HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—Some of his business associates probably thought Don King was going soft in his old age when he bailed out erstwhile rival Dina Duva last fall, but history may record the promoter’s gamble in purchasing a 50 percent interest in Samuel Peter as one of his shrewder moves.

In his previous incarnations, Peter had been a plodding, one-dimensional heavyweight with a thunderous right hand and not much else, but the Nigerian Nightmare took the wraps off his new, two-fisted attack at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino Saturday night and did the unthinkable: Which is to say that Samuel Peter gave James Toney a boxing lesson, establishing himself in the process as a force to be reckoned with on the heavyweight scene.

Peter not only knocked Toney down, he did it with a jab – in the  second round, shortly after he had rocked him with a big right hand. And by the later rounds of their WBC-mandated rematch, it was Peter who was dancing on his toes while he stuck his jab in Toney’s puffy face.

Suffice it to say that what happened on a tribal reservation in Florida Saturday night isn’t going to do much for the future of Tae Bo or Billy Blanks.

“James was never able to get going,” admitted trainer Freddie Roach after the one-sided rout.

One judge, Peter Trematerra, had Peter winning all but one round at 119-108.  The international judges, John Keane of England and Danny Van De Wiele, weren’t far behind at 118-1110. The Sweet Science scorecard was marginally more charitable and had Peter winning 117-108, but the issue was never in doubt.

Peter hurt Toney in the very first round, landing a right to the head, and as Toney cringed Peter came down with two rights to the top of the head – or behind it, in the judgment of referee Jorge Alonzo, who warned Peter for the tactic.

It was essentially the same sort of chopping right that had dropped Wladimir Klitscho three times in their 2005 fight, but having been spoken to by the referee, this time Peter was on his best behavior. (Later in the bout, as Toney ducked in front of him, Peter had the right hand raised and cocked, but, doubtless recalling the referee’s remonstration, thought better of it and never threw it.)

In the second, Peter followed his right-hand bomb by felling Toney with the stiff jab for the fight’s only knockdown. And while he threw and landed plenty of rights, it was his other hand that got Toney’s attention.

Toney rallied to win the third on two cards, and won the next on ours as well, but after that Peter pulled inexorably ahead, punishing Toney round after round.

Ever game, Toney continued to plod ahead and occasionally catch Peter with combinations, but more often than not he paid for it. From the midpoint on it seemed apparent that his only hope was that the big Nigerian would run out of gas, but instead it seemed to be Peter who got stronger.

In the later rounds, Peter was even up on his toes and dancing as he fired jabs at Toney’s chin.

“You saw what I did,” said Peter. “I was taunting him. I gave him the Ali Shuffle, with a little Floyd Mayweather thrown in.”

“Toney always goes this way,” Peter indicated a clockwise circle as he explained his strategy. “When I made him stop doing that I was able to take away his power.”

Peter gained the WBC’s No. 1 ranking, and ostensibly next crack at champion Oleg Maskaev, with the win, and seemed confident that that match would be made.

“I’m not the best – yet,” said Peter after what he termed his best fight. “The champions have the belts. But I will be the best.”

We don’t know about that, but he is head and shoulders better than the Samuel Peter who couldn’t beat Klitscko when they fought 15 months ago.

Peter raised his ring record to 28-1 with the win, while Toney dropped to 69-6-3.

Toney seemed to be in total denial after the bout, but at least he wasn’t claiming that he’d won this one.

“I came all the way from middleweight,” he reminded you. “I took his best shots, and I’m still standing.”

The main event was preceded by a performance from the Hard Rock stage by the band of the late James Brown, who had been invited to participate after King met them at the Godfather of Soul’s funeral a week earlier. The sellout crowd of 5,238 at the Hard Rock Arena included a gaggle South Florida A-List celebrities: Shaquille O’Neal, Miami Dolphin brothers-in-law Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, Mickey Rourke, Anna Nicole Smith, Hulk Hogan, and Fat Joe.

In the evening’s only world title fight, Travis Simms, fighting for the first time in over two years, emerged from “recess” to demolish Jose Rivera and reassume the WBA junior middleweight title.

The pivotal moment of the fight came in the second round, when Simms unloaded a big right-left combination that split Rivera’s nose open. The champion came away with a two-inch gash on the bridge of his nose, and blood poured forth from both nostrils as well. It didn’t quite take all the fight out of him, but it was close enough.

After the nose-flattening combination Simms had crashed into Rivera, sending him to the floor, but referee Frank Santore correctly ruled no knockdown. Moments later, however, when Simms switched up from southpaw to orthodox and battered Rivera across the ring, Santore (who was working the bout because the original appointee, Tommy Kimmons, got stuck in Pensacola when weather grounded his flight) intervened to administer a standing 8-count.

Simms, 25-0, of Norwalk, dominated the bout, and Rivera (38-5-1) didn’t even seem to start trying to fight until the fight had reached its midpoint. Rivera boxed awkwardly, looking as if he’d forgotten everything he’d learned in the past ten years, and Simms, increasingly confident, forced Rivera to chase him around.

“I knew I needed a knockout to win, and that’s what I was trying to do,” Rivera would say later.

In the ninth, Simms caught Rivera with another solid right-left combination, and the latter punch sent the soon-to-be ex-champion staggering backward halfway across the ring, with Simms in hot pursuit. When Simms finally caught up with him long enough to land another left, Rivera toppled over backward.

Although Rivera got to his feet, when Simms landed a right hook and then another left that dislodged Rivera’s mouthpiece, Santore jumped in and waved the fight to a halt.

“I didn’t want him to stop it,” said Rivera, who protested.

