Byrd can relate to Chambers' uphill battle

Updated: January 25, 2008

AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel

Byrd, left, could probably supply Chambers with a few pointers on what to expect from Povetkin.

Byrd's word

Ten days ago, Philadelphia heavyweight Eddie Chambers boarded a plane for the long flight to Berlin, where he will meet 2004 Russian Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Alexander Povetkin.

There's a lot at stake. The winner of the fight Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT, same-day tape) earns a mandatory title shot against the winner of the Feb. 23 unification fight between beltholders Wladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov.

Chambers (30-0, 16 KOs), a fast, slick boxer, has never fought outside the United States. In fact, he has only had six bouts outside of Pennsylvania.

It's going to be a whole new world in Germany, notoriously one of the toughest places in the world for a visitor to fight. The bigger, stronger Povetkin (14-0, 11 KOs), on the other hand, will be right at home. He has fought all but two of his bouts in Germany and is promoted by Sauerland Event, the most powerful promoter in the country.

To say Chambers, 25, faces an uphill battle in his quest for a title shot is an understatement.

Chambers says he is ready for whatever comes his way, and if he wins he'll instantly be America's top heavyweight contender.

"Maybe it will be a hostile crowd. Doesn't matter," Chambers said the day before leaving. "You have a game plan and hope you have a good night. I am definitely looking forward to it.

"I'm ready to go in there and take care of business. He wants to win, he's undefeated. So am I. It'll be hard for him to break my will and hard for me to do it to him. Whoever does that will win the fight. I have dreamed of winning the title. I want to go to the next level and be a champion. If I have to go to Germany to do it, I am willing to do it."

If anyone knows what Chambers is about to go through, it's former heavyweight titlist Chris Byrd, who braved Germany four times. In his first trip there on only a week's notice, he pulled a major upset when Vitali Klitschko quit against him in the ninth round of a 2000 title fight. In his other bouts there, Byrd lost a decision to Wladimir Klitschko in their first fight and was stopped in their rematch, and he was stopped in his last bout by Povetkin in the 11th round of an October elimination bout that advanced the 28-year-old into the final eliminator with Chambers.

Despite the uneven results, Byrd never feared going to Germany. He said Chambers should expect a "whole different element. It's going to be different going there."

Byrd offered Chambers some advice.

"Eddie will need to get over that he's over there," he said. "He's probably thinking everyone is against him. It's a big mental thing, never having fought in that element. It's a tough place to fight mentally. You think they did something to you and once you get a little tired, you think they messed with your food or something. I would tell Eddie just to stay calm and focused on what is at hand. Don't worry. But he's going to. He just needs to focus on Povetkin. You have to fight. That's what you came here to do."

Byrd tells tales of being put up in a hotel far from the arena with poor accommodations while the rest of the fighters on the card stayed in luxury at a fancier hotel. He recalls being put in a hotel once without a gym and the only way to get to one was to walk in the pouring rain.

Byrd wouldn't have any of that and checked into the nice hotel with his team on his own, the promoters be damned.

"That stuff does wear on your mind," Byrd said. "You have all these thoughts that they are trying to get you. You worry about your gloves, your food."

Byrd even brought his own chef to Germany and made sure his food supplies were watched day and night to prevent any funny business.

"We didn't trust nothing," Byrd said. "Even with the chef, we had to make sure she looked over the food, stayed by that food or had someone watch it."

Byrd is also something of an expert on Povetkin, having gone 11 hard rounds with him.

"He's a tough kid," Byrd said. "I was trying to make him miss and box and be slick, but he kept upping the pace. His work rate is really good. He will keep upping the pace. If Eddie lays back, he will get outworked. I'm hoping he doesn't, but that's Eddie's habit."

Chambers, who had toughness instilled in him during many hard sparring sessions with the likes of Philly tough guys Derek Bryant, Terrence Lewis and Gerald Nobles, advanced to the final eliminator by outpointing Calvin Brock in November. When he learned that the Povetkin fight would be in Germany, he was initially disappointed.

"I said, 'Awe, man, why can't it be over here?' But you get over it. This is boxing," Chambers said. "The fans can't do anything for him or me. Trainers can't fight for us. Once we get inside the squared circle it's me and him. I can still box no matter where we fight. I would have loved for the fight to be here, but it doesn't matter. I heard Germany is great. Boxing is big over there."

For a fight like this, it's is also where the best payday is, which is why Dan Goossen, Chambers' co-promoter with Rob Murray, made the deal to go to Germany.

"Eddie knows it will be tough, but Eddie is tough," Goossen said. "We've got a lot of confidence in Eddie. He's gonna be a tough man to beat. I believe we're coming home with this victory."

