Lee Groves

10: James Toney’s best performances

6. December 13, 1991 – D 12 Mike McCallum I, Convention Hall, Atlantic City

If the 23-year-old Toney was already considered a pugilistic professor, his 35-year-old opponent was the dean. The 10-year veteran boasted a sterling 42-1 (34) record that included an 11-1 (7) record in title fights and victories over Julian Jackson, Herol Graham, Milton McCrory, Donald Curry, Steve Collins, Michael Watson and a revenge win over the only man who had beaten him, Sumbu Kalambay. That experience led bettors to install “The Body Snatcher” as a solid 5-to-2 favorite.

If boxing were a righteous sport, Toney-McCallum I should have unified the IBF and WBA belts. Instead, McCallum was forced to give up his strap because he refused to pay $115,000 of his $500,000 purse to the WBA – $15,000 for the 3 percent sanctioning fee and a $100,000 penalty for not fighting mandatory challenger Steve Collins, who McCallum had soundly beaten 22 months earlier.

The first four rounds were hotly contested with both fighters going punch-for-punch, tactic-for-tactic and thought-for-thought. The pace slowed in round five but in the sixth Toney connected with a trio of heavy rights while McCallum, who sported a small cut on his nose, feverishly worked his educated jab. McCallum showed small signs of fatigue in the seventh and eighth and Toney took advantage with subtle but effective pressure and the meatier punches.

McCallum struck back hard in the ninth by accompanying his spearing jabs with several robust power shots that forced Toney backward. The 10th was the fight’s best in terms of two-way action but the effort took its toll on McCallum’s reserves. Toney snatched a close 11th with an overhand right to the temple that shook McCallum just before the bell and cemented what looked like a close win with two huge rallies in the 12th capped by a withering triple hook in the final moments.

Judge Tom Kaczmarek’s 115-113 card appeared to favor McCallum’s superior output while Gary Merritt’s 116-112 score reflected Toney’s harder, more precise blows. But Robert Cox’s 114-114 submission led to the ultimate result: A draw, and a red-hot rematch.

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