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Articles of 2005

Toney Will Join Exclusive Club With Win Over Ruiz

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On April 30, former IBF middleweight, super middleweight, and cruiserweight titleholder James “Lights Out” Toney (68-4-2) challenges John Ruiz (41-5-1) for the WBA heavyweight championship. With a victory, Toney will accomplish something only two fighters in boxing history – Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897 and Roy Jones in 2003 – have been able to do, which is win the heavyweight title after capturing their first championship as middleweights.

In reality, Fitzsimmons accomplished the more significant feat. Ruby Robert defeated the legitimate world heavyweight champion in James J. Corbett. Jones beat a good heavyweight fighter (Ruiz) who merely held a piece of the title. For Jones' feat to be comparable to that of Fitzsimmons, he would have had to beat the best heavyweight in the world at the time, Lennox Lewis – a fight Jones deliberately priced himself out of.

In my opinion, fighters who win fractured titles in higher weight divisions receive too much praise. That's why Toney will be regarded as one of the great pound-for-pound fighters in history if he beats Ruiz and captures a portion of the heavyweight title.

James Toney is a throwback fighter, meaning that he fights similar to some of the pre-1960 Hall of Famers and champs. He's an outstanding counterpuncher who uses multiple head and shoulder feints and possesses the ability to keep his feet planted while making his opponent miss. Toney is also very versatile, able to throw every punch in the book.When in shape, he can get off some terrific three and four punch combinations and also knows how to work the body.

Since turning pro in 1988, Toney has never been stopped or even badly shaken in 74 fights. On the two occasions he's been down (against Jones and Reggie Johnson) it was because he was off balance, not hurt. Toney, who boasts an outstanding 11-1-1record in title fights, has won belts at 160, 168 and 195 pounds, and has scored wins over seven world champions.

Despite Toney's remarkable accomplishments, it's not easy to define his rightful place in boxing history. He first won the middleweight title in May of 1991 and held it until early 1993, going 6-0-1 in title bouts. But as an in-depth evaluation of his tenure clearly points out that he wasn't a dominant fighter while reigning at 160. 

Toney was trailing by four, seven, and eight points on the judges’ cards when he stopped undefeated IBF champ Michael Nunn in the 11th round to win the crown. In his first defense he was dropped by Reggie Johnson and barely held on to eke out a split decision. In his third defense, he drew with former junior middleweight champion Mike McCallum, a fight some of the working press scored for McCallum.

Three months later he won a gift decision over Dave Tiberi, in a fight many Toney fans wish they could forget. Tiberi outfought Toney for at least seven of the 12 rounds. One judge scored the fight 117-111 Tiberi, but the other two judges overruled him with 115-112 tabulations in favor of Toney. Tiberi was so disgusted with boxing after the fight that he retired and never fought again. I saw this fight in favor of Tiberi, as did the network broadcasters and many of the ringside press covering the fight.

Two months after that disputed verdict, Toney won a unanimous nod over Glenn Wolfe, then captured a majority decision in the rematch with McCallum, in what turned out to be his last middleweight title defense. In December of 1992 Toney vacated his middleweight title and moved up to fight at 168 pounds.

In February of 1993, in only his second fight at super middleweight, Toney stopped IBF champion Iran Barkley, then, after two successful defenses against Tony Thornton and Charles Williams came the fateful encounter against Jones. A week before that fight, Toney had to lose more than twenty pounds just to make the 168-pound limit. For twelve rounds Jones boxed rings around a lethargic Toney, scoring a flash knockdown en route to winning a one-sided unanimous decision and the title.

Toney moved up to the light heavyweight division after that loss. In his maiden voyage at 175, Toney lost a hotly disputed decision to future champ Montell Griffin (14-0) in February 1995; it would be more than eight years before Toney emerged again as a force in boxing. During that time Toney won 21 of 23 fights, along with a couple of nondescript regional titles. His two defeats were a unanimous decision loss in a rematch against Griffinand a majority decision to Drake Thadzi, a fringe contender with a 28-8-1record.

The rebirth of James Toney officially began on April 26, 2003. In what was his 72nd professional fight, he fought IBF cruiserweight champ Vassily Jirov (31-0). Against the undefeated Jirov, Toney may very well have been at his best, fighting brilliantly in winning a unanimous 12-round decision to annex his third world title. Toney boxed, threw three and four punch combinations, countered off the ropes and made Jirov pay for leaving himself open when he dared to go to Toney's body.

It was the most complete fight of Toney’s career. He followed that up six months later against Evander Holyfield, the four-time heavyweight champ and former cruiserweight titleholder. 

It was supposed to represent Toney’s first fight with a “legitimate” world-class heavyweight.

But the Evander Holyfield who fought James Toney looked like a hollow fighter as he stood in his corner waiting for the opening bell. The 41-year-old had very little left but his name. On several occasions Toney stood right in front of Holyfield, doing nothing. But one could see Holyfield actually having to think about what to do, instead of instinctively reacting. That is the look of a “shot” fighter. Mercifully, Holyfield's corner threw the towel into the ring to halt the proceedings at 1:42of the ninth round.

Toney looked sensational against Holyfield, but what does beating a former great with nothing say about him as a heavyweight? Since the Holyfield win, Toney has received a plethora of favorable attention from the media. Some scribes have even gone so far as to place him at the top of the heavyweight heap – something that in my opinion borders on the moronic, considering all Toney had done was beat a fighter who couldn't offer even token resistance.

James Toney is without question one of the most skilled and talented fighters in boxing today. He can do everything. On top of that he has a great chin and world-class toughness and heart; traits possessed in abundance by a majority of boxing’s all-time greats. But as I’ve mentioned, Toney remains very hard to categorize from a historical perspective. 

His reign as middleweight champion was respectable, but nothing more. In his only big fight at super middleweight he was taken apart by Roy Jones. And Toney’s weight problem was not Jones’ fault. Despite the fact that he stayed active, Toney wasn't really a factor at light heavyweight or cruiserweight.

The wins over Jirov and Holyfield constitute his current resurrection. But heretofore, his only significant mark has been made as a middleweight. He's been involved on both ends of some controversial decisions in his 17 year career. He’s split two fights against marquee opponents (Jones, Holyfield), and those fights are hardly accurate barometers. The truth is, he wasn't as bad as he looked against Jones and he isn't as good as he looked against Holyfield.

Assuming for the moment that Toney defeats Ruiz, I imagine the case supporting his legacy might go something like this.

“James Toney took part in 75 fights, in and of itself an anomaly in this day and age. Of those bouts, he lost only four, and has competed at a world-class level for fifteen years and counting. A model of durability, he never lost by stoppage and was knocked off his feet only twice. On top of that, he’s a member of two very exclusive clubs: as one of a handful of fighters to win world championships in four different weight divisions and, most importantly, one of only three men to capture a title in the two most historically prestigious divisions, middleweight and heavyweight.”

The fact that he and Roy Jones vanquished the same heavyweight – a partial champ at best – to win that fourth title will surely be glossed over.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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