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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (James Toney, Floyd Mayweather Jr., ranking the 4 Kings’ fights)

James Toney lands a punch to the head of Evander Holyfield in the ninth round. Seconds later Holyfield's corner threw in the towel fearing he would be injured further. (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
17
Apr

LIGHTS OUT

Hello Doug, this is my third time writing to you, been 2 for 2 so far for the mailbag, so hoping I can make it a hat-trick, as we Brits say…

I’m just recovering from Coronavirus, looks like I got a mild dose so hoping that is that, in the meanwhile, I’ve spent a lot of time going through old fights as I’m sure we all are, just to pass the time.

Been watching one of my all time favourites, Mr. James Toney himself. Man, every time I watch him I see something I’d never seen before, the head movement, accuracy, positioning, he really is something else.



What I’ve really noticed lately is Toney’s composure under fire, how he throws only when certain and how he seems to know that the only way he is vulnerable is when he throws, so each punch is so carefully selected and if anything comes back he is prepared, head and body movement is so impressive, it’s like he knew when the opponent was going to hit back and he was way ahead of them. Even when he got hit, against Charles Williams, Montell Griffin, Vassily Jirov, and Evander Holyfield, it looked to me like he accepted the damage going in because he had intentions of his own.

What a fighter. I know you know James and I’ve read many of your articles over the years where you’ve spent time with him. Some good, some not so good, but all very funny for us fans who didn’t have to get up close and personal with the undeniably bad man himself.

I’d be really interested to hear your musings on Lights Out in general, and a few mythical matchups, some realistic, some p4p;

Toney V Hopkins (Any weight)

Toney V Hagler (Middle obviously)

Toney V Calzaghe (Super Middle)

Toney V Jones II (If it happened)

Finally, and I know I’m pushing it, but mythically same weight Toney V Mayweather in their primes? How would you see that one?

Hope you are safe Doug. Me and my boy Vella have been reading you for 20+ years now, it’s always a pleasure to read what you do. Take care. – Johnny, Cardiff Bay

Thanks for the very kind words and for reading my stuff for so many years, Johnny, I hope you get back to full health soon.

Your mythical matchups:

Photo by: The Ring Magazine/Getty Images

Toney V Hopkins (Any weight) – I feel like these two versatile technicians would always combine to make a close distance fight, not unlike the first Toney-Mike McCallum classic. I think Hopkins’ underrated footwork and mobility would serve him well at 160 pounds. I think he would be a little bit busier (mainly with his jab) and grab a close, maybe split decision. I favor Toney by close maybe majority nod at 168 pounds (in part because it was a natural weight that he didn’t have to drain himself to make during his prime, so he could let his hands go more). I like B-Hop by close UD at 175 pounds (not a good weight for Toney) and I gotta go with Lights Out north of light heavyweight.

Toney V Hagler (Middle obviously) – I gotta go with the Marvelous One by close, maybe majority nod. I think he’d offer the more consistent offense and outwork Toney, who would be brilliant in spots, especially on the inside, sort of like a bigger version of the Duran that Hagler faced in 1983. Toney would welcome Hagler’s aggression, but I think Marvelous would apply smart pressure and not over-commit to his offense. He’d know when to take a step back and box from the outside.  

Toney V Calzaghe (Super Middle) – I hate to say it ‘cause I know that Lights Out fans don’t want to hear it, but I think Joe is all wrong for Toney in terms of style. Calzaghe was light on his feet, fast, athletic, and very busy with tremendous stamina – a true volume-punching boxer (and southpaw to boot). As good as Toney was at super middleweight, I see Calzaghe outmaneuvering, outworking and ultimately outpointing the raging American via close UD.

Toney V Jones II (If it happened) – I think RJJ has Toney’s number. At the end of the day Roy’s feet are just as fast as his hands and as strong and powerful as Jones was, if he knew he couldn’t hurt a rock-chinned opponent (see his bouts vs. Hopkins and Jorge Castro) he was satisfied with merely outpointing them with an advanced game of “tag-you’re-it-got-ya-last.” Jones by close UD.

Finally, and I know I’m pushing it, but mythically same weight Toney V Mayweather in their primes? How would you see that one? This is another close one, like the Hopkins matchup because it pits two brilliant, defensive-minded counter-punching technicians against each other. I’ll give Toney the edge vs. the 140-154 version of Floyd because Mayweather was a low-volume “minimalist” at those heavier weights, but I think the 130-135 “Pretty Boy” version was fast, nimble, but aggressive and active enough to outpoint his fellow master boxer. (Now, watch all the stupid f__king Floydbots on Twitter have a s__t fit over this opinion.)

My musings on Lights Out?

