Lee Groves

10: James Toney’s best performances

3. July 29, 1994 – KO 12 Prince Charles Williams, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Williams, who held the IBF light heavyweight title for six years before losing it to Henry Maske 16 months earlier, adopted a unique approach to secure this fight with Toney – he called manager Jackie Kallen and asked for it. Once Kallen said yes, Prince Charles ditched his 12-can-a-day soda habit and checked in at a comfortable 167½. Meanwhile, Toney was anything but comfortable: He suffered from flu-like symptoms all week and was forced to shed two pounds at the weigh-in to avoid losing his title on the scales.

Williams’ fight plan was as simple and direct as his matchmaking – charge right at Toney, pin him to the ropes and fire punches from bell to bell. It was the same blueprint Dave Tiberi employed in his highly controversial loss to Toney two-and-a-half years earlier, and, not coincidentally, executive trainer Marty Feldman trained both Tiberi and Williams. The tactic worked well in the first five rounds as Williams’ constant work trumped Toney’s harder but spurious counters. The crowd often booed the phone-booth warfare because they couldn’t see what was going on the way HBO viewers could.

The wisdom of Williams’ fight plan became clear in the seventh once Toney finally secured some daylight, for Toney’s skills proved to be far superior. However, Toney lost a point for hitting after the bell for the second time following round eight, placing the champion under intense mathematical pressure. The penalty seemed to spark Toney because in the ninth he picked up his pace and belabored the challenger with sharper blows.

Williams rested in the 10th on his corner’s orders but when he tried to resume his pressure in the 11th Toney had already figured him out. The far fresher Toney unleashed 90 punches to Williams’ 59 and the challenger’s punches no longer had the same snap, strength and speed.

With Toney leading by two, four and four points entering the final round, the champ proceeded to turn Williams’ lights out in spectacular fashion. Toney glided to his left, set his feet, landed a range-finding jab and uncorked a perfect right to the jaw that caused Williams’ body to bend like a pretzel before slamming the canvas back-first. Referee Joe Cortez ended his 10-count just 15 seconds before the final bell, securing Toney a fateful showdown with Roy Jones Jr.

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