Dougie’s Monday mailbag
JAMES TONEY’S RETIREMENT (WE HOPE)
In light of James Toney’s final fight (we hope), I wanted to reflect back a bit on Lights Out’s roller coaster ride of a career. It wasn’t really the way you’re supposed to do it but dammit, James didn’t play the game by anyone else’s rules; boxing wasn’t just a sport he took part in, fighting was his way of life and everything he did he did it his way.
And man were the highs sky high; whether they were high speed duels of skill like his fights with Mike McCallum and Michael Nunn, technical beatdowns like his fights with Iran Barkley and Evander Holyfield, or trench warfare like his fight with Vassiliy Jirov, James was a must see fighter, old school down to the marrow in his bones. He was as hilarious as he was mean, quick as he was fat, and one of the purest examples of defense synthesized with offense.
I know you’re a big fan Doug, do you know him personally and what are some of your favorite Toney memories? – Jack
I don’t know Toney personally, but I did get close to him and members of his inner-circle during his improbable run at the cruiserweight title and somewhat bizarre heavyweight excursion in the early-to-mid 2000s. I really wish he would have retired after that rematch loss to Samuel Peter 10 years ago. The scene in Michigan (against journeyman Mike Sheppard) was sad.
Toney was probably my second favorite boxer (behind Terry Norris) during the early-to-mid 1990s, so his come-from-behind title-winning effort vs. Nunn, close-call decision over Reggie Johnson, draw with McCallum in their classic first bout, the expert bloodletting against Barkley, and the dramatic final round KO of Prince Charles Williams are among my favorite “Lights Out” memories. I covered his late career, including the build-up to the Jirov fight, so his winning that IBF cruiserweight title in a dramatic phone-booth war is probably my all-time favorite Toney performance. And the stoppage of Holyfield (which I was ringside for) that same year is in my top five. It was so very satisfying to see Toney win THE RING’s 2003 Fighter of the Year award (12 years after the first time he earned the honor).
But the brightest memories I have of Toney are of him either kicking ass in brutally masterful sparring sessions, talking crazy (and very un-PC) s__t to anyone and everyone in the gym (usually sparring partners and members of the media – and this was often done WHILE he was sparring), and being an extremely charming individual (you heard right).
Toney was a rascal and thug in the gym (and he loved giving media the business, so he seldom missed an opportunity to make fun of my ponytail, call Steve Kim “Chinese” or snatch the camera away from MaxBoxing’s videographer Brian Harty), but he could tone it down when he wanted to and often did so when making public appearances or co-hosting radio and TV programs (such as Rich Marotta’s ‘Neutral Corner’ or Fox Sport Net’s ‘The Best Damn Sports Show Period’).
When Brian Viloria (Toney’s fellow Freddie Roach-trained Wild Card gym mate) won his first world title in 2005, the junior flyweight’s manager Gary Gittelsohn celebrated the occasion at his San Fernando Valley country club in late September. Toney was there and was the life of the party, outshining such luminaries as Sugar Ray Leonard. I was invited and I took my wife and then-17-month-old daughter to the event. Toney couldn’t have been more polite and playful around the energetic toddler, and he made her the center of attention by dancing with her in the middle of the ballroom floor. Later in the evening, Toney, who was at least 30 pounds over any reasonable fighting weight, went to town at an ice cream sundae bar. This was less than two weeks away from a Showtime-televised fight with fringe contender Dominick Guinn, who had been training his ass off for months at Joe Goossen’s nearby gym in Van Nuys. Toney outclassed Guinn over 12 one-sided rounds on Oct. 1, 2005.
That may have been his last significant victory (unless you count his ugly split nod over Fres Oquendo in 2008). He fought top-10 heavyweight contenders Hassim Rahman and Peter (twice each) between the Guinn and Oquendo bouts but he failed to get the ‘W’ (although most observers thought he deserved the decision over Peter in their first bout).
I caught up with Toney at a Reseda fitness center in early September 2009, the week of a fight against journeyman Matthew Greer (the co-feature to Andre Ward-Shelby Pudwill), to get some notes for a Southern California Notebook that ran on RingTV.com. Toney, 41 at the time, admitted that he could have had much better career had he been more dedicated to the sport. Here’s part of Toney’s section of that column:
My two immediate observations were that he probably weighs in the low 220s and that despite 82 pro bouts and 21 years in the sport he still has his legs under him.
He’s lost enough weight for those legs to look like they belong to a middleweight but his upper body still looks like an out-of-shape cruiserweight’s torso (although his arms and back are solid).
