All of the athletes traveling to the Olympic games have trained their entire lives for this moment. Some will return to their countries with coveted Olympic medals, while many will return empty-handed. Two-time heavyweight champion and Olympic Silver Medalist boxer Chris Byrd didn’t make it to the Olympics on his first try. We caught up with him three years ago and talked about how his failure fueled his career, how he came to Christ and his biggest loss.
Chris opened up about how he didn’t make it to the Olympics on his first try, but how it made him more focused on pursuing boxing.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
“I come from a boxing family. There are five boys and three girls. All the boys boxed and the girls know how to box. My mom was in my coaching corner. It was in my blood, but I didn’t really know that it was I wanted to do with the rest of my life until I made it to the Olympic trials. I was number two in the United States in my weight class at seventeen years old. The age range was 17-35 so when I was seventeen, I was fighting against grown men. I was this skinny kid that was handling my business in the ring. I made it to the Olympic trials. I fought against this guy, Ariel Hernandez who was an Olympian. He was the number one guy. I ended up losing to him, but made up my mind that I would be at the next Olympics in four years. That was in 1992. I really made my mind up that I’m not playing around anymore. I knew that boxing was what I wanted to do.”
Chris wanted nothing to do with God. He shared what changed and his vision for ministry.
“I gave my life to the Lord when I was 22 years old. I got married pretty young and my wife gave her life to the Lord first. She started going to church, reading the Bible and doing ministry. At the time, I wanted nothing to do with it. She kept telling me about the Lord and I did not want any part of it. I finally went to church to please her. I wasn’t expecting to become a Christian. I gave my life to the Lord three weeks after I first went to church. God has a plan for each of our lives. For me, my spiritual journey includes not only sharing the Gospel with boxers, but others around the world through sport.”
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
Even though Chris has fought against the “Big Three,” Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield – who were all three greats of the heavyweight division in his era and the era before him – he reflected on what his toughest loss was and how it changed his perspective.
“It was honestly the Olympic finals. I never cried in a boxing match. I had over 300 boxing matches and never cried. I cried like a baby after that match. I had envisioned myself with a gold medal. For me it was an awesome event. I was not even considered to win a medal. It was baffling though. I had one of the best Olympic performances in boxing my first four fights ever. It was packed in the arena every time I got in the ring. Everyone wanted to see me fight; it was like a show. I was so arrogant and cocky going into the final. It was devastating. In my mind, I had the gold medal around my neck, but I actually won the silver. It was devastating. It was a blessing though. I didn’t realize it until one of my teammates told me. He said, ‘You work your whole life to this point.’ He didn’t win a medal. Only three of us won a medal that year. One was gold, one was silver, one was bronze. After that, he just kept saying, ‘We worked our whole lives and I didn’t get one, but you got one!’ It put everything into perspective. I was devastated. I cried in the locker room. I couldn’t believe I lost the gold medal. In a fight that I thought I won also. It was a very close fight. That was the toughest loss, even more than my professional career, God just blessed me to get to that level. I was a mid-weight in amateur and heavyweight in pro. I was fighting all these big guys in heavyweight. It was just a blessing.”
Where do you turn when you get knocked down? God wants to help you through your adversity. He is in your corner cheering you on. Take time to pray about your difficult situation and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. The Bible is filled with examples of characters who faced adversity and through it God drew them closer to Himself and used the experience for His glory. Use what you have learned from a conflict or hard season to encourage your friends or family going through a similar struggle.
Who is in your corner? Chris’s mom was one of the coaches in his corner. When he was discouraged, she would challenge him to keep going. We have the potential to be a positive influence in our friends’ lives. When they are experiencing a trying time, grab coffee, give them a call and inspire them! Share verses or things from your life that encouraged you to go the distance. Use your words carefully, instead of putting others down or being critical, use the opportunity to encourage and challenge them.
To read our entire interview with Olympic Silver Medalist and two-time heavyweight champ, Chris Byrd click here.