"Screw the South Bronx," Toney said before the fight, referring to the neighborhood where Barkley was raised. "I've been in the streets. I know tough. If he is tough enough to take a whipping for 12 rounds, then I'm tough enough to put one on him."
"He doesn't think much of the South Bronx?" said Barkley. "Tell him to stop down there on 142nd Street and Third Avenue and see what he's got. Where's he from, Ann Arbor? I've never heard of Ann Arbor."
No matter. The turf war last Saturday was over a 20-by 20-foot piece of canvas, to which Barkley staked his claim with a fierce charge at the opening bell. The glowering champion wanted a slugfest, but the unruffled challenger immediately turned it into a dazzling display of boxing. Toney began to reshape Barkley's face with a string of crisp and swift combinations thrown with astonishing accuracy: an overhand right, a hook, another overhand right, a second hook, two straight right hands; a straight right, a right upper-cut, a hook; a triple jab, a hook, a right uppercut; hard jabs, ripping uppercuts, slashing hooks. Barkley started to bleed from the nose at the end of the first round. His left eye began to blow up by Round 3 and was all but closed as he left his stool for the ninth. For much of the bout he swallowed blood from his mangled mouth.
Outgunned and outmaneuvered, Barkley tried to win the fight with one big punch, but he was never able to land it. Toney moved deftly from side to side, dipping away, moving in, bending under the left hooks, slipping the right hands. When Barkley did connect, the blows usually struck Toney's arms and shoulders, and a few low ones found Toney's hips.
After the eighth round Homansky warned Barkley's cornermen that he would give their fighter one more round to turn the bout around. "But it just got worse," Homansky said later. "He was almost out on his feet."
"That's it," said Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Barkley's trainer, as Barkley returned to his corner after the savage ninth. "I'm not going to let you go back out there."
"No," said Barkley, blood pouring from his open mouth.
"You can't see," said Muhammad.
"No," Barkley protested again.
Steele ended the argument with a wave of his hands. Until that point, all three judges—Chuck Giampa, Mike Glienna and Jerry Roth—had scored the bout 89-82 for Toney. Roth had given Barkley the second round; Glienna and Giampa had given him the sixth. Toney had won everything else—easily.