Friday Night Fights Report - 5/16/08 - Chris Byrd, Antonio Tarver in Studio and More

We've got quite an intriguing episode of Friday Night Fights on tap tonight. Former heavyweight champion Chris Byrd makes his return to light heavyweight against Shaun George after dropping two weight classes and almost 40 pounds. Always outspoken Antonio Tarver is scheduled to be the guest, and with Teddy Atlas off for the week, Shannon Briggs is helping out on commentary.

The first fight from Las Vegas features undefeated prospect Rulslan Provodnikov taking on Brian Gordon. Briggs says Provodnikov reminds him of Kostya Tszyu, at least in appearance and demeanor. Gordon has turned pro after two tours of duty in Iraq.

Provodnikov is the aggressor in the first round. Both men eat some hard shots but the Russian starts to find the range more often toward the end of the frame. Back in the studio, Tarver says he'd be surprised if we don't see the old Chris Byrd tonight.

The second round sees Provodnikov start to land some punishing body shots. He's definitely eating some shots in return but Gordon looks like he's coming out of the bad end of most exchanges. Briggs says he'd like to see Provodnikov jab his way in more instead of just walking forward. Gordon winces from several right hands as the second round winds down.

Gordon is definitely game, and he even opens up a cut on his opponent in the third round. But Provodnikov is throwing bombs to the body with both hands and mixing in some shots upstairs. The Russian goes down in the fourth but it is an obvious slip and is scored accordingly. Briggs gives all of the first four rounds to Provodnikov, though he admits they are tough rounds. He scores an even fifth round.

Gordon snaps Provodnikov's head back with a stiff right early in the sixth and final round. "He is Army tough, for real," quips Briggs. Both guys continue to trade until the final bell and we're going to head to the scorecards. Scores are 59-55, 58-56 and 60-54, all for the winner, Provodnikov.

Back to the studio for more with Tarver. They go over the Magic Man's resume, showing a clip from Rocky Balboa that gets him smiling. Tarver says he'd like to do more acting, but he's focused right now on his boxing career, with the specific goal of unifying the light heavyweight titles. They discuss his poor showing against Bernard Hopkins and his two victories in 2007.

Tarver is asked about his war of words with Clinton Woods leading up to their fight earlier this year, and he laughs, saying people thought he was acting. The clips are classic Tarver, and he says Woods came down with a case of "Post-Tarver Syndrome" after losing to the Magic Man.

Tonight's second fight matches Koba Gogoladze and Ji-hoon Kim in another six-rounder. Kim comes out aggressively but gets hammered by left hands from Gogoladze. But surprise, it's Kim who catches Gogoladze with a left hook and sends him down. Koba answers the count, but Kim strikes again with a sharp left and right to the head and it's all over. Kim is only 21 and he scores a nice win in his first fight in the U.S.

In the studio, Tarver weighs in on tonight's main event. He says Byrd used to have outstanding foot movement but hasn't been showing that in his last several fights after taking a pounding campaigning at heavyweight. Tarver thinks if Byrd can recapture some of his old mobility, George will have a lot of trouble with him.

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