Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rahman – Toney: A Heavyweight Prediction

By JE Grant

Finally a heavyweight title fight between proven competitors.

With numerous heavyweight titlists possessing a wide variety of levels of talent, Hasim Rahman and James Toney will face-off in an increasingly rare contest of fighters in the heavyweight division who may very well be the best two fighters in their weight class.

Hasim Rahman is a man of enormous physical gifts that include a Sonny Liston-like left hand, strength that would place him on the defensive line of an NFL team, and a finishing right hand that once felled the great Lennox Lewis.

Though thoroughly sculpted, he is also a chameleon, providing a virtuoso performance in one bout, and a mid-ranked club showing in the next.

The fit, hard version of Rahman chases opponents with a laser left jab that breaks an opponent’s will. That same focused Rahman climbs off the canvas and hunts down his tormentor and puts him away.

The other Rahman is a flabby and disinterested battler, slow to the attack and hesitant to counter.

In either case, Rahman’s one clear weakness has been a chin that has let him down against opponents great and not-so-great.

In his run-up to capturing the undisputed title from Lewis, we saw Rahman exemplify his range of traits good and bad.

Despite top conditioning and focus, he was destroyed by Oleg Maskaev.

He was nearly finished against a brutal punching Corrie Sanders yet climbed back to punch out the puncher.

We saw the other version of Rahman in the years after losing the title. His apparent disinterest against Evander Holyfield allowed the aging warrior to rush to an early lead and win a technical decision when a freakish lump on Rahman’s forehead caused their fight to go to the scorecards early.

His fatness allowed David Tua to escape with a draw and John Ruiz to win a very real decision in a title fight.

Following the Ruiz loss it seems Rahman made a decision to gain control of his body and mind and emerge from a slump that made many feel that his days as a real contender were over.

Six wins in his last six fights, with progressively better conditioning, has given the world notice that Rahman is at least trying to realize the gifts that were so clear early in his career.

His steamrolling jab helped him crush the tough Kali Meehan and his overall strength powered him past legitimate top ten contender Monte Barrett (in a dreadfully dull meeting).

James Toney will surely test Rahman’s considerable talents, conditioning, and focus in ways the big man has not likely faced.

Sure Rahman has seen big hitters like Lewis, Sanders, and Maskaev, but nowhere in his considerable resume will anyone find as clever and resourceful an opponent as Toney.

Just as sure as Rahman’s natural talents, is Toney’s collection of skills and abilities that defies a body that looks like anything but a work of art.

He does share some odd ups and downs in his many fights in many weight classes. In seven wins as the IBF title holder he defeated the likes of speedster Michael Nunn and future light-heavyweight titlist Reggie Johnson, and hall-of-famer Michael McCallum. He also captured a dubious win over David Tiberi in a fight in which he looked like anything but a future heavyweight king.

Four wins in super-middleweight title fights led to a meeting with Roy Jones Jr. Of course at that weight and that stage of Jones career, no one, not even the master craftsman Toney, could match Junior’s talent. No one.

His decision loss should not have been, however, the beginning of what became a downward spiral. As his weight increased, a series of lackluster wins over club fighters, twin losses to Montell Griffin, and a loss to the less-than-stellar Drake Thadzi seemed to relegate the aging former titlist to the list of also-rans.

But something happened to “Lights Out” following the loss to Thadzi. Eleven wins led to a contest with an undefeated, former Olympic gold medallist, and heavily favored Vassily Jirov for Jirov’s cruiserweight belt.

In an epic give-and-take battle, Toney used a mix of skills, toughness, and grit to surpass the powerful champion through twelve rounds to capture yet another title.

Of course his tenure in the division was short-lived. He immediately lusted for heavyweight gold.

Pitted against ancient Evander Holyfield, he stopped the former champ in brutal fashion. A second win in the division against Rydell Booker propelled the one-time middleweight titlist into a heavyweight title bout against the unpopular crown wearer John Ruiz.

Throughout their twelve-round contest, Toney out-speeded, out-gunned, out-boxed, and just plain out-fought the “Quiet Man.” It was no contest.

Unfortunately for Toney, it really turned out to be a “no contest” as he was stripped of his new belt and suspended from the ring following a positive test result for steroids.

Undeterred, Toney returned to the win column with a decision over one-time prospect Dominick Guinn that reestablished his claim to a high rating.

While there is considerable debate about how he suddenly became the WBC’s “mandatory” challenger (despite not being the number one contender) he will likely enter the ring a favorite to lift the belt from Rahman. Many will point to his skills and his adaptability. Many will point to the lethargic effort of Rahman against Barrett (ignoring his total dominance in the bout). Many will say Toney is just too good.

This fight will not be about a mastery of the finer points of the game. It will be about power, something Rahman has in abundance. The clouding effect of Toney’s trash talking and bluster won’t be enough to deny the titlist.

Using a classic jab, jab, right hand attack, a consistent and focused Rahman will keep Toney on the ropes and on his heels. Although Toney has proven a distinct ability to fight going backward, he will not get his sharp combinations in often enough to stop the powerful Rahman. As for power, Toney at heavyweight just doesn't have it.

As Rahman closes with Toney he will destroy him. Toney will finally age in this bout. He won’t be able to keep the crunching drumbeat of Rahman’s jab from landing with authority and he will wilt down the stretch. Toney’s chin is as good as anyone in the game but he won’t have a place to hide.

Prediction: Rahman by KO in 9.

13 Comments:

Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Oh...JE...No...(I thought you learned your lesson with Toney???!!! I have!)

Who is the only hvy that can beat JT right now? Klitschko.EITHER one.Other than that? Nobody.

Yes,sooner or later,age will catch up to him...But not quite yet.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

BTW-I'm going to go out on a limb and pick TONEY by late-round TKO.

(Although yes,the 'safer' pick may be by decision.)

11:06 PM  
Blogger Gary Digital Williams said...

Hi JE!

Enjoy your blog. I think if Rahman jabs, he wins. The bout will be as simple as that.

If you get a chance, check out my blog on boxing called Boxing Along The Beltway. The blog covers boxing in the Washington, DC-Baltimore-Northern Virginia area. The site is http://boxingalongthebeltway.blogspot.com

Keep in touch and continued success.

4:21 AM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Toney reality has shown big power as a heavyweight or cruiserweight. And please, for anyone writing in to say we should take special note of his stoppage of ancient Evander Holyfield, save it. By that standard we would be calling Trevor Berbick great for beating a shopworn Muhammad Ali.

4:07 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Of course I meant that in reality Toney has NOT shown power at heavyweight and cruiserweight.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

True JE,but what can I say....

Your still in denial that a 37-yr old 5-10,blown-up cruiserweight/ former-middleweight is one of the best hvy's in the world right now...

JE,you are so far in the forrest--that you can't even see the 'shrub'...:-)

11:08 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Test.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Guys--

As much as I like and welcome the global aspect of hvy boxing (Brits,Eastern-Euro,Russian,and hopefully Cubans someday) what...Has happened to the young American hvy??? Guys (esp. JE & Orltroy) I have a number of 'theories' here,but what do you think? JE--You and I are ROUGHLY the same age,do you EVER recall such a void in young (under-30) hvy talent in your years of following boxing? I don't.

I'm working on a new article which basically explres this issue.Remember that line from the Simon & Garfunkel tune ("Where have you gone,Joe Dimaggio..")

Well--"Where have you gone,Rocky Marciano.." (???)

Or how about (a guy I'm getting ready to interview)

MIKE MARRONE: "A (hvy) nation turns it's 'lonely eyes' to you..."

Yeah,I realize the Italian-American irony with that (Especially if I throw myself in!) and I relaize I may get some backlash because they are all 'white',but frankly I don't give a rat's ass.It could just as easily be "where have you gone,Joe Louis,Holmes,Holyfield,or Ali.

It's the big picture (and the real issue) that concerns me.I realize these things have been cyclical through the years,but this time I fear it may be a bit different.

Anyways,just 'brainstorming' and have a bit of insomnia.Peace...

1:25 AM  
Anonymous The cruiserweight said...

P.S-While Toney may be a 'blown-up cruiserweight',I'm going to miss this guy after he's gone.He(and Hopkins) are 'throwbacks' IMO.

"Sweet science personified..."

:-)

1:31 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

WHOA...Guys,this was my first time in actually seeing Marrone,and let me say this;I wasn't impressed,and I was VERY disappointed.Let me get back...

7:30 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Whew...Guys,young (19 or 20!) Denis Boytsov just plain puts this Marrone kid to shame in both developed skills & natural physical attributes.Boytsov is probably the most impressive young hvy I've seen guys.This kid could be good,and possibly 'more than good'...:-)

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Big John said...

Hopefully this prediction is better than your other recent ones. :)

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In overhearing a conversation between a matchmaker and mananger, where the manager was telling the matchmaker how Duva really loves Marrone. The matchmaker responded, "Why is he protecting him so much?"

10:01 AM  

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