- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Your weekly random thoughts ...
• Although his style of fighting has never been the most crowd pleasing, I admit it: I've always been a Chris Byrd fan. Besides the fact that he and his wife, Tracy Byrd, are two of the nicest people I have met during my boxing writing career, I always admired his fearlessness. Here was a guy who, when he said he would fight anyone, any time, anywhere, I believed him. And that was even though he was an undersized heavyweight, who routinely gave up 20-plus pounds to his opponents. He knew going into every fight that he would probably need to go the distance to win because he lacked knockout power.
I will never forget standing with Byrd at the weigh-in for Lennox Lewis' heavyweight championship defense against David Tua in November 2000. Byrd was an interested bystander because he was going to be the mandatory challenger for the winner. I asked Byrd which of them he wanted to fight. I assumed he would say Tua, who was a much more one-dimensional fighter and also much, much smaller than Lewis. So when Byrd answered that he preferred Lewis, I was surprised and asked why. His answer has stayed with me since, and it is why you have to respect Byrd, even if you didn't like watching him fight. "Because I love big guys. I love fighting big guys because nobody ever gives me a chance to win and I do," Byrd said. He beat a lot of big guys in his time and won two versions of the heavyweight title, which isn't so bad for a guy who won a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics -- as a middleweight. So it was sad to see Byrd, shedding 40 pounds and moving down to light heavyweight, get dominated before being knocked out in the ninth round by unheralded Shaun George last week. Here's hoping that Byrd realizes his career as a fighter should be over and that he moves on to something else. I've always felt that if Byrd wanted to, he could be one of the game's elite trainers.
• I found the whole boxing angle to Tuesday night's "American Idol" so cliche with guest stars Michael Buffer and Jim Lampley used to play up the David Cook vs. David Archuleta finale as though it were a prize fight. It did turn out a little like some big fights, however: lots of hype and a blowout as Cook beat Archuleta by more than 12 million votes when results were revealed Wednesday. For the record, my favorite contestant this season was Brooke White, but I voted for Archuleta in the finale. My mom has been a die-hard Cook fan all season. She has a crush on him. I think she voted for him 50 times after Tuesday's show.
• Some bad news folks: HBO has no plans to produce one of its outstanding half-hour countdown shows previewing the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito pay-per-view fight on July 26. When Top Rank president Todd duBoef told me that, I was shocked. How does what might be the best fight of the year on paper not warrant a preview show when so many far lesser fights have gotten the royal treatment from HBO? This one is a compelling match rich with storylines. To blow this one off is a bizarre move and one of the most incredibly poor decisions the HBO brass has ever made with regard to boxing programming this side of signing off on all of those terrible Roy Jones mandatory fights back in the day along with the creation of the stinkbomb series "KO Nation." And keep this in mind -- HBO doesn't even have to pay the roughly $125,000 production cost of the countdown shows. The promoters pay for them out of the marketing budget for the pay-per-view. Something just doesn't feel right about this decision. It makes me wonder about a hidden agenda at HBO.
• Is it just me or does junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo, so impressive in his recent TKO of Richard Gutierrez, look and fight like Margarito?
• Memo to boxing TV executives everywhere: More James Kirkland, please. A lot more.
• In case you missed it, our good buddy Jose Sulaiman of the WBC announced the other day that if Vitali Klitschko wins the May 25 mayoral election in Kiev, Ukraine, he and a committee of WBC officials would attend the inauguration. I wonder if our buddy will still make the trip when he realizes that Klitschko won't pay a sanctioning fee for winning the title of mayor?
• Gotta give Don King props for putting Monday's Jose Alfaro-Yosuke Kobori bout from Tokyo on his Web site, www.donking.tv, for free. It was a good fight with Kobori scoring the mild upset via third-round TKO to win the WBA's nonsensical "regular" lightweight title. Putting that shameful designation aside, any time American fight fans can have good-quality access to overseas fights for free, that is a good thing. The Web site is worth checking out, as DK has made available for free a handful of other bouts from his vast library, including Felix Trinidad's exciting welterweight title defense against Yory Boy Campas from 1994.
• After watching Jorge Arce struggle to a debatable majority decision win against obscure opponent Devid Lookmahanak last week, and having watched Arce get the crap beat out of him by Cristian Mijares a year ago, here's a note to Arce's handlers, Top Rank and Fernando Beltran: No more southpaws.
• Opened my fridge and saw a picture of Winky Wright on the milk carton.
• DVD pick of the week: It's a lost classic, but that, of course, is the purpose a DVD and tape collection -- so you can watch these kinds of fights whenever you feel like it. I was in the mood for an old-fashioned shootout. Few fights fit the description any better than the Oct. 8, 1998, Fox Sports Net-televised heavyweight bout between Alex Stewart and Ezra Sellers. Nothing really happened in the first round, but then the heavy hitters put on a wild display until Stewart scored the third-round TKO in the short but sweet brawl. There were an incredible seven knockdowns in all. In the second round, Sellers was down once and Stewart hit the deck twice. In the third, Stewart went down early and then he rallied to drop Sellers three more times to end the fight. This fight is a little gem and worth hunting down.