He’s sporting love handles and flabby pecks (at least they can no longer be classified as man-boobs) but his upper body movement is still on point, and he displayed it during a brisk four-round sparring session with 1-0 heavyweight Gabriel Silva.
It’s amazing what Toney (71-6-3, 43 KOs) can do in the ring considering the punishment he’s absorbed and the abuse he’s heaped on his body over the years with his overindulgent lifestyle.
He says he has no regrets but when I interviewed him for the “Best I Ever Fought” blog, he lamented the fact the he didn’t take all of his fights seriously.
“When I look back on all of the losses in my career — Roy Jones, the two fights with Montel Griffin, which could have gone my way, Drake Thazdi, and the second fight with Sam Peter, they robbed me in the first one — I realize that if I was in tip-top shape, I could have won them all,” he said. “I didn’t bother training hard for those fights. It was ignorance and it was arrogance on my part. If I had just listened to my trainers and the people around me, my record could be 82-0 right now.”
Even as an under achiever, Toney is a first-ballot hall of famer in my book. Both Bob Arum and Freddie Roach say he’s the most talented fighter they’ve ever worked with.
In case you missed it, here’s the Best I Faced with James Toney that I conducted during that gym visit. Enjoy!
Douglass Fischer, my man in Inglewood!
I’ve not heard a peep in months about the Takashi Miura-Miguel Berchelt fight. Can you give us some color on exactly where and when it will be? Last I heard it was going to happen in SoCal in May or June. I’m looking forward to this fight of the year candidate! This has the makings of another StubHub Center classic.
On another note, the Chavez/Canelo fight reminded me so much of De La Hoya/Pacquaio, except that Oscar ran into a more aggressive buzz saw. I hope Chavez hangs them up and I wish him well.
Speaking of Canelo, I think it was the LA Times that said the 3 likely venues for GGG/Canelo are 1) T-Mobile Center, 2) MSG and, 3) ATT Stadium in Dallas.
Help me out D. Why the f___ would this fight ever happen at MSG? NYC doesn’t have the Mexican demographic. And why would the fight take place in a 20,000 seat arena in Vegas when Jerry Jones’ house could do an 80,000 gate?
Where do you see the fight happening and why? What are the economics of choosing a venue that might not be so obvious? I need to start making travel plans for September! Be well Doug. – Andy, Chula Vista, CA
Nobody can out-bid Las Vegas when the boxing capital really wants to host a fight. The casinos know they can make their millions back with the gambling. Other cities can’t compete with that (or the convenience of all of the hotels/resorts on and off the Strip that can accommodate all of the visiting fans). However, I think Jones has a fighting chance with his influence, deep pockets, monster state-of-the-art venue and the positive press a 90,000-plus stadium crowd would produce.
I wouldn’t waste much time wondering what chance NYC, L.A., San Antonio, New Orleans have of landing Canelo-GGG; start looking at Las Vegas or Dallas-area flights and hotels to book.
I’ve not heard a peep in months about the Takashi Miura-Miguel Berchelt fight. Can you give us some color on exactly where and when it will be? Well, word on the streets (and Steve Kim’s Twitter) is that can’t-miss barnburner will top an HBO doubleheader (with the Sullivan Barrera-Joe Smith Jr. light heavyweight title elimination bout as the opener) or tripleheader (with Barrera-Smith and WBA 130-pound beltholder Jezreel Corrales defending against Robinson Castellanos) on July 15 at The Forum in my hometown of Inglewood (and I’m totally bummed out that I’ll be at my 25-year college reunion in Ohio if the card falls on that date). This excellent show hasn’t been finalized but rumor is that it’s close and could be announced this week.
On another note, the Chavez/Canelo fight reminded me so much of De La Hoya/Pacquaio, except that Oscar ran into a more aggressive buzz saw. I think it was more like Roy Jones Jr.-John Ruiz – a naturally smaller but vastly more talented and athletic boxer-puncher mentally handcuffing the sleep-walking bigger man over 12 rounds.
I hope Chavez hangs them up and I wish him well. You’re one of the few fans out there to have any sympathy for Junior. I respect that. But you gotta know that he’ll be back. He’ll make one more run, probably for a super middleweight title against WBO beltholder Gilberto Ramirez or by participating in the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
WHEN CANELO AND GOLOVKIN SPARRED
Awesome work with that classic Gym Notes article on when Canelo sparred with Gennady Golovkin. I forgot how good those articles were back in the day. You should do a Throwback Thursday section and repost some of those old gym wars articles – especially those involving your “son” Edwin Valero.
