Expecting happy New Year for
Peter in rematch with Toney

Jan 1, 2007 5:58 AM

Happy New Year. As for 2007, it begins with the kind of matchup we all appreciate — a pick’em fight with much significance almost unbelievably in the stagnant heavyweight division.

That’s because the WBClowns have ordered a rematch between Samuel Peter and James Toney, who met last year to determine who would be the mandatory challenger for Hasim Rahman. In the interim, Rahman was knocked out by Oleg Maskaev and Toney, though fat and out of shape, seemed to have done enough to beat the powerful but raw Peter. At least most of the ringside observers believed he did, but Peter got a split decision.

Not the WBClown judges, of course. Jose Sulaiman can play his three-card monte all he wants with that abomination called "open" scoring. The fact remains that judging will not get any better until there are better officials assigned. It was not the worst decision anyone had ever seen, so it seemed almost political when the clowns ordered the immediate rematch.

This one should be on the up-and-up. I mean, Don King has half-share in both contestants so how much fairer can it be? The Showtime special from Hollywood (Fla) should also be entertaining.

Their Sept. 2 matchup at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was fairly exciting. In that one, I leaned toward Toney, the very slight underdog. It would have been more than a lean had I not spoken to Evander Holyfield, whose analysis was that Peter’s undisciplined downward punches would hit Toney in awkward places — like the back and top of the head.

Holyfield knows boxing. That’s what happened. Toney took them but, he was so out of shape, he could not respond with enough energy. Peter, meanwhile, repeated what Hasim Rahman did wrong in an earlier bout with Toney. He got too close and took away his own punching room.

Things may have changed. Toney, after years of denying that his need for a girdle hindered his genius inside the ring, hired Tai Boe guru Billy Blanks to get him into shape. Now that King has 50 percent of Dino Duva’s operation, Peter added the veteran Stacey McKinley to the corner. McKinley can be a clown and a boor, but he knows boxing. Presumably, he will be another wise voice in Peter’s ear to remind the Nigerian bruiser to keep his distance.

If so, he can punch Toney and the vice can’t versa.

Peter is a work in progress. He’s been improving gradually. Toney, one of my favorites (How the heck can I not love a fat man?) remains one of the sweetest scientists in the game. His roll-and-counter right hands are straight from the textbook taught by his great original trainer Bill Miller. Ditto for his chin-tuck defense.

However, the legs aren’t there any more and Boe knows he can’t walk down an opponent the way he used to. Too much time is now spent on the ropes, ducking and dodging and of course countering.

It’s not a style that appeals to judges. Part of it may be because judges don’t see the defense and belittle the counterpunching offense. Whatever! Toney on the ropes will not win as many points as he should. Also, at 38, his reflexes aren’t quite what they were. He’s getting hit more often. Maybe the blows aren’t flush but, to the judges’ point of view, it ain’t good.

Peter must be given some improvement, even if only by natural progression. Having gone 12 rounds with both Wladimir Klitschko and Toney means he no longer should fight like a novice. At pick’em, I expect to start the New Year with a winner by choosing Peter. But I can never go overboard betting against James Toney.

On the same Don King card, there are two "title" matches involving junior middleweights. The more important one, though not on television, involves Cory Spinks defending the title he won over Roman Karmazin, who beat Kassim Ouma. That’s as legit as it gets in the 154-pound division.

Spinks is not considered a "fun" fighter, so his upcoming defense against the veteran Rodney Jones will be off-TV. On the tube is the more exciting matchup between belt-holder Jose Antonio Rivera and Travis Simms. Both champions should move on to bigger fights, maybe against each other.