Chris Byrd (WHB#1) is still the IBF world champion after drawing with Andrew Golota (WHB#20) at Madison Square Garden. Golota didn’t deserve this chance but made the most of it and managed to dictate the action for most of the 12 rounds.
More importantly, he managed to keep himself together mentally – the last time he had appeared at the Garden of course was the notorious night when a riot started after he was disqualified against Riddick Bowe.
Byrd came in light at 210lb and tried to use his speed to frustrate the ponderous Pole, who had weighed in at 237lb.
The defending champion’s tactics were to keep going to the ropes and try and lure Golota in.
Rather than moving out of the way, though, Byrd stayed on the ropes for much of the fight and Golota attacked with flurries of punches.
Golota won the first two rounds using a steady jab with the odd right hand thrown in for good measure and also tried to land power punches.
Byrd started to frustrate Golota with fast punches and elusive movement as the fight wore on, however.
The middle rounds followed this pattern – Golota throwing the harder shots but usually missing and Byrd jabbing and moving. From that respect, it was difficult to score and know who’s work had impressed the judges more.
Neither man ever looked in danger, although Byrd did land a solid left in the ninth round that shook Golota for a moment.
Golota’s best round was the 11th, when he upped his work rate and forced Byrd to stand and fight. This must have spurred Byrd on, as he came out fighting in the last round and took command.
So after 12 rounds of a good fight, the judges scored a draw. The scores were 115-113 (Golota), 115-113 (Byrd) and 114-114. A rematch was mentioned and looks likely.
A good fight, yes, but let’s put it in perspective: Golota was wiped out in 93 seconds by Lennox Lewis, seven years ago.
At 33, Byrd may be on the slide, and victories over a faded Evander Holyfield and David Tua are starting to flatter him.
For now, he is still champion, having completed the second defence of his belt. His record now reads 36-2-1 (20).
Golota, while unsucessful, scored something of a moral victory and justified his selection as a world title challenger. His record now reads 38-4-1 (31).