Wednesday, August 17, 2022  |


James Toney in MMA? C’mon


For those of us with suspect breeding and the resultant juvenile tendencies, James Toney’s overtures toward mixed martial arts (MMA) in general and UFC boss Dana White in particular are hilarious and more evidence yet that Toney is at least as entertaining outside the ring as in.

Forget for the moment that anyone who knows what type of fighter Toney is knows that “Lights Out” is a good fit for MMA like Tiger Woods is a good fit for the priesthood.

There is little or no use in MMA for guys who can stand three inches away from an opponent and make him miss punch after punch and then drop in a right hand, step to the side and finish with an uppercut.

You could understand it more if it were some behemoth like Jameel McCline or Sam Peter, whose natural strength would be of some use. But you get no points in MMA for hooking off the jab or rolling the shoulder.

So expect Toney’s foray into MMA, if it gets off the ground at all, to end up in the same regrettable garbage heap as the boxing careers of Lyle Alzado, Mark Gastineau and Ed “Too Tall” Jones.

Still, Toney’s apparent interest in MMA has sparked discussion in some circles about the possibility that fighters in ever greater numbers will abandon boxing in favor of the younger, hipper MMA.

Ray Mercer is cited and Butterbean and Mike Tyson and Kermit Cintron, and we are reminded of discussions Floyd Mayweather was alleged to have had with White.

And now Toney. Who’s next? The Klitschko brothers? Winky Wright? Miguel Cotto?

If you’re alarmed that Toney’s high profile will persuade others to emulate him, hush. There is no cause for alarm.

Mercer, who is 49 years old, last engaged in an even remotely important boxing match in 2005, when Shannon Briggs stopped him in five rounds. In 2008, journeyman (and former footballer) Derric Rossy outpointed him over 12 rounds in China.

Butterbean turned to MMA when he ran out of farmhands, drifters and other assorted rednecks his handlers could entice out of Mississippi and Alabama trailer parks. The fewer teeth, the better.

The closest Tyson has come to competing in an MMA fight (if you don’t count the photographer he belted at LAX a while back) was when he refereed a cage match.

Mayweather, back when he first fell in love with the idea of creating the Mayweather “brand,” floated the idea of having an MMA fight, and UFC fighters by the dozen scrambled out of weight rooms all over America to tell reporters how happy they’d be to face him and how easily they’d beat him.

None, regrettably, had the good manners to admit that he’d beat them just as easily by boxing rules.

Finally, Cintron opined a couple years ago that he wouldn’t be averse to giving MMA a try, that he thought he’d be good at it, given his background as a standout wrestler in high school. He was quickly disabused of the idea, probably by his handlers, who knew he still could make some money in boxing.

Toney is turning to MMA because he realizes, both apparently and finally, that at age 41 his days as a top boxer are over and that he squandered a good number of them through gluttony and sloth.

It is highly probable that he sees MMA the way Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey and other heavyweights of yore saw wrestling: a way to make a few bucks and stay in front of the crowds after their productive fighting days ended.

Surely this is how Mercer and Butterbean see it as well. If they could make good money anymore in boxing, they would be boxing. They’re not.

If it makes you happy to see MMA as the place old, broken down fighters go to die, don’t get smug. As White has pointed out, boxing does a lousy job of paying its participants and taking care of them. If it did a better job, they wouldn’t have to seek out MMA when their days at the top were over.

He’s right.

Remember, a small percentage of boxers make any real money. Like in all of America, the gap between the wealthy and the poor is huge and getting bigger all the time.

For every Mayweather or Pacquiao or De La Hoya, there are thousands who will leave the fight game with little to show for it but faulty memories and arthritic hands.

You can’t blame anyone for wanting more than that.

Some random observations from last week:

You have to admire the chutzpah of John Ruiz, who told Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, “For some reason, I’m the guy who always gets bashed.” For “some” reason? Not for “some” reason. For this reason: Watching you is like watching a documentary on the feeding habits of giant squids. This is like the 300-pound girl who doesn’t understand why she can’t get a date. John, ever heard of a mirror? ÔǪ

OK, I’ll be the one to say it: From all appearances, Shawn Porter’s father values his son more as a surrogate for his long-gone baby brother than as his child. If that’s not bad enough, as a fighter, Porter is not all he’s cracked up to be. ÔǪ

Chris Arreola-Tomasz Adamek is a heck of an interesting fight, which is the first time in a very long time we can say that about any fight in the heavyweight division. Kudos to all involved in putting it together. But Arreola should know this: After the way he blubbered himself silly following his loss to Vitali Klitschko, his days of intimidating other fighters are long gone, regardless of how many tattoos he gets. 

Kudos also to Teddy Atlas and Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini for proving once again that football coaches are the dullest people on the planet. I have old sweat pants that have more personality than Mangini. 

The news that Andre Dirrell has suffered a back injury that has delayed his fight with Arthur Abraham must have come as a terrible blow to Dirrell’s dentist. He was probably looking forward to putting in some heavy overtime after the fight. ÔǪ

Speaking of the super middleweight tourney, don’t be fooled into liking Carl Froch against Mikkel Kessler because of how awful Kessler was against Andre Ward. In terms of style, Froch is Ward’s polar opposite. Kessler will be hard-pressed to miss.

It’ll be more interesting to see whether Froch’s girlfriend, who is way out of his league as it is and clearly has self-esteem issues, will stay with him after the fight, when Froch’s nose resembles the slalom run in Vancouver.

Bill Dettloff, whose articles can be found every month in THE RING magazine, can be reached at [email protected]