Grizzled veteran James “Lights Out” Toney and power-punching Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter meet again on Saturday to see who fights for the heavyweight world title.
In this WBC-mandated rematch Toney attempts to prove that skill beats Peter’s raw power when they meet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The fight is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor and Don King Productions and will be telecast live on Showtime.
Last time Peter won by split-decision but the boxing media skewered two of the judges who saw scored it a one-sided decision for the Nigerian. Out of more than 20 boxing writers polled, only one boxing writer agreed with the scoring.
“I still don’t have a loss,” said Toney (69-5-3, 43 KOs) during a telephone conference call. “That was just a mistake from the two blind judges.”
The WBC ordered that a rematch between Toney and Peter decide who meets the WBC heavyweight titleholder Oleg Maskaev.
In their first meeting, that took place on Sept. 2, in Los Angeles, Peter used his clubbing right hand repeatedly. Some say many of his blows landed illegally behind Toney’s head.
“I hit him clean,” said Peter (27-1, 22 KOs) by telephone.
Though stunned by the African’s sledgehammer punches in the fifth, Toney used his speed and guile to repeatedly batter Peter throughout the fight.
“He hit me a couple of times on the chin. I smiled at him and he did not like that,” Toney said. “The only time he hurt me was the shots to the back of the head. But I weathered the storm.”
Peter, 26, who rocketed through the heavyweight division with some impressive knockout victories, including a one-punch second round knockout over Jeremy Williams, was able to muscle his way through defensive mistakes against Toney.
In one instance Toney blasted him with three successive left hooks but was unable to hurt the Nigerian heavyweight who now makes the U.S. his home. Now Peter has experience from the first fight to develop a better plan of attack.
“I do not take anything away from him (Toney). He is a great boxer and a really great champion,” Peter said. “James Toney will not change at all.”
Toney, 38, attempts to show the boxing world that knockout power is good, but skill is better and cites some of the greats of the past who were able to capture world titles like his idols Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott, Archie Moore and others. All were men who began at middleweight and eventually moved up to heavyweight with great success.
“I can make you miss and then I can make you pay,” Toney says. “This is boxing. This is not who can hit the hardest.”
Since Gentleman Jim Corbett first shocked the boxing world by beating the Great John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight world title in 1892, smaller boxers have used technique and skill to counter the bludgeoning power of bigger men.
Chris Byrd, a former middleweight, captured two heavyweight world titles by using slippery moves and quickness to beat much bigger opponents.
But not all slick fighters can muster enough trickery to offset pure mind-concussing power. Even master boxers like Charles, Walcott and Moore all met their Waterloos against knockout artist Rocky Marciano who retired undefeated in 1956.
Now based in Los Angeles, Toney has beaten a slew of talented heavyweights in recent years.
When Evander Holyfield accepted a match against Toney in October 2003, many felt the former heavyweight world champion would be too much. But the Michigan-born Toney survived a turbulent first two rounds to befuddle the great Holyfield with his defensive wizardry and eventually stopped Real Deal Holyfield with body shots in the ninth round for a technical knockout victory.
“If you would have told me James Toney was going to stand toe-to-toe with me and beat me I would not have believed it,” Holyfield said after the fight.
Toney was only the second fighter in Holyfield’s long career to ever knock him down. Riddick Bowe was the other fighter with that distinction.
Peter remains stoic over his first battle with Toney and intends to prove he’s added a few more weapons to his attack in the rematch.
“Whatever Toney brings I am going to bring him down. I am ready for this fight,” Peter said.
An anxious Toney hopes the fourth time is the charm. He beat John Ruiz for the WBA title in April 2005 but was stripped for testing positive for steroids. He met Hasim Rahman for the WBC title in March 2006 and fought to an inconclusive draw. Then he lost a controversial split-decision to Peter last September.
“I have not lost in 10 years and that loss didn’t even count,” Toney says. “Fighting Peter again gives me the opportunity to show the world that I am the best fighter out there…period.”
Freddie Roach, who has trained Toney for more than a decade, says the heavyweight knows more about boxing than anyone he’s known since his former tutor the late Eddie Futch.
“He’s an encyclopedia in the ring. James knows more about boxing than any other boxer I’ve known,” Roach said. “He’s a master of the ring.”
WBA junior middleweight title
Jose Antonio Rivera (38-4-1, 24 KOs), who captured the WBA junior middleweight title, has something in common with Travis Simms (24-0, 18 KOs) – they both beat Mexico’s Alex Garcia for the title. They face each other on Saturday on the Toney-Peter fight card in Florida.
Simms, 35, beat Garcia when the Mexican turned his head during a break and was sucker-punched. But almost all referees warn fighters before the match to “protect yourself at all times.” Garcia forgot this important mantra and subsequently was knocked goofy by Simms when they fought in December 2003. He only defended it once and was stripped for inactivity.
Then Rivera, 33, stepped in to face Garcia, who had roared back into contention with three successive wins including a knockout over Rhoshii Wells in May 2005. The Puerto Rican Rivera was moving up from welterweight and manhandled Garcia for a unanimous 12-round decision last May.
Rivera-Simms hasn’t been receiving the usual world title fight fanfare but it could be a real firefight.