Peter looked better -- but Toney looked like the winner
Posted: Sunday September 3, 2006 4:38PM; Updated: Sunday September 3, 2006 4:38PM
The good news is that Samuel Peter looked much better Saturday night against James Toney than he did in his loss last September to Wladimir Klitschko. Though he came into the 12-round bout at the Staples Center in Los Angeles at a career-high 257 pounds -- which made the blocky Peter appear even more house-like than usual -- he showed some useful movement and a bit of real stamina. He also threw more punches, some in actual combination, boxed with some skill and demonstrated a level of engagement and grit that had been missing in earlier outings. It was a career-resuscitating performance that sets the 25-year-old Nigerian up as a central player in the heavyweight division.
And the bad news? Oh, yeah, the bad news: He lost the fight. Well, not officially, of course. Officially, Peter won a split decision, as two of the three judges, Alejandro Rochin and Richard Flaherty, scored the fight in his favor 116-111. (The third judge, Gale Van Hoy, saw Toney winning 115-112.) Now I have no quibble with the 116-111 tally -- it is exactly the score I came up with; I just happened to have Toney winning. Especially considering that Peter had been docked a point in the ninth for a two-handed boxing of Toney's ears, Rochin's and Flaherty's scores seem shamelessly off.
Toney, who at 233 pounds was four pounds lighter than he was in his last outing -- a draw with Hasim Rahman on March 18 -- still presented the proudly rounded physique that has brought him so much criticism lately. But I'm with Toney when he says, "This is boxing, not bodybuilding." And there's simply no better boxer among the heavyweights than the 38-year-old Toney.
Against Peter, Toney fought with more aggression than usual, and certainly more than was expected from the onetime middleweight going against one of the heavyweight division's most feared punchers. Far from intimidated by Peter's power, Toney largely avoided his customary strategy of counterpunching off the ropes and took the fight to the bigger man. In the first two rounds, he stung Peter repeatedly with a stiff jab while also banging in some sharp straight rights, all while demonstrating that patented rolling, slipping defense that is his signature, and which makes him one of the most gratifying fighters to watch in all of boxing. To his credit, Peter showed more energy and commitment than he had against Klitschko. He rocked Toney with a hard right in the third round and again early in the fifth and he worked diligently throughout to impose his strength.