Well, I’ll say this: Even when he was at the peak of his hubris as the King of the Wild Card Boxing Club – a brutal reign that saw him verbally abuse and belittle sparring partners, gym mates and (especially) members of the media with sadistic glee – I always respected his craft, grit and boxing acumen. And though he’d occasionally bust my balls, he recognized my respect and returned it 100%, which made for many good interviews and some of my better gym-based columns for MaxBoxing.com (some of which also ran on ESPN.com – click the links below if you want to take a trip down memory lane when Toney revitalized his career, and earned 2003 Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year honors, with back-to-back victories over Vassiliy Jirov and Evander Holyfield).

If you read all of these old stories from 2003 and 2004 (and I know most of you will because we’re all on lockdown), you might think that Toney is the biggest jerk of all time as well as a classic bully, but his gym mentally was nothing like is persona outside of the ring. Believe it or not, Toney is THE most charming professional boxer I’ve ever witnessed. He was DELIGHTFUL at parties and non-boxing social events. The man could buddy up to anyone and make them laugh or feel good about themselves. It didn’t matter who they were – men, women, young, old, politicians, movie stars, other sports legends, billionaires, homeless, criminals, white collar professionals, blue-collar working stiffs – or where they were from.

A week or two after Brian Viloria won his first world title (vs. Eric Ortiz in 2005) I got an invite to a victory celebration at a posh country club in the Valley held by the Hawaiian Punch’s manager, Gary Gittelsohn. I brought my wife and our daughter, who was just shy of a year and half old, and while we enjoyed observing and mingling with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Freddie Roach, and the TV actors from the shows that Gittelsohn’s wife, Ellen, directed and produced, the party didn’t begin until Toney arrived.

He got the music going and everybody dancing, and he took time out to give little 17-month old Josephine his full attention on the dance floor. They made a cute dancing couple. Toney smoked cigars, drank and ate what he liked (especially banana fudge Sundaes with the works because there was an ice cream bar in the ballroom) despite having a Showtime date in Reno vs. a motivated (Joe Goossen-trained) Dominick Guinn in less than two weeks.

Been watching one of my all time favourites, Mr. James Toney himself. Man, every time I watch him I see something I’d never seen before, the head movement, accuracy, positioning, he really is something else. I interviewed Bob Arum about Toney in late 2008 or early 2009 and he said James was his favorite fighter, one of the most talented boxers he’d ever had the honor of promoting, and added that he could have been an all-time great had he been more disciplined between fights.  

What I’ve really noticed lately is Toney’s composure under fire, how he throws only when certain and how he seems to know that the only way he is vulnerable is when he throws, so each punch is so carefully selected and if anything comes back he is prepared, head and body movement is so impressive, it’s like he knew when the opponent was going to hit back and he was way ahead of them. Yeah, his ring craft and savvy was sublime. Some of it was natural talent, but most of it was hard earned in the gym. Toney sparred more than anyone, and despite the ill-effects of all those rounds, he still believes that’s the best way for boxers to learn their tough profession.

Even when he got hit, against Charles Williams, Montell Griffin, Vassily Jirov, and Evander Holyfield, it looked to me like he accepted the damage going in because he had intentions of his own. Toney is one of the toughest (and meanest) fighters I’ve watched as a fan and covered as ringside press. There’s no way he should have been able to go 24 rounds with Sam Peter when he was so far removed from his prime and his natural fighting weights. But Toney is one of the few modern-era fighters that would have earned the respect of Harry Greb and other rugged standouts from the early 20th Century.

 

FLOYD HATER TO FLOYD HATER

Hey Dougie,

I hope you had a good Easter along with all the other readers of the mailbag who may not be well off during these times. I was going to write sooner but I got a little busy with the fam but I did want to get at you about that Mayweather comment you made about me being bored that I brought him up. Man, you made me laugh and I got grilled by some of my friends since I’ve been known as a Mayweather hater so the irony of me bringing him up and getting jabbed for it made my day. It’s all cool though.

The reason why I’m known as a hater is I blamed Floyd for making the cherry picking trend, fighting guys at catchweights and the whole PED scandal that got brushed away. I did have hope for his fighters under his promotion but, man, he doesn’t promote his guys well. He got asked who he thinks is the P4P guy and instead of saying Tank Davis he chose someone else. I know he would be lying but isn’t that what promoters do? With all that hate I just gave I still think he might be a good trainer. I know it’s early, but do you think he can pull off this new venture?

I think this quarantine is getting to me ‘cause I want to watch Tank fight Leo now lol. But seriously I think Tank is the best fighter from the new young guns. I think he beats Haney, Teofimo and Garcia right now with Teofimo giving him the most trouble.

Coming out of quarantine, which fighters do you want to see and at which venue? I want to see David Benavidez vs anybody at the Dignity Health Center.

Alright Dougie, I know I was all over the place with this one but I had a lot to say lol. As always, take care of yourself. – Joey, Pomona

Will do, Joey.

The fighters I want to see the most at specific arenas once the “COVID-19 lockdown” is lifted are Roman Gonzalez and Vergil Ortiz Jr. at The Forum in my hometown of Inglewood, Calif., Naoya Inoue at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Anthony Joshua at O2 Arena in London (never been), and Terence Crawford at the CenturyLynk Center in Omaha, Neb. (never been), or Madison Square Garden. Specific fights I want to see at specific arenas include Gonzalez vs. Juan Francisco Estrada at The Forum or Staples Center, Canelo-Golovkin at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Lomachenko vs. Lopez at MSG.

The reason why I’m known as a hater is I blamed Floyd for making the cherry picking trend, fighting guys at catchweights and the whole PED scandal that got brushed away. PED scandal? What PED scandal? Not Floyd! He was a crusader for anti-doping testing in boxing!! He’d never cheat!!! (I wrote all of that with no sarcasm whatsoever. I promise.) Regarding the “cherry picking trend,” I don’t think we can pin that all on Floyd. He had his own influences. I started calling him Roy Jones III in the mid-2000s when he started getting real choosy about who he faced (usually the weakest link of the HBO-approved opponents that were presented to him at the same above-market-level-license-fee-enabled payday as the tougher challenges).

I did have hope for his fighters under his promotion but, man, he doesn’t promote his guys well. Hey, it’s not an easy profession.

He got asked who he thinks is the P4P guy and instead of saying Tank Davis he chose someone else. I give him credit for being honest and bringing up a non-PBC Player in Terence Crawford, who is legitimately in the argument for being the best pound-for-pound boxer. (Ironically, I recently got attacked by some goofy Floydbots on Twitter for an opinion on a Mayweather-Crawford mythical matchup posed to me in 2018 – I picked Bud by close decision at 140 and Floyd by competitive nod at 147 – and some dips__ts came at me saying “Crawford is overrated” and “Bud gets too much credit,” yadda, yadda, yadda; meanwhile, the dude they practically worship says Bud is P4P No. 1! LOL!)

I know he would be lying but isn’t that what promoters do? Yes, but they shouldn’t have to, and fans shouldn’t expect them to.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. works mitts with his uncle Roger.

With all that hate I just gave I still think he might be a good trainer. I know it’s early, but do you think he can pull off this new venture? Only if he’s as dedicated to his pupils as he was to training when he was an active fighter, and that’s asking a lot of him because 99.9% won’t be as devoted to the sport as he was. Few boxers in boxing’s long history were as dedicated as Mayweather was, especially once the good money rolls in. But I know he’s got A LOT of craft and wisdom to impart to a young fighter who has natural talent and a strong desire to learn and to be a success. Floyd’s father was an elite-level trainer and his uncles were also world-class coaches. There’s no reason why he can’t be just as good as they were if training is something that he really wants to do.

Art by @kronkAAArt

I think this quarantine is getting to me ‘cause I want to watch Tank fight Leo now lol. You’ve definitely got cabin fever if you’re dying to see that matchup.

But seriously I think Tank is the best fighter from the new young guns. He’s definitely a young gun with talent who also moves the needle, but I don’t think he’s the best of the new generation.

I think he beats Haney, Teofimo and Garcia right now with Teofimo giving him the most trouble. I’d slightly favor all three of those Ring Magazine Honor Roll standouts to beat Davis. Good matchups, though, I hope we see those fights over the next 18-24 months.

 

RANKING THE BOUTS OF THE FOUR KING’S ROUND ROBIN

Hey Dougie,

This is something I’ve pondered often, especially since the recent Ring Magazine Special Edition issue on the Four Kings came out.

In terms of historical significance, how would you rank the nine fights between the “Four Kings of the 1980s” (Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler) based on the level of hype and anticipation going into each fight? – James, Atlanta, GA

Based on the level of hype and anticipation (and keep in mind that I was 10 years old when Leonard and Duran kicked off the legendary round robin in 1980, so my recollection might not be as accurate as somebody’s who was an adult during that decade) I would go with this order:

  1. Leonard-Hearns I (I had the honor of writing about this modern world title-unification classic between the top two welterweights – arguably the two best boxers, pound for pound, in the sport – in the Four Kings Special Edition)
  2. Hagler-Leonard
  3. Leonard-Duran I
  4. Hagler-Duran
  5. Leonard-Duran II
  6. Hagler-Hearns
  7. Hearns-Duran
  8. Leonard-Hearns II
  9. Leonard-Duran III

In terms of entertainment and drama delivered on fight night, the list goes in this order (in my humble opinion):

  1. Hagler-Hearns (Duh!)
  2. Leonard-Hearns I
  3. Leonard-Duran I
  4. Hagler-Leonard
  5. Leonard-Hearns II
  6. Hearns-Duran
  7. Hagler-Duran
  8. Leonard-Duran II
  9. Leonard-Duran III

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him and Coach Schwartz and friends on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

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