Mercer, Byrd took different paths to heavyweight careers



Ray Mercer pops a right hand off the head of Lennox Lewis during their controversial fight.


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Ray Mercer and Chris Byrd were two Olympics apart, but before their professional careers were over they had one common foe in Evander Holyfield.
Byrd scored a decision victory over Holyfield, while Mercer was left on the losing end of a decision that most of the country thought he’d won.
Fighting Holyfield was significant because it would turn out to be one of the last significant fights in their careers. That fight is likely to be part of the conversation when both Byrd and Mercer meet fans in Tallahassee this weekend.
They are coming to town as special guest at an eight-fight card headlined by James Toney at the Civic Center on Saturday night. Tallahassee’s Travis Walker will box in the co-main event.
Fans will have an opportunity to meet the two former heavyweight champions along with Lemon Brewster and Roy Jones at the weigh-in Friday. It’s scheduled to take place at the Four Points Sheraton on Tennessee St.
The Holyfield fight was a high-water mark for Byrd and Mercer, who had very different starts in boxing. Mercer, who won a gold medal at the 1988 Games, was serving in the Army when he was introduced to boxing.
“I knew nothing about boxing,” Mercer said, recalling when he first donned a pair of gloves. “I put the gloves on and they told me to protect myself.”
He turned out to be an overachiever.
… “I achieved something I set out to do,” said Mercer, who dabbled in mixed martial arts before ending his career. “Going to the Olympics was my goal. I learned everything I needed to learn to be a good professional.”
Byrd, a silver medalist at the 1992 Olympics, grew up in a household where boxing was a family sport. Even two of his sisters competed on the amateur level.
Byrd, a southpaw, fashioned himself off Muhammad Ali. So much so that he was repeatedly compared to Ali during cover of the ’92 Olympics.
“He laid the ground work for me to do my thing,” Byrd said. “I used to love watching old Ray Robinson and that was more of my style, then Ali came along so I said let me grab some of that.”