Even though this was about 6-7 years ago, and Canelo was a much smaller fighter, we can see some of the reasons a lot of people still pick Golovkin over Alvarez in that sparring session. I think the main thing is boxing IQ, one area GGG is very underrated in. His Ring Generalship, defense, control of the tempo and jab battle plus, of course, his power make him a very difficult fighter to beat, especially for a guy who’s never ever faced a legitimate middleweight top 10 contender (no, Cotto and Chavez Jr. don’t count). That combination proved back then and will prove today to be too difficult for him to handle. Now if Canelo solves the puzzle and ends up beating Golovkin I’ll be the first to praise him. For now I’m one of those Mexicans that WON’T be rooting for Alvarez September 16.
Thanks Doug. – Juan Valverde
If you’re wrong, Juan, and Canelo whups that ass on Sept. 16, I hope you know that I’m gonna take the liberty of revoking your Mexican identity for a period of time. I may have no right to do such a thing but that’s just how we roll in the Los Angeles boxing community. Back in early 2005, any Mexican member of the local media or the MaxBoxing message boards that picked Manny Pacquiao to beat Erik Morales or Kermit Cintron to beat Antonio Margarito basically lost his “Mexican card” until the end of that summer. Anytime they tried to thump their chest and proclaim how proud they were of their heritage (especially in the boxing realm) we said: “Shut the f__k up, you though Kermit’s nervous ass was gonna knock out the TJ Tornado!”
But seriously, thanks for the kind words on the old Gym Notes column. I do intend to republish more of them when appropriate (hence the “Classic” branding), as well as old Best I Faced features.
Even though this was about 6-7 years ago, and Canelo was a much smaller fighter, we can see some of the reasons a lot of people still pick Golovkin over Alvarez in that sparring session. It was exactly six years ago, and Canelo wasn’t just a much smaller fighter (he believed that he could still make 147 pounds at the time), he was 20 years old and a much lesser experienced fighter than he is now. He’s matured mentally as well as physically over the past four or five years, and I think his skillset has evolved since those 2011 sparring sessions.
I think the main thing is boxing IQ, one area GGG is very underrated in. That’s true. But keep in mind that Golovkin fought more off his back foot then than he does now. Abel Sanchez has changed his style over the years from that of a crafty aggressive boxer-puncher who looks to zap you with his right to a pressure fighter who utilizes his jab and hook more. Back then GGG reminded me of Kostya Tszyu. Now he’s more like Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
His Ring Generalship, defense, control of the tempo and jab battle plus, of course, his power make him a very difficult fighter to beat, especially for a guy who’s never ever faced a legitimate middleweight top 10 contender (no, Cotto and Chavez Jr. don’t count). Good point. Canelo, who has all the attributes you noted in GGG, has faced more quality opponents than Golovkin but they haven’t been ranked middleweights.
That combination proved back then and will prove today to be too difficult for him to handle. We will see.
CLASSIC GYM NOTES COLUMN
Haven’t written to you in awhile but have enjoyed reading your stuff for over 10 years and respect your opinion. Just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed re-reading your Gym Notes column on the GGG-Alvarez sparring session. I had read it back in the day but after seeing at least 5 Twitter posts from people saying it was a must-read I decided to check it out again and I wasn’t disappointed. I know you’ve moved onto bigger things but wish you still had the time to pen some of these still. Most stuff I read now is pretty boilerplate and I miss the interesting articles you used to write but I know you just don’t have the time anymore.
Anyways, just wanted to say great article, you’re the man and keep on keeping on. – Dave, Switzerland (via San Jose, CA)
Thanks for the very kind words, Dave.
I wish I did have more time to visit gyms the way I used to but the combination of my RingTV editing responsibilities, studio/live commentary gigs, and daddy duties (my girls are now 9 and 13) does not leave many windows in my daily/weekly schedule to drive out to Hollywood, Maywood, Carson or the Pico Rivera areas of Southern California (let alone road trips to Oxnard, Coachella and Big Bear Lake).
But I tell you what, man, I’m still gonna try! I did visit Rafael Sarabia’s private backyard gym in Pico Rivera earlier this year and witnessed a lot of good sparring (and spoke with a number of young up-and-comers), which can still go into a column, but I’ll try to make my way back there in the coming weeks (as well as visits to The Rock in Carson and one of my older haunts, the Maywood Boxing Club).
WATCHING BOXING WITH THE FAMILY
Man, I almost called the Joshua/Klitschko outcome correctly, but AJ’s got tons of heart and grew throughout the fight. Good for them. I wish them both well in the future. I had not seen the family yell at the TV so much since well who knows when, especially moms.