Chambers, who brought in trainer Buddy McGirt to work alongside his father Eddie W. Chambers, said he isn't thinking about horror stories of other fighters who have gone to Germany and lost controversial decisions. Based on Chambers' style, if he wins it's likely that it will be by decision.

"You always think of the judging, but you get in there and do what you do and don't make it close," he said. "You can't worry about the crowd or the judges. It's a recipe for disaster."

Hatton-Malignaggi preliminary talk

Paulie Malignaggi

AP Photo/David Gard

Despite a less-than-stellar performance against Herman Ngoudjo, Paulie Malignaggi, left, is getting phone calls for higher profile fights.

Although junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi has been mentioned as a possible May 3 opponent for Oscar De La Hoya, he's unlikely to get the fight and is being steered toward a fall fight with division champion Ricky Hatton.

Hatton plans to return from his loss to Floyd Mayweather in late May or early April in England and a Malignaggi showdown could follow.

There have been some preliminary discussions between Hatton's attorney, Gareth Williams, and Lou DiBella, Malignaggi's promoter.

"Hatton is interested in fighting Paulie," DiBella told ESPN.com. "He's going to fight in Manchester first. Paulie would love to be on the card and then fight him in the fall. Showtime and HBO are interested. I know Ricky wants a 'return to Manchester' fight but I have talked to Gareth about Paulie down the road. But everything is up to Ricky and [his father] Ray [Hatton]."

DiBella said he has invited the Hattons to Las Vegas to be his guests at the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor rematch next month and to talk to them about a deal.

Khan predicts knockout

Lightweight Amir Khan, the 2007 ESPN.com prospect of the year, predicts he'll stop ex-junior lightweight titlist Gairy St. Clair when they meet Feb. 2 in London in the biggest test of Khan's career.

The reason for the 2004 British Olympic silver medalist's bold prediction is because he is peeved by a radio advertisement for the fight in which St. Clair said he was coming to destroy Khan.

"I was heading to my training camp listening to the radio, when I heard the advert," the 21-year-old Khan said. "I couldn't believe it. I was so mad that when I got to the gym I did double my normal routines just to get rid of the anger. I think [trainer] Oliver Harrison's hands are still stinging from when he took me on the pads. I'm still pumped up about it now, and can't wait to show him who's boss."

St. Clair, who has faced top fighters such as the late Diego Corrales and Vivian Harris, is the first former titleholder Khan will face.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.

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QUICK HITS

Gomez

• Welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto will face "Contender" first-season star Alfonso Gomez on April 12 (HBO) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., after the sides completed a deal this week. "That's the date and Boardwalk Hall is revving up," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "I have an oral agreement with the Gomez people and I am going to Puerto Rico for a cruise and am going to meet with the Cotto people to finalize everything." "Contender" promoter Jeff Wald added, "The deal is done. It's being put to paper, but everything is worked out." Both fighters have boxed at Boardwalk Hall but Gomez scored his biggest win there, knocking out Arturo Gatti last summer. "Alfonso is looking forward to a second victory there," Wald said.

"Don't ever underestimate Gomez. I think it will be a fan friendly fight. We have a lot of respect for Cotto and we know Gomez is an underdog, but he's a very confident guy."

Judah

• The televised undercard for Cotto-Gomez is in the works, Arum said. He is trying to lock in a fight between former welterweight titleholders Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito. Wins by Cotto and Margarito would likely propel them into a fight later this year. Arum said that he and Judah, who bought out his promotional agreement with Prize Fight Promotions, met Wednesday at Arum's Las Vegas office and they are apart on money. Arum said if they can't make a deal, he already has feelers out to Don King about putting ex-titlist Luis Collazo in the fight instead, and King is interested. "If Judah doesn't take the fight, there are other guys Margarito can fight," Arum said. "We're not close right now, but we're not in different ballparks." If Arum can't make a Margarito fight on the HBO budget, his backup plan is to try to make a rematch between junior welterweight titlist Ricardo Torres and New Jersey's Kendall Holt.

Brewer

• Junior middleweight Grady Brewer (22-11, 12 KOs), who won the second-season "Contender" title with a split decision against Steve Forbes on Sept. 26, 2006, hasn't fought since because of a serious knee injury. Several attempts to return were aborted because the knee was still giving him trouble. Now, the 37-year-old needs another surgery on his knee and will be out for six months to a year, Wald, the promoter of "Contender," said. Brewer is slated to have surgery Feb. 1, but Wald said Brewer told him he wasn't planning to retire. Wald said the promotional company would offer him support during his rehabilitation.

