Flooding the walls of the Joe Byrd Boxing Academy across from Beecher High School are an assortment of fight posters, boxing articles and photos.

With most of the paraphernalia showcasing the many accomplishments of the legendary trainer’s youngest sons, Chris and Pat, one of his son’s awards are frequently overlooked.

The only memorabilia reflecting Ronnie Byrd’s past success in the sweet science is a scrapbook smaller than the size of the standard poster. Filled with old laminated newspaper clippings and pictures of him in the ring plus on the basketball court, the average onlooker wouldn’t believe that he was once the cornerstone of his father’s sensational training career.

“Coming up through the late 70s and early 80s, everything was based on Ronnie Byrd, ” Joe Byrd said. “He was a little guy (at) 106 pounds, and he dominated that for years so he opened the doors for my whole boxing club. Everything (came) around Ronnie.”

In the amateur ranks, Ronnie Byrd was one of Flint’s most talked about fighters. He won three National Boxing Tournaments, the State Golden Glove Championship as well as a Gold Medal in the National Sports Festival. It was believed by many that it would only be a matter of time before he would become a professional champion in the flyweight division.

“In my amateur career until I made it to the Olympics, I didn’t feel like I could live up to what he did, ” former WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd said. “Just reading articles from Ronnie boxing É he was a stud. In the professionals I think he really would have excelled well and I think he would have won a world title. He was that good.”

Ten fights into his professional career, Ronnie had never lost a bout. Things were going as planned as he possessed an undefeated record in the midst of working towards his ultimate goal of becoming champion. At 27 years old, those plans quickly changed. Instead of fighting to win, Ronnie would have to fight to stay alive.

As Ronnie Byrd tells it, he was passing the Meijer on Pierson Road when he stopped behind a truck at a light. Looking into his rearview mirror he spotted a Comcast truck as well as another vehicle trailing him. As he began to accelerate, the truck in front of him came to a sudden stop which forced him to rapidly hit the brakes on his car. Although the Comcast truck was able to adapt and promptly stop as well, the other automobile wasn’t as lucky. Suddenly the car rammed into the back of the Comcast truck, which slammed into Ronnie’s car, leaving it totaled in the process.

“I walked away from the scene. I had a brand new car and I was proud of myself and I walked for a half mile just down Pierson walking upset, ” Ronnie Byrd said. “I came back and I was all right and the ambulance came and the police came and talked to me. I thought I was all right and I didn’t go to no hospital or nothing.”

The effects of the crash didn’t hit him until the next morning when his mother informed him that he was talking funny. He also complained that he felt funny. These symptoms forced him to check into the doctor’s office where he was given a prescription, brain check-ups and follow up appointments. He still doesn’t know the official diagnosis.

“They didn’t tell me and if they did, I didn’t pay attention. I was like ‘I’m all right’, but I wasn’t!” Ronnie Byrd said. “My balance was off when I walked, and my talking was a lot worse.”

Joe Byrd says that the doctor informed the family that the crash “messed up his neck, his head, and everything, ” but was never given an official word on the exact name of his son’s condition.

It’s been 18 years since his accident and he hasn’t fought since. Ronnie still speaks very slowly and has a tough time staying balanced and pronouncing his words but he still remains determined. At 45 years old, he continues to run four, sometimes five, miles a day all through the city. He is frequently spotted on Saginaw Street or Welch Boulevard putting as much effort into his running today as he did nearly 20 years ago. Although he looks as though he is going to fall at any moment, he pushes through all of his ailments and doesn’t complain.

Due to the lack of knowledge on his accident, many in the Flint boxing community have speculated another cause affected his health. It has been said for years that Ronnie suffered from dementia pugilistica also known as becoming “punch drunk.” This condition is caused by repeated blows to the head and affects a fighter’s memory as well as his coordination. Some of boxing’s most heralded fighters have suffered from this disease including Sugar Ray Robinson, Freddie Roach, Emile Griffith and Willie Pep.

“If you know a punch drunk person, when they get up with you, they’re always up in people’s face talking boxing, ” Joe Byrd said. “Now Ronnie probably won’t ever mention boxing so he’s not punch drunk, but he had that accident so he’s lucky to even be living.”

Initially it was tough for Ronnie to accept the fact that his boxing dreams had ended. It would get to him that his younger siblings, notably Chris, would later receive so much prestige in his favorite sport when he was the boxer that they looked up to when they were younger. After being out of the spotlight for a while, he began to overlook his resentment and push his brothers to become the best. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, Ronnie Byrd fully appreciates what he has going in his favor.

“That’s nothing, I’m alive and healthy so I praise that every day and I’m so glad that my family was there and I can’t mention that enough, ” Ronnie said.

When most amateur boxers walk into the huge black building located on 6020 North Saginaw St., they’re customarily enamored with the huge fight posters that read: “Byrd vs. Holyfield, ” or “Byrd vs. Klitschko.”

But if they take the time to look onto the wall located on the right side of the front door, they may be shocked to find out that the fighter with the fewest clippings in the gym had the largest impact on the family’s triumphs.

*This post can also be viewed on mlive.com!