "Defend my title. Even better, I plan on getting another one. Have two. Let's go for another belt!"

Good answer. Such an accomplishment would be grand for the division, the sport, and the fans. I am glad to see he has such a commendable goal. The other champions in the division need to acquire the same enthusiasm. If he can maintain the mental and physical poise that he has brought into the ring with him in his last three fights, Klitschko may just be on his way to accomplishing his plans. He is certainly talented enough to do so.

Perhaps Byrd has seen better days, while Klitschko progresses further towards the top of the division with his trainer, heavyweight architect Emmanuel Stewart.

Klitschko's last defeat happened on April 10, 2004, when Lamon Brewster stopped a fatigued Klitschko in five rounds to win the vacant WBO Heavyweight Championship. With newly crowned WBO Heavyweight Champion Sergei Liakovich's recent upset victory over Brewster earlier this month, will Klitschko attempt to unify the titles against the man, who defeated a man who knocked him out a couple years ago???

Klitschko's biggest challenge could come against Liakovich. The biggest fight in the heavyweight division right now could be between Klitschko and WBC Champion Hassim Rahman. Rahman must feel that if he couldn't get Vitali, he may as well go after his reemerging younger brother who has just won another one of the alphabet soup title belts. First, Rahman must get by Oleg Maskaev in a rematch that they are planning for this summer.

Bring me not sanctioning bodies. Bring me not bowling ball shaped heavyweights with greater appetites for food rather than pugilistic success. Bring me not more title belts and titlists.

Bring me unification and one Heavyweight Champion!

Stay tuned.

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