Bika

• A proposed fight between third-season "Contender" winner Sakio Bika and former title challenger Librado Andrade is off for now, Wald said. He and Golden Boy hoped to make the fight on the March 15 Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao II HBO PPV undercard, but Wald admitted he jumped the gun. Bika, he said, "is just not ready to fight, so it's not going to happen at this moment. It was the first time he enjoyed Christmas and New Year's and took some time off, and his wife is pregnant." Bika, of course, won $750,000 for his "Contender" victory against Jaidon Codrington in a November barnburner. "He's just getting ready to go back in the gym, so we'll get him ready in a couple of months," Wald said.

Jones

• Roy Jones, obviously feeling good after his lopsided decision win against Felix Trinidad in their meeting last Saturday, sent out a release this week to the media indicating his preferred hit list, which included a surprise. "I'll take the winner of either the re-match between Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor or Joe Calzaghe vs. Bernard Hopkins," Jones said in the release. "I'm even willing to go down to [166] pounds to face Oscar De La Hoya in May. Line them up and I'll knock them down." Jones, a former heavyweight titleholder, was all the way down to 169½ to fight Trinidad and hasn't been in the 166 range since the early days of pro career. Jones is not under consideration by De La Hoya for a May fight.

Diaz

• Lightweight titlist David Diaz's nontitle bout on the Marquez-Pacquiao undercard probably will come against Ramon Montano (14-3-2), Arum told ESPN.com. It is uncertain if Diaz's fight will be part of the HBO PPV telecast. With Bika-Andrade falling through, it will depend on what kind of replacement bout co-promoter Golden Boy can come up with. But if Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KOs) wins and Pacquiao wins, Arum's plan is for Pacquiao to move up to challenge for Diaz's title this summer.

Byrd

• Former heavyweight titlist Chris Byrd has lost two of his last three, getting stopped in a title bout by Wladimir Klitschko and by Alexander Povetkin in an elimination bout. But the 37-year-old Byrd, who was always an undersized heavyweight, plans to continue his career as a cruiserweight, he told ESPN.com. "I want to fight for a cruiserweight title," he said. "I want to see what's there but I won't fight too much longer. People have been asking me to fight at cruiserweight, so I'm motivated. I weigh 195 pounds and I'll fight anybody." There was chatter in 2006 that Byrd would drop down and challenge then-undisputed cruiserweight champ O'Neill Bell, but the networks weren't interested. But Byrd isn't giving up on his goal of winning a title in a second division. "I'd like to fight in March and then again in May and then hopefully fight for a title in the summer," he said. "We're working on stuff now, but I'm retired from heavyweights. It was a nice run. I should have gone down after the second fight with Wladimir [in April 2006]. It's harder for me to keep the weight to stay at heavyweight than it is to make cruiserweight."

Guzman

• Negotiations to make the mandatory fight between junior lightweight titlist Joan Guzman and interim beltholder Alex Arthur have not gone very far, so the WBO has ordered a Jan. 31 purse bid at its San Juan offices. Minimum bid by any registered WBO promoter is $150,000. It's still possible that Golden Boy, Guzman's co-promoter, and Frank Warren, who promotes Arthur, could reach an agreement. They just struck a deal for the Hopkins-Calzaghe bout, so they are on good terms.

Cintron

• Welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron, who can begin training again after suffering severe ligament damage in his right hand during a Nov. 23 defense, says he wants to try to avenge his only pro loss, a crushing knockout to then-titlist Antonio Margarito in April 2005. "Right now, I'm a world champion and he's not," Cintron said. "If he thinks he's the best, come and get my belt. I have it and he's saying he wants it, let's get it on." Cintron does have a mandatory defense due against Joshua Clottey.

Arreola

• Heavyweight prospect Cristobal Arreola will fight an opponent to be named on the Feb. 9 Paul Williams-Carlos Quintana undercard in Temecula, Calif. Arreola had been penciled in to appear on HBO when Williams was going to face Cintron in a welterweight unification bout on Feb. 2, but Cintron got hurt and the card was moved and TV lineup changed. Super middleweight Andre Ward, the 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, was also supposed to be on HBO when the show was Feb. 2. Instead, Goossen Tutor Promotions is planning to put him on an untelevised card March 21 in San Jose.

Wonjongkam

• A big fight in Asia has been formally announced. Thai hero Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (67-3, 35 KOs), who made a flyweight division-record 17 title defenses before losing a decision to Japan's Daisuke Naito (32-2-2, 20 KOs) on July 18, will get a chance to reclaim the title. Wonjongkam, who is 2-1 against Naito, will challenge him March 8 in Tokyo in what will make for a rare four-fight series.

Quotable

Taylor

"It's not a matter of title belts anymore. I am going to get into the ring, beat Pavlik, get my hand raised and get back everything he took away from me." -- former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor on his Feb. 16 rematch with Kelly Pavlik, which is a nontitle fight at 166 pounds.