Lee Groves

10: James Toney’s best performances

7. April 30, 2005 – ND 12 John Ruiz, Madison Square Garden, New York

Yes, this fight went into the record books as a no-decision because Toney tested positive for a banned substance but his performance on fight night merited inclusion on this list. Two years earlier former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. out-pointed Ruiz in dazzling fashion to lift his WBA heavyweight belt but he did so using his supernatural lighter-man skills. Conversely, Toney out-fought and out-thought “The Quiet Man” in a manner more befitting of heavyweights: Toe-to-toe trench warfare, surprisingly potent power shots, peerless defensive skills and superb counter-punching.

Ruiz had faced heavy criticism over his jab-and-grab tactics from media outlets, but against Toney he tried to adopt a more fan-friendly style by fighting more on the outside. Early on he found success with heavy flurries to the body but ultimately the extra space served to amplify Toney’s far faster hands and gave him more time to avoid Ruiz’s punches. Toney repeatedly smashed rights to Ruiz’s face and seized every countering opportunity.

Toney, a 2-to-1 favorite to join Jones and Bob Fitzsimmons as the only middleweight titlists to capture a heavyweight crown, took a big step toward that goal early in the seventh when a right to the forehead – along with a well-placed left foot – caused Ruiz to tumble to the canvas. More Toney rights bloodied Ruiz’s mouth, sliced the area near his nose and buried Ruiz under a mountain of points.

Toney’s far more exacting punching – he led Ruiz 45 percent to 25 percent in overall percentage and 57 percent to 28 percent in power accuracy — persuaded the judges to award him a 116-111, 116-111, 115-112 decision, a fourth divisional crown and another slice of history. At least for a few days.

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