Misjudging James Toney/Sam Peter

BY David A. Avila ON September 05, 2006
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Moments after the 12-round struggle between James Toney and Samuel Peter, fans envisioned for a few minutes that the rapidly sinking heavyweight division had found its savior…Toney.

But soon the announcement was read that Peter won the fight by split-decision and not even Toney can save the heavyweight division now.

Forget about the four heavyweight titleholders from the former Soviet Union, most people in this country couldn’t name you even one, let alone spell their names. Toney was seen as the antidote to the anonymity of the heavyweight division.

He could have been the straw that stirred the heavyweight drink, but two judges badly in need of retirement saw the bloodied and battered Peter win by a large stretch 116-111. Of more than three-dozen boxing writers from numerous newspapers and boxing web sites from across the globe, only one had seen Peter the winner after an informal poll. Most had Toney winning 115-112 as judge Gale Van Hoy saw it. None had it 116-111 for Peter as judges Alejandro Rochin of Mexico and Richard Flaherty of Massachusetts tabbed it.

If the working boxing press had evenly split or had favored one fighter slightly over the other, then few would argue the decision by the two judges. But it was almost unanimously in favor of Toney. Even the television announcers saw Toney as the winner.

Something has to be done about poor judging. Incompetent judges have to be discarded in favor of those that can properly see a fight. Maybe the age limit should be no one over 55. Because apparently a lot of judges out there can’t see properly.

And what about the young judges?

Anyone that shows repeated incompetence should be banished for good. There’s a lot of money riding on each boxing event. Forget about placing them in boxing purgatory – just get rid of them. There are plenty of people that would love that job.

Maybe some have personal reasons that the favor one fighter over the other. Whatever the reason, a bad judge or referee should be cast out.

Fan Favorite

Sure Toney cussed and belittled his opponents, but aside from being the most skillful fighter in the division he’s also one of the most charismatic heavyweights in 100 years as the nearly 10,000 people at Staples Center proved by their attendance. They didn’t purchase $300 tickets to see Peter.

Only former heavyweight champions Jack Johnson in the early 1900s and Muhammad Ali had charisma equal to Toney’s. When those fighters roamed the boxing ring you couldn’t keep fans away with a high-pressurized fire hose.

During the post fight press conference, Don King sat with a smile as he attempted to hype his 7-2 tall heavyweight Nicolai Valuev, the WBA titleholder.

Fans just didn’t care.

“These kind of decisions hurt boxing,” said Derek Smith, a boxing writer for a Los Angeles-based magazine. “Maybe not all of boxing, but it definitely hurts the heavyweight division. Toney beat Peter.”

After the decision was read fans chanted Toney’s name repeatedly. When Peter exited the ring a chorus of boos followed him. Everywhere people shook their heads in disbelief.

Another reason fans disliked Peter was his penchant for hitting behind the head with impunity. Though definitely illegal, referee Raul Caiz (an old friend of mine from East L.A.) refused to penalize Peter for the repeated infraction throughout the 12 round-affair.

“It was the only punch he could land,” said John “Pops” Arthur, a cornerman for Toney. “I screamed at the ref to stop it. He told me he would kick me out if I continued.”

It was only after Peter hit Toney on both ears with two simultaneous blows in the ninth round that referee Caiz penalized Peter. But it was too late.

Toney admitted being dazed by his opponent on several occasions.

“The only times he hurt me were on the back of the head. But I was only dazed. When I went back to my corner I told Freddie Roach ‘Man, am I having fun,’” Toney said. “But look at Peter. I beat him up. Look at me, not a mark.”

During the press conference Toney seemed pleased that most saw him winning. But he wished it had been official.

“Something is always happening,” said Toney. “But I ain’t going nowhere.”

Big Red October

Russia’s giant Nicolai Valuev, the WBA heavyweight titleholder, visited Southern California this past weekend. He met with the press on Saturday at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

“It’s my fifth time in America,” said Valuev, who captured the WBA title by outpointing John Ruiz last December in Berlin. “In the last three days I was in the three greatest cities in the world New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.”

Valuev is targeted to defend his world title against American challenger Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett, a thin but hard-hitting heavyweight who gave Wladimir Klitschko a scare a few years back. The fight will take place Oct. 7 near Chicago at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. The fight card is labeled Big Red October.

“He’s the eighth wonder of the world,” shouted Don King, one of his promoters along with Sauerland Event.

Wilfried Sauerland, co-promoter with King, said he found Valuev in his native St. Petersburg, Russia fighting nondescript opponents with little recognition.

“He was being treated like a circus act,” said Sauerland, out of Germany. “They just looked at his size, they didn’t see his skill.”

Last June, Valuev beat Owen “What the Heck” Beck in three rounds in Hanover, Germany. He’s also beaten Larry Donald a skilled American heavyweight.

“I just want you to fall in love with me and let me show you beautiful boxing,” Valuev said.

Can he be a better boxer than Toney? I doubt it.

Fights on television

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Fernando Beltran (27-2-1) vs. Sal Garcia (14-3-2).

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