By Geoffrey Ciani: Nearly one year after losing his title to Wladimir Klitschko, former heavyweight champion Chris Byrd made his return to the ring last night when he squared off against Paul “The Italian Hitman” Marinaccio. Despite the year layoff and rapidly approaching 37 years of age, Byrd looked sharp. He exhibited great reflexes, good movement, and slick defense—all trademark skills that enabled him to become heavyweight champion in the first place.
“The Italian Hitman” actually had a pretty smart approach last night. He laid back and made Byrd be the aggressor. Fres Oquendo was successful with this style when he faced Byrd, but unfortunately for “The Italian Hitman”, he lacked the tools, skill, and experience to cause Byrd any reason for concern. In fairness to Marinaccio, who celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday, he was a journeyman who only started boxing professionally five years ago.
Watching Byrd uncharacteristically playing the role of the aggressor helped further display his abundance of skills in ways we don’t ordinarily see from him. When the situation calls for it, as it did last night, he’s capable of taking the fight to his opponent and unleashing some pretty nice combinations. In fact, last night displayed the personification of Byrd’s nickname, “Rapid Fire”, for time and time again, he flurried against the baffled “Italian Hitman” who oftentimes never saw the punches coming.
With each passing round, Byrd’s performance became more and more dominant. It got to the point where the outclassed Marinaccio didn’t appear as if he wanted to be there, as evidenced by the fact that he twice lost his mouthpiece as the bout neared its conclusion. Marinaccio did not answer the bell for the seventh, and the fight was over.
With victory, it will be interesting to see what Byrd does next. At this stage in his career, Byrd declared that he may spend some time in both the heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions. I’m curious to see which route he takes next. Whatever he chooses, I’m hoping to see Byrd in a more competitive match-up. Last night proved that Byrd is still sharp and should be ready to go. He wasn’t plagued with ring rust and looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat.
Personally, I’d like to see him face off against cruiserweight champion, Jean Marc Mormeck. I think Byrd would stand a great chance of winning this one, and the idea of successfully making the move down in weight at this stage in his career would be quite the feather for his cap. If, however, he decided to remain at heavyweight, I think James Toney would be a logical choice of opponent.
However Byrd winds up finishing his career, he should be proud of what he’s accomplished. Having made a career fighting pugilists who were naturally much bigger and stronger, Byrd was very successful in mixing it up with the big boys. Aside from Wladimir Klitschko, who represented a stylistic nightmare for Byrd, he was competitive in every one of his bouts. Despite already having a successful resume to look back on, he still has time to add to these accomplishments. But which road will he choose?
This article was also published at East Side Boxing