Klitschko Stops Byrd in Seventh Round

The Associated Press
Saturday, April 22, 2006; 10:02 PM

BERLIN, Germany -- Wladimir Klitschko refused to let the rematch with Chris Byrd go the distance. The Ukrainian stopped Chris Byrd in the seventh round of a one-sided fight Saturday to gain the IBF heavyweight title.

Klitschko's right hook finished off the American 41 seconds into the round, the second time Byrd was floored in the fight.

The rematch was similar to their first encounter in October 2001. Byrd also lost that bout, although he survived two knock downs on his way to losing a decision.

This time around Klitschko _ executing trainer Emanuel Steward's strategy flawlessly _ finished off Byrd early. It began in the third round when Byrd, dropping his hands for a second, took a pair of hard left-right combinations from the 6-foot-6 Klitschko that shook him up.

"It was like a musician playing notes," Klitschko said. "Everything we trained worked."

After the fight, Klitschko first went to speak to his beaten rival, then to Byrd's trainer and father, Joe.

"He should be proud _ I have never seen anybody take that much punishment and come back," Klitschko said. "They are a great family."

In the fifth round, Byrd climbed to his feet after being knocked down then withstood a barrage of shots. He took a beating for more than a minute as 14,500 spectators roared until Klitschko backed off. Byrd waved his gloves at Klitschko, telling his opponent to come at him.

"He's a fighter with a big, big heart," Klitschko said. "But he provoked me."

The 35-year Byrd had made four successful defenses of the belt he won from Evander Holyfield in 2002. He was the longest reigning of the four heavyweight champions.

"I never hit him, not the way he hit me," Byrd said. "I was just so pumped up for the fight, it got the better of me. If I had to do it again I would go in there with a different strategy, but Wladimir will be hard to beat. He is very talented for a big man."

Byrd said he will have to decide if he wants to continue his career. He was taken to the hospital after the post-fight news conference for X-rays on his swollen face.

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