Photography provided by the Universal Kidney Foundation
With four world championship belts, three Olympic medals and a combined 152-9-2 career record, Chris Byrd, Claressa Shields, and brothers Anthony and Andre Dirrell are arguably the four most accomplished boxers Flint has ever produced.
The four will come together for an outstanding cause September 12 when they participate in the Knock Out Kidney Disease gala and exhibition boxing event at Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center. The event will benefit the Universal Kidney Foundation, which serves people in Genesee County who are affected by chronic kidney disease.
Money raised will help the UKF continue to provide services like transportation to dialysis treatment, funds for kidney transplants, as well as prevention education and vaccinations. According to a press release about the event, their goal is to raise $250,000.
Here is a closer look at the four boxers:
The former International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Union Heavyweight Champion retired in 2009 with a 41-5-1 career record, including 22 knockouts. Trained by his father Joe, Chris turned pro in 1993 after winning a silver medal in the middleweight division at the 1992 Olympics and finishing with a 290-25 amateur record.
Chris captured the WBU heavyweight title in 1995 and won his first 26 fights before being stopped by Ike Ibeabuchi in 1999. However, he rebounded from that setback and won the WBO heavyweight crown just over a year later by handing Vitali Klitschko his first loss via technical knockout in the ninth round.
As a result, Chris became the first Flint-area boxer to win a major championship belt.
In 2002, Chris beat three-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield by decision to capture the vacant IBF heavyweight belt and defended it five times. Byrd also defeated top heavyweight contenders David Tua, Fres Oquendo and DaVarryl Williamson, who finished with a combined 116-21-5 career record.
Since retirement, Chris, now 45, has lived in Carlsbad, CA where, among other things, he hosts a weekly podcast called, “The Byrd’s Eye View of Boxing,” interviewing top boxers and offering fight analysis. He also gives motivational speeches and trains several fighters.
The 2004 Olympic Bronze Medalist, who turns 32 on September 7, boasts a professional record of 24-2 with 16 knockouts.
Trained by his grandfather, Andre has twice boxed for a version of the world super middleweight title, losing a split decision to Carl Froch in 2010 and a unanimous decision to James DeGale last April.
In between, came Andre’s most significant win when he handed former IBF Middleweight champion, Arthur Abraham his first loss. In that fight, Abraham was disqualified for punching Andre while he was attempting to regain his footing following a slip to the canvas in the 11th round. The blow knocked Andre out cold while he was down, and he suffered neurological problems after the incident. Sidelined from the ring for 21 months, he finally returned to the ring last year.
Currently, Andre is ranked fifth in the world by the Ring Magazine and 10th by Boxing News and has said he hopes to fight again this fall.
In August of 2014, the 30-year-old became Flint’s second world champion, fought Sakio Bika for the WBC Super Middleweight title and won by decision. Unfortunately, Anthony lost a majority decision to Badou Jack in April. That left him with a professional record of 27-1-1 with 22 knockouts. Anthony is currently ranked seventh in the world by both Ring Magazine and ESPN.
Anthony is trained by grandfather Leon Lawson, a former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali when both were growing up in Louisville, KY. He returns to the ring September 6 against veteran Marco Antonio Rubio, who is 59-7-1 with 22 knockouts, as he begins his quest to regain the championship.
One can’t help but be inspired by Anthony’s story, which is one of tremendous heart and fortitude.
First, his career was nearly derailed by a bout with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer, in 2006. After nearly two years, a recovered Dirrell resumed his career and was building toward a title shot before another setback. This time, he was severely injured in a motorcycle accident and out of the ring for another 18 months. Somehow, Anthony overcame all of that to become a world champion.
The 20-year-old made history in 2012 by becoming the first women’s boxing Olympic Gold Medalist. Claressa, then 17, knocked off 34-year-old Russian Nadezda Torlopova, 19-12, in the middleweight gold medal bout.
Last year, Claressa captured a world championship with a 3-0 decision over Qian Li of China and was named Outstanding Boxer of the tournament. She even won an earlier bout at the event in a mere 11 seconds.
In July, Claressa easily won all three of her bouts to take gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto. She won by decision over Guillen Benitz of the Dominican Republic in the final match, improving her career record to 60-1. Benitz was a silver medalist at the 2011 Pan American Games. Boxing since the age of 11, Claressa plans to defend her Olympic crown next year in Rio de Janeiro before turning pro. She has not lost a fight since May 2012.
The Knock Out Kidney Disease event is also very personal for Claressa, because her younger brother is battling kidney disease. “Just that I can come back and support them, it makes me feel good,” she said in June when the event was announced.” That I can help somebody I probably don’t even know; but people who don’t know me always support me.”