“I’m back!” shouted the victorious Simms, who was fighting for the first time in over two years. “When I hit him with that big left in the second it felt great, and I knew it was a matter of time after that.”

Neither Trematerra nor Billy Ray gave Rivera a round, scoring it 80-71 after eight, while Rocky Young had it 79-71. The Sweet Science had Simms winning 78-72 going into the deciding round.

The other James Toney on the Hard Rock card didn’t fare any better than his namesake. James Obede Toney of Ghana was stopped in four by former IBF junior middleweight champ Roman Karmazin of Russia.

Fighting as a full-blown middleweight for the first time, Karmazin was making his first outing since losing his title to Corey Spinks in St. Louis last July, and appeared to handle the extra weight well. Jabbing away in the first round, landing hooks behind the jab in the second, and then going to the body in the third, Karmazin had won all three rounds on the scorecards of all three judges even before the fateful fourth.

Although he hadn’t appeared to be particularly stunned, Obede seemed to have trouble finding his own corner after the third, and midway through the fourth Karmazin put him on the seat of his pants, standing him up with a solid left hook and then putting him down with the solid right cross that came right behind it.

Obede struggled to his feet, looked quizzically at his corner, and, finding no help there, attempted to defend himself, but when Karmazin landed several hard shots with no resistance, referee Frank Gentile stopped it at 2:02 of the round.

Obede, who was fighting for just the third time in the United States, was 19-0 in Ghana, but is now 2-3-1 in the rest of the world. He had fought as cruiserweight when he beat Micky Stackhouse in South Carolina last February, and as super-middle in previous outing, a loss to Lucien Bute in Montreal in September.

Panamanian Guillermo Jones made an impressive heavyweight debut, stopping Kentucky journeyman Jeremy Bates at 1:44 of the first.

Early in the bout Jones rocked Bates with a right uppercut, moved in to land a left-right combination followed by another right that stunned Bates badly enough that Frank Santore Jr. intervened to administer a standing 8-count.

Bates never recovered, as Jones landed two more rights that left his opponent draped over the ropes when the referee stopped it.

The fight marked the first foray into the heavyweight ranks for Jones, who a decade earlier came within a whisker – a draw with then-champion Laurent Boudouani – of winning the WBA junior middleweight title. Jones was fighting for the first time since stopping Wayne Braithwaite in a cruiserweight eliminator in September of ’05.  It was the fourth loss on the trot for Bates, who had most recently been stopped by Evander Holyfield in Dallas last August.

Las Vegas-based heavyweight Bermaine (B-Ware) Stevens scored his ninth knockout in as many pro bouts with a first-round TKO of an overmatched Otis Mills (5-3-1) of Cleveland. Stevens decked Mills with a hard right a minute into the fight, and while the opponent made it to his feet, he was absorbing enough punishment that Gentile rescued him at 1:48 of the round.

California heavyweight Javier (El Monstruo) Mora advanced to 21-3-1 with a unanimous decision over game North Carolinian Ear Ladson (12-13-1). Trematerra and Young scored it 59-55, while Ray had it 58-56.

In the women’s prelim, Florida super-middleweight Laura Ramsey (7-2) scored a mild upset, decking previously once-beaten Nigerian Ijeoma Egbunine three times in a minute and a half on the way to a first-round TKO. The third time Ramsey floored Egbunine (12-2) with a right hand, Santore stopped it at 1:44 of the first.

Ramsey hails from Winter Haven, which is also the hometown of unbeaten welterweight Andre Berto, who was at ringside to watch his old friend.

“We used to spar together,” said Berto of Ramsey. “When I was about 13 she used to beat me up in the gym.”

Devon Alexander of St. Louis, who goes by ‘Alexander the Great’ and owns the WBC ‘Youth’ title, went to 15-0 with a fourth-round TKO over Bronx veteran Maximino Cuevas, 9-5. Although there were no knockdowns, Alexander, a southpaw, peppered Cuevas with jabs and eventually opened a cut above his left eye, which by the fourth was bleeding in sufficient profusion that Santore halted the bout at 2:02 of the round.

The opening bout had seen Anges Adjaho, an unbeaten lightweight from the West African republic of Benin, post a unanimous decision over well-traveled Tampa journeyman Armando Cordoba. Ray scored it a shutout at 60-58, while Trematerra and Young gave Cordoba two rounds apiece (though, interestingly, not the same two) in returning 58-56 scorecards. Adjaho is now 15-0, Cordoba 23-32-2.

* *  *

January 6, 2007

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Travis Simms, 153¾, Norwalk, Conn. TKO’d Jose Rivera, 153, Worcester, Mass. (9) (Wins WBA title)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Samuel Peter, 249, Akwaibom, Nigeria dec. James Toney, 234, Ann Arbor, Mich. (12) (Eliminator for WBC title)

Guillermo Jones, 213, Colon, Panama TKO’d Jeremy Bates, 222, Argellite, Ky. (1)

Bermane Stiverne, 246¾, Las Vegas, Nev. TKO’d Otis Mills, 216, Cleveland, Oh. (1)

Javier Mora, 255, Anaheim, Calif. dec. Earl Ladson, 229, Winston-Salem, N.C. (6)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Laura Ramsey, 168, Winter Haven, Fla. TKO’d Ijeoma Egbunine, 167, Lagos, Nigeria (1)

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Roman Karmazin, 159¾, St. Petersburg, Russia TKO’d James Obede Toney, 159, Accra, Ghana (4)

WELTERWEIGHTS: Devon Alexander, 144¾, St. Louis, Mo. TKO’d Maximino Cuevas, 147, Bronx, NY (4)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Anges Adajo, 131¾, Cotonou, Benin dec. Armando Cordoba, 133¾, Tampa, Fla. (6)