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Toney Might Be Real Deal

He scores a ninth-round TKO over Holyfield, who takes a serious beating and says he will consider retiring.

October 05, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — One of the saddest sights in boxing is a former champion knocked out by Father Time. So it was with Joe Louis, lying on the canvas after Rocky Marciano had put him down. So it was with Muhammad Ali, slumped on his stool after Larry Holmes had thoroughly whipped him.

And so it was Saturday night at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center with Evander Holyfield, who was beaten on a ninth-round TKO by James Toney in front of 7,897.

A four-time former heavyweight champion who will be 41 in 15 days, Holyfield was dominated by Toney in a nontitle bout, repeatedly beaten to the punch, unable to defend himself.

In the ninth, having been knocked down by the collective weight of several devastating body punches, Holyfield pulled himself up and waited out the count. His lip was split, his face looked drained, