James Toney enters his 20th year in professional boxing with Saturday’s non-televised bout against Matthew Greer on the undercard of Showtime’s Andre Ward-Shelby Pudwill offering. Who knows how far Toney will get in what has to be the last hurrah of his hall-of-fame career but he certainly has a lot to look back on, which the former three-division titleholder did recently with RingTV.com. In what will become a regular blog item featuring the most accomplished fighter’s of our generation, Toney lists the best he faced in 10 important categories.
Best fighter: Mike McCallum — That’s an easy choice, right off the top of my head it’s the Body Snatcher. He was the best fighter I fought at middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight. Out of all the fighters I fought, I respect him the most because he made me think about everything I tried to do. Before McCallum I was just runnin’ in on everyone, but he made me slow down and think for the first time.
Best Boxer: McCallum — Yup, it’s him again. It’s between McCallum and Michael Nunn, but I gotta go with McCallum because he was a master boxer who wasn’t afraid to stand his ground. Nunn was mostly fast. I admit that he outboxed me for about nine rounds, but my body shots slowed him down. I told him during the fight ‘I’m gonna catch you!’ And I did.
Best puncher: Merqui Sosa — Sam Peter is the hardest puncher I’ve fought, but pound-for-pound it’s Sosa because he hurt me the most. I’ll never forget that fight, we fought on an ESPN show in Atlantic City on a Sunday. I went at him like I did everyone back then and that mother f_____ hit me so hard in the third round I was seeing triple for the next three rounds. He knew how to hit and he was so awkward that I couldn’t time him and he caught me high on the head.
Quickest hands: Roy Jones — He was fast. I’ll give him that, but that’s all I’ll give him. I would have knocked him out if I wasn’t drained from losing 44 pounds in six weeks. I went in (that fight) like a fool and wasn’t properly prepared.
Quickest feet: Nunn — He had some fast-ass feet (laughing), didn’t he? He was an escape artist for nine or 10 rounds, ‘til I caught up to him.
Best defense: McCallum: He was right there in front of me, but I had a hard time hitting him with clean punches. I basically came into my own by fighting him. I learned how to be elusive without running around the ring by fighting Mike McCallum three times.
Best chin: Tony Thornton: The punching postman from Philly! (laughs) I thought I was gonna knock him out easy. He was squared up with his chin right there for me to hit but I hit him with every punch I had and he wouldn’t budge. I hit him with my best left hook and he didn’t blink.
Best jab: McCallum: Mike’s jab was like a piston. There were other guys I fought who had good jabs, like Nunn and Jones, but they just had speed and they just flicked it. Mike popped that jab with authority. He was an old-school fighter.
Strongest: Samuel Peter: He was just a big-ass African with brute African strength.
Smartest: McCallum: Come on, who do you think it is? Who’s the one fighter I truly respect? You got it, the Body Snatcher, Mike McCallum. I fought my share of boxers who thought they were clever like Roy Jones, Michael Nunn, Montell Griffin, and Reggie Johnson, but they were all scared to really fight. McCallum boxed, he fought, he defended, and he didn’t run all over the ring. He could do all that because he was smart.