Holy Grail? Evander has me
less sure to back Toney

Aug 29, 2006 4:55 AM

How much do I believe in Evander Holyfield?

I’m not talking about the silliness of him winning the heavyweight championship again. Just because he could look good against a punching bag with love handles doesn’t mean he’ll be able to get out of the way of a real fighter’s right hand. I’m talking about Holy’s analysis of this week’s featured bout, the scheduled 12-rounder between James Toney and Samuel Peter at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

If I hadn’t spoken to Holyfield, I probably would be tempted to jump all over the +115 on Toney. Yes, the -145 Peter is an imposing specimen with highlight reel knockout power in either hand. But the Nigerian Nightmare is a novice when it comes to boxing. Toney, on the other hand, is a PhD.

And, of course, the fat man inside me of course roots for Toney. We have a long history together. He once threw a folding chair at me at a press conference before his undressing by Roy Jones, Jr. The former high school quarterback missed by a city block just to let me know he wasn’t really trying to hit me.

Training for that fight, he also playfully stole my cervical collar. A couple of years later, I knocked his then trainer, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, off his seat when Toney commented, "I see you’re still wearing that collar." I responded, "Yeah, but it’s not as tight as the one you wore against Roy."

In a sense, James has become a caricature of himself with his obscenity-laced tirades against opponents, their managers, promoters and dubious characters.

There has always been anger simmering beneath his volatile exterior. It is what made him a great boxer — that and Bill Miller. The wizened Detroit trainer taught him most every counter-punching trick in the book

Toney could always be beaten, though. Jones knew which way to turn him. Eddie Futch’s fighters — from Mike McCallum to Montell Griffith also knew. However, it is unlikely the raw Peters could do that.

This is why I thought Toney was such an easy choice for the Showtime bout next Saturday — until I spoke to Holyfield.

Evander may be 43 and taken a few punches in his lifetime, but his brain is as sharp as Futch when it comes to boxing. When I asked him about Toney-Peter (a bout to determine the WBClowns next mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitschko’s slice of the title) I naturally expected him to praise the former middleweight champ. After all, Toney had outboxed Evander before stopping him.

"James is definitely a clever boxer, but Sammy swings down so you really can’t duck him," Holyfield said. "It’s like when (George) Foreman fought Joe Frazier. He hit him on the top of the head. Even if you think you’re ducking his shots, you’ll get hit in the back of the head, the back of the neck, the top of the head."

The other day, Toney celebrated his 38th birthday and posed for pictures in the gym with this big cake. It was more than a photo op — it was a straight line op. Imagine Toney, 237 jiggling pounds when he let Hasim Rahman get off with a draw, treating it as an hors d’ouevre. Yet, from the picture, and maybe I’m delusional, it seemed that Toney was a bit firmer than he’s been in recent years.

This is his last chance. I thought he would easily outbox Peter, but Holyfield has convinced me that this is not a favorable matchup. I remember making a reputation of sorts at the Lion’s Head in New York when I predicted Foreman would pulverize Frazier.

And I remember, Gil Clancy I believe it was, saying George may not have been the brightest boxer of his day, but he could count up to three, as in, 1, 2, 3.

Peter knocked down Wladimir Klitschko three times, but by the end was worn out against a man whose stamina has always been questioned. It is my belief, not as strong as it was before Evander interceded, that Toney will so frustrate the bigger bomber that Peter will be worn down. I used to be pretty sure about this. Not now, though.

One for a gentleman

Another thing. Next Saturday, in England, Glencoffe Johnson goes after Clinton Woods for the third time. The Road Warrior was held to a controversial draw the first time they met for a vacant light-heavyweight belt, but left the judges irrelevant in the rematch.

Woods may have improved since then, but I think Johnson, with the decline of Antonio Tarver, is the best 175-pounder in the world and should come home with another title. The fight was pick ”˜em off-shore. I pick Gentleman Glen.