It’s Showtime Saturday as James “Lights Out” Toney and “The Nigerian Nightmare” Samuel Peter, the number two and three rated heavyweights by the WBC, do battle to determine who will become the mandatory defense for new champion Oleg Maskaev.
It’s a tough fight to call, as the betting odds indicate, with power-punching Peter being a slim -140 favorite to emerge victorious against tubby but talented Toney. Weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter has me leaning to the weigh-in itself as providing a hint as to the eventual outcome.
James Toney, it is well known, ate his way up to heavyweight from his former middleweight champion self. The problem for detractors who like to poke fun at the man who never said “no” to seconds, or to thirds, is that Toney keeps on winning. He hasn’t lost a fight in the ring since 1997, including a 3-0-1 record (plus 1 No Contest – a victory over John Ruiz that was changed to No Contest due to Toney testing positive for a banned substance) since joining the heavyweight ranks. The body that Toney carries to the ring may look like he worked out lifting donuts to his mouth, but his ability in the ring and his boxing IQ are unmatched.
Unfortunately “Lights Out” can get lazy and his work ethic can be found lacking at times. In his last fight, against then-WBC champion Hasim Rahman, Toney tipped the scales with a career-high 237 pounds stuffed into his 5’ 9” frame (which, by contrast, is 80 pounds heavier than his career low). If the Michigan-born fighter had been a little lighter, and a little more active, one has to wonder if he may have been able to win the judges’ favor at the end of the night rather than settle for a Draw.
Samuel Peter has also battled the bulge on occasion. Following a familiar theme, the Nigerian weighed in at 256 pounds for his most recent bout, a one round destruction of the appropriately named, 7’1” Julius Long. Unfortunately Long didn’t fight like a long fighter, and as a result the bout never lasted very long. It was a career high weight for the 6’1” Peter but it never came into play as Long forgot he had a jab and ate heavy right hands until he hit the canvas and the fight was waved off without a count.
The lone loss in Samuel Peter’s 27-fight career was a 12-round unanimous decision loss to Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko’s chin betrayed him again as he was knocked down three times during the bout but managed to tattoo Peter with enough pulverizing jabs and hammering right hands to get the scoring nod. Peter seemed to be on his last legs late in the fight as Klitschko was economical in pacing himself for the distance and grappling when the two came close. Despite a bloody nose, wobbly legs and walking straight into stinging shots, the “Nightmare” seemed to be one big blow away from winning the fight. In the end 111-114 scores were recorded by each of the three judges as Klitschko claimed the IBF version of the heavyweight title.
Sam Peter being one punch away from victory might just be the story of this fight with James Toney as well.
If there is a better boxer than “Lights Out” Toney at standing still without getting hit clean, I don’t know who it is. Toney will sit back and roll his shoulders, slip shots, and catch punches with his gloves and arms then counter with whistling combinations. Just when Peter thinks he has Toney right where he wants him, it will likely be because Toney has maneuvered him around the ring to get there and set up something new.
For Peter he has to hope his shots land with accuracy and that he can breakdown Toney’s defense and take his ample midsection. The obvious edge in power goes to the 26-1-0 Peter with his 22 knockouts but “Lights Out” has never had his own turned out over a 77-fight career. The return fire from Toney won’t be the same heavy artillery that Wladimir Klitschko dropped on Peter, but it is the type of arsenal that will win the judges decisions – clean, crisp combinations that rattle off his opponent’s skull. And that is how I see this fight ending up.
James Toney +120 over Samuel Peter is the call here with the Over 11.5 Rounds -190 being my second betting choice. If the old saying that “a boxer beats a puncher” then we have winner.
(For entertainment purposes only)