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Klitschko stops Byrd, captures IBF belt

BERLIN -- Wladimir Klitschko stopped Chris Byrd in the seventh round of a one-sided fight yesterday to gain the International Boxing Federation heavyweight title.

The Ukrainian's right hook finished the American 41 seconds into the round, the second time Byrd was floored in the fight.

The rematch was similar to their first encounter in October 2001. Byrd also lost that bout, although he survived two knockdowns on his way to losing a decision.

This time around, Klitschko finished Byrd early.

In the fifth round, Byrd got to his feet after being knocked down, then withstood a barrage of shots. He took a beating for more than a minute until Klitschko backed off. Byrd waved his gloves at Klitschko, telling his opponent to come at him.

''He's a fighter with a big, big heart," Klitschko said. ''But he provoked me."

The 35-year-old Byrd (39-3-1, 20 KOs) had made four successful defenses of the belt he won from Evander Holyfield in 2002. He was the longest reigning of the four heavyweight champions.

''I never hit him, not the way he hit me," Byrd said.

Byrd said he will have to decide whether he wants to continue his career.

''I will talk to the wife," he said. ''I enjoy this a lot -- of course, not when you're pounded like that."

Klitschko (46-3, 41 KOs) has resurrected his career. After being knocked out by Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster, he started his comeback by beating favored Nigerian Samuel Peter in October.

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