The BUI welterweight and BBBofC light middleweight Celtic champion at welterweight was a traditional, hard-nosed, ‘don’t cut corners’, cleaning-living fighter, yet managed to ignore tradition in terms of career path and the ‘right’ way to build.
The 32-year-old heads off into retirement having done things differently – and it could be argued that his brief stint in the Irish pro ranks could leave a lasting impression that may quite possibly tear up a template of how things should be done.
After three quick fire wins over journeymen – and a tough test against Sergio Abad – the gym owner showed little respect for his unbeaten status and building slowly by taking a fight with Matchroom middleweight prospect Felix Cash.
Byrne looked it as a chance to test himself, increase his profile massively as well as an opportunity to change his career if he caused an upset.
Following a points reverse on that York Hall bill he agreed to fight another fighter that Matchroom have high hopes for Josh Kelly in Glasgow. That decision made some traditionalists cringe and some start suggesting Byrne was on the way to becoming a journeyman.
Anthony Fowler and a stoppage defeat live on Sky came after a routine win at the National Stadium and by that stage the former Bray Wanderers footballer was being written off.
However, he returned to an Irish card to claim the BUI Celtic welterweight title with a stoppage win over Gerard Whitehouse in an all-Irish clash, proving your duck egg doesn’t have to be intact to be a domestic success.
It’s a formula Byrne continued to follow he stepped back up in weight and class again to face Craig O’Brien for the Irish light middleweight title unsuccessfully, before beating Jamesy Gorman and going on the road for two more title fights.
After losing out to Paul Kean and Belfast’s Paddy Gallagher, Byrne was again being labelled a journeyman but it seems rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated as last weekend he became the first BUI licence holder to claim the BBBofC Celtic title with away victory over Marc Kerr in Glasgow.
Becoming champion of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland was massive achievement for a fighter constantly written off and a success he feels has its roots in his willingness to test himself and take massive risks.
“Some lads are happy building a record but I just look at some of those and say what exactly is your long term goal? Let’s be honest ticket sales drop fight by fight when constantly fighting journeymen,” Byrne explained to Irish-Boxing.com following the big win.
“Then, I honestly think these lads are just building themselves up for a bigger fall as half the lads start believing their own hype by beating opponents they are always going to beat,” he added before contrasting with his own career.
“I am not the most technical boxer in the country but now I have two titles. I have had five live TV appearances and five title fights across two weight classes in a two-year career.”
“I wouldn’t change my career if I’m honest. I genuinely feel that I tested myself in nearly every fight whether it be stepping up weight, levels, or for different titles,” he adds before almost admitting he has surprised himself with his career achievements.
“Ah, look, it was 364 days from the first title win and to think two titles in two years as a pro in two different weight classes? Come on, remember the nerves and excitement before my debut vs Gabor Ambros where I felt I had won a world title when I won that?”
While Sean Creagh’s vocal calling for domestic dust-ups just two fights in started a change in the Irish mentality, Byrne took it to a new level by almost being able to see that the ‘massive risk’ Sky bouts didn’t have to effect his BUI Celtic title ambitions.
Others have started to follow suit. The all Irish clash is more regular now and has breathed massive life into the small hall scene, while Carl McDonald has gone on to win Celtic and Irish titles despite losing live on Sky to a vaunted prospect.
Byrne is effectively retired from the game now, but hangs them up on the back of his greatest night in boxing.
‘The Negotiator’ scored a dominant points win over Kerr in the headline fight of a Kynoch Boxing dinner show at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow
“Being honest, it was a great night and trip in general. There was 31 of us in total from friends, family, and work colleagues. I don’t know if it has kicked in yet,” he reflects before discussing the points win.
“I set my gameplan to start fast as I usually start slow and build into it. I think everyone predicted a war as I usually just come for a fight but I can box as well. It is very hard to match the Olympians and top level lads for boxing so I just usually have a scrap with these lads.”
“After studying Marc, I felt I could outbox him and out fight him and I told Declan I was confident of this and we worked on both throughout camp. After four rounds I knew I had won them all and I then settled in and slowed my pace in which gave away a round or two in the middle rounds.”
“I had Declan and Tommy [McCormack] constantly telling me that I can’t leave the rounds close as we are away from home, but I genuinely felt I was doing enough and comfortably round by round.”
“I covered let him work a bit and once he stopped I would landed good uppercuts and spin off on my hook and then pop couple jabs, I felt this was happening very often and very eye catching for the judges where his work was mainly hitting my arms.”