Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bring on the Byrd-Man . . . and Mum Too

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bring on the Byrd-Man . . . and Mum Too

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SMITH

CHRIS BYRD will make it a family affair when he plots the downfall of boxing legend Evander Holyfield here tomorrow. He will have his four brothers and three sisters cheering him on from ringside at the Boardwalk Hall when he fights for the International Boxing Federation's world heavyweight championship, vacated earlier this year by Lennox Lewis.

But the 32-year-old southpaw will be relying especially on parent power when the action starts, for both his dad and his mum will be tending him in the corner.

Mothers have always played an intrinsic part in the fight game. For example, Lewis's mother, Violet, cooks for him at his training camps and then watches him box from a prime position just outside the ropes.

One mum even tried to help her son inside the ring - in Southampton 13 years ago Milna Wilson removed one of her shoes and used the pointed heel to attack a light-heavyweight by the name of Steve McCarthy as he pummelled her son Steve against a corner post.

But Rose Byrd is unique in assuming an official role once the bell sounds.

For she acts as assistant trainer to Joe, her husband of 47 years and a former head coach of the United States Olympic boxing team.

Rose insists she would never interfere while fists are flying. But she won't hesitate to pass on advice if she thinks her son needs it while he rests on his stool between rounds during the biggest bout of his career.

"He's a good kid, he listens to everything," she said. "Chris may be my youngest but when the fight is on I can't be thinking, 'Oh, my baby!' Boxing is a serious business and being a coach means I have to pay attention."

Sport binds the Byrds. Chris's brothers, Joe, Timmy, Ronnie and Patrick, are all boxers. So is sister Tracy. Another sister, Laurie, is a professional basketball coach. A third sister, Kay, is running in next year's Boston Marathon.

Chris recalled: "We didn't have much as kids, we couldn't afford nice things like toys, but we did learn to respect others and what little we did have. …

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