Speaking of mom, my family was arguing about P4P and she said “Ward no jump up in weight and face a champion on his first fight two times in two years. He face Paul Smith then barely get by Krusher. Chocolatito fight Japanese Champ 1st fight new weight and Cuadras new weight and should have won against Sor Rungvisai. You stupids think Ward go up weight and fight Usyk new weight first fight then Lebedev or Gassiev in next fight. Maybe he no P4P if got balls like Gonzalez.”
Rafa Marquez vs Shinsuke Yamanaka 118
Hozumi Hasegawa vs Shinsuke Yamanaka 118
Yuri boy Campas vs The Machine 147
Margarito vs Mayorga in a back alley street fight
Thank you. – Efrain Aguilar
Hey man, tell your mom she’s got a place waiting for her on THE RING’s Ratings Panel. We need more clear thinkers who speak the raw truth. Viva Chocolatito!
Your mythical matchups:
Rafa Marquez vs Shinsuke Yamanaka 118 – Marquez by mid-to-late TKO in a beautiful back-and-forth shootout
Hozumi Hasegawa vs Shinsuke Yamanaka 118 – Yamanaka by close, maybe controversial decision in an intense boxing match that features some heated exchanges, maybe traded knockdowns at some point
Yory Boy Campas vs The Machine 147 – Campas by late TKO in a brutal fight that Matthysse is winning until the Mexican’s heavy hands take their toll
Margarito vs Mayorga in a back alley street fight – Mayorga puts a savage beating on Margz until those smokers lungs betray him and allow the heavy handed horse-faced glutton for punishment to return the favor until he’s had enough
I think the situation of which British boxing is in at the moment is at a level at which it hasn’t been for some time. So many great boxers coming through.
I just wanted to know if Kell Brook is able to defeat Errol Spence Jr, who do you think would be next on the radar? Certainly those who spring to mind for me include the likes of Keith Thurman or possibly even Terrence Crawford. Brook/Thurman could certainly be a showstopper in my eyes.
Also Kal Yafai, other than Joshua, certainly from what I’ve seen I think Yafai is probably the next best thing for British boxing. Do you expect big things for Yafai?
Same for James Degale. Not fighting in the UK has probably been the best thing that could probably happen to him and his fight with Badou Jack was show stealer.
Also with the likes of Eubank Jr., Connor Benn, Billy Joe Saunders, Lee Selby, Liam Walsh (who I have a sneaky feeling may give Gervonta Davis a run for his money), Terry Flanagan, Luke Campbell and Dillian Whyte, I think British boxing is at such highpoint with a lot to look forward to in the future. What’s your take on British boxing as a whole at them moment?
Cheers – Zach, Bradford, England
I think it’s the healthiest boxing scene on the planet, and has been for the past two or three years. I’ve acknowledged that many times in this column in recent years. And I agree that boxing in the U.K. will remain hot for at least the next few years.
I just wanted to know if Kell Brook is able to defeat Errol Spence Jr, who do you think would be next on the radar? My guess is Amir Khan. That’s still a big fight in the U.K. If Brook prevails in that matchup I would hope that he (and Thurman) would pursue a three-belt title unification bout to decide who’s truly the top man at welterweight. If those bouts can’t be made, I could see a rematch with Shawn Porter, who probably assumed a high ranking in the IBF by stopping previously No. 3-ranked Andre Berto, taking place. If Brook isn’t keen on that or interesting in unifying belts, he’ll probably vacate his IBF belt and try his hand at junior middleweight.
Also Kal Yafai, other than Joshua, certainly from what I’ve seen I think Yafai is probably the next best thing for British boxing. Time will tell.
Do you expect big things for Yafai? Yes, I do. He’s 27 years old and just now peaking as a fighter. It’s a good time for a confident and talented boxer (with a good promotional backing) like Kal to be in the 115-pound division, which is one of the deepest weight-classes in the sport. The only reason he’s not ranked among THE RING’s top five junior banties is because that division is home to so many elite boxers/seasoned veterans. Here are the five 115 pounders ranked above the No. 6-rated Yafai: Naoya Inoue, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Juan Estrada. There are a lot of possibilities for Yafai.
Same for James Degale. Not fighting in the UK has probably been the best thing that could probably happened to him and his fight with Badou Jack was show stealer. Well, that’s one way to look at it. I’m a big fan of Chunky’s but I believe that he was lucky to get the draw against Jack, I think his technique and boxing style has regressed in recent bouts, and I think he may have hurt his stature/standing in the U.K. by being away for so long (since November 2014). I hope I’m wrong.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer and on Periscope, where the most-reasonable boxing promoter in the game occasionally drops by to answer fans’ (and Coach Schwartz’s) questions: