Toney To Confront African Heavy In Title Eliminator

By Francis Walker
Updated: August 16, 2006

Photo: Tom Casino/SHOWTIME

Photo: Tom Casino/SHOWTIME

NEW YORK — Oleg Maskaev is the new WBC heavyweight champion. How can there be a heavyweight champion if there is no one to fight?

Which is why on Saturday, September 2, James Toney (69-4-3, 43 KOs) will challenge Nigerian slugger, Samuel Peter (26-1, 22 KOs) to a 12-round WBC heavyweight elimination bout at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.

The Toney-Peter winner will have the right to challenge Maskaev, who scored a 12th round KO of two-time heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman on August 12, in Las Vegas.

James Toney and Sam Peter promises to be a boxing match worth watching. Toney is the older and more experienced fighter of the two.

He has had an illustrious 18-year career and at age 37 has not shown signs of slowing down. Toney, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has won world championships at 160, 168, 175, and 190.

In April 2005, Toney would have become the second former middleweight champion in more than 100 years to win a heavyweight title.

However, Toney’s unanimous decision victory over John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight crown was changed to a no-contest when Toney failed a post-fight drug test.

Toney previously challenged Hasim Rahman for the WBC heavyweight title in March. Toney appeared to be in poor condition, but appeared to have given Rahman everything he could handle during their twelve-round draw.

Toney blamed his poor conditioning on a cold he suffered during training camp.

“I thought I won the fight, but I should have come in better shape because I had a little cold before the fight,” Toney said during a recent conference call. “No excuse. But now we are here. I will jump right back into the frying pan. You don’t know too many fighters today that will jump right back into the frying pan with a difficult fight”.

“I don’t think anybody in boxing, but James Toney, is taking a tough fight after a tough fight. So I will be in great shape. I wish the fight was today, but it isn’t. Three and a half more weeks, and I will be ready.” Toney believes that the heavyweights today do not have the same heart and desire as legendary heavyweights Muhammad Ali, Ezzard Charles, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Joe Louis to name a few.

Toney was disappointed with his previous world title bid and is anxious for another world title shot.

The road toward another heavyweight title shot goes through the younger and perhaps stronger Peter.

“Toney hasn’t fought anybody like me before,” Peter said. “Even though he has been two or three times champion of the world, I have my own training”.

“Nobody has seen Sammy Peter yet, but I think this fight will prove that people have things wrong about me. I am a fighter, I am a boxer. I can do anything.” Peter is young and strong 25-year-old from Akwaibom, Nigeria. He and has knockout power in both hands and is very difficult to move backward. Peter aggressively throws punches and constantly applies pressure moving forward.

Peter carried an impressive undefeated record into an IBF heavyweight elimination bout against the 6’ 7” 245-pound Wladimir Klitschko. Although Peter applied plenty of pressure and scored three knockdowns against the much bigger Klitschko, Peter came up short on all three judges’ scorecards 114-111.

The loss proved to be devastating for Peter, as Klitschko (instead) went on to knockout Chris Byrd to win the IBF heavyweight championship in April.

Peter’s ability as a boxer has been in questions since his loss to Klitschko. Had Peter displayed some boxing ability by jabbing and throwing punches from different angles, he probably would have knocked out Klitschko, who has been KO’d three times in his career.

“[Peter] poses a threat to everybody else, but not to me,” Toney said. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good fighter. But he has never been in the ring with anybody like me before in his life”.

“It doesn’t matter if I fought middleweight or lightweight, or cruiserweight, James Toney can flat out just fight. I am a natural born fighter. Everybody else was taught to fight. That is the difference between me and everybody else.” Very few heavyweights can block, slip punches, and fight on the inside the way Toney has throughout his career. Toney can look fat and out of shape (5’ 9,” 235 pounds) and still have enough hand speed, and pop in his jabs to fight and win convincingly.

Peter has never fought an opponent with Toney’s skills and experience, but does not appear to be too concerned.

“He is a very good fighter, but I know I am going to walk through him,” Peter said surprisingly. “He is not going to stop me. He is not going to crack me. I am going to walk through him.” Toney is anything, but a walkover opponent. Perhaps Peter is fooled by the carefully handpicked opposition he has squashed throughout his career.

Toney is more than likely the toughest opponent that Peter has fought thus far. Toney is accustomed to having one tough fight after another.

Toney’s last six fights were against three heavyweight champions (including a ninth-round TKO of former undisputed world champion Evander Holyfield), an undefeated heavyweight prospect, and an undefeated cruiserweight champion.

Toney has not lost a fight since May 1997.

“If you know me, you haven’t ever seen me change my style for anybody,” Toney said. “I am not that type of fighter. I do what James does best, and that is just fight. Ruiz is bigger than Sam Peter, and Rahman”.

“Both are stronger than me. You see where that went. So it doesn’t matter. I just know how to fight, period. And that is what this is all about. James Toney flat out knows how to fight.”