By Scott Shaffer @ MSG
Outweighed 270-216, Chris Byrd survived a second-round knockdown and staged a late rally against Jameel McCline to retain the IBF heavyweight title by the slimmest split-decision margin possible. Glen Feldman had McCline winning 114-112, but he was overruled by Don Trella 115-112 and Luis Rivera 114-113. Had Rivera given the last round to McCline instead of Byrd, the title would have changed hands.
Byrd and McCline left the ring with their friendship intact. "I love him like a brother," said Byrd at the post-fight press conference. "I ain't gonna fight him again. It's over and I am going to go in a different direction."
Boxingtalk’s panel favored Byrd unanimously: (Greg Leon 116-112, Ray Campbell 116-111 and Scott Shaffer 115-113). Punchstat numbers also favored Byrd, 245-166 although McCline’s punches were much harder than Byrd’s.
After a feeling-out first round, things picked up at the end of the second when McCline trapped Byrd against the ropes and sent him to the canvas with a short right to the head. As he got up, Byrd shook his head to indicate he wasn’t hurt, but it was a clear knock down. In the third, Byrd again found himself in the worst possible place- with his back against the ropes, the same position that nearly cost him his title against Andrew Golota in April. McCline once again punished Byrd for his mistake by landing several hard punches. At this point, McCline appeared to be on his way to victory, but as soon as the danger receded in that round, Byrd fought back gamely from the middle of the ring. Giving away 56 pounds to McCline made trading punches seem like a losing plan for Byrd early on, but the crafty southpaw adjusted and rarely put his back to the ropes again. In the fourth, Byrd boxed effectively and McCline landed a few good shots, but fought with his mouth open, perhaps a sign of fatigue. McCline landed a long right hand that hurt Byrd in the fifth, but Byrd landed a greater number of light punches in both the fifth and sixth rounds. The seventh was clearly Byrd’s best round to that point in the bout and it was the first that he won on all three official cards. In the eighth, Byrd and McCline traded blows, but this time Byrd gave as good as he got. Byrd gave away the tenth by spending most of the round against the ropes, but he looked much more energetic than McCline coming out for the eleventh and the light-hitting champ even managed to buckle McCline. Byrd took away any controversy by clearly winning the twelfth round on all three judges’ scorecards.