Posted: Sunday September 3, 2006 4:38PM; Updated: Sunday September 3, 2006 4:38PM
But Toney, who brought 18 years of experience (and a record of 69-4-3, with 43 KOs) into the bout, is a remarkably resourceful fighter with an unmatched set of tools to work with, and he appeared to be enjoying himself even in the back-and-forth banging with Peter. Turning his head to smirk at ringside after a rare clean shot from Peter, Toney repeatedly showed that he could stand up to Peter's punches. And while he never appeared to have Peter in real trouble (though he shook him in the sixth), Toney bloodied the Nigerian's nose and left his face puffy and bruised.
In the end, though, it was Toney who took the hardest one-two of the night, in the form of the scorecards of Rochin and Flaherty. And, as usual, he was somewhat less than gracious. "I didn't lose this fight," Toney said. "I took everything away from him. I'm not done with this punk."
While I feel for you, James, punk is just not the word to use for Peter. After all, he was in against one of the greatest fighters of his generation and he acquitted himself pretty well. He got schooled at times, sure, but he showed improvement in all aspects of his game and put to rest any questions about his heart. He'll be a better fighter after those 12 rounds Saturday night. That he got the decision was -- in more ways than one -- not his fault. Now boxing has a big, strong guy about to turn 26, with a 27-1-0 record (22 KOs) and a match against WBC heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev awaiting. According to Peter's promoter, Dino Duva, that bout could happen as early as this fall. "We're going to sit down with Maskaev's people this week," said Duva on Sunday. "Samuel feels good, and is physically fine and we want to see if we can make the fight immediately, maybe before the end of the year." We should all be happy, right?
Well, maybe. I'm pleased to see Peter put himself back in the picture. And I can see his success energizing the heavyweight division. But I'm also a little disappointed (though hardly surprised) that the artistry and soul of a true all-timer like James Toney can be so casually dismissed by a couple of pen pushers at ringside. But, as Duva said when asked whether the controversy around the decision had taken any of the luster off the night, "This is boxing. In the end you go by what's on the scorecards."
A.J. Liebling once described Archie Moore facing a crude but strong opponent as being like an opera star "crowded off the stage by a guy who can only shout." There's no question Samuel Peter has a set of lungs on him, and I for one am eager to hear his next recital, but I can't help thinking I'm going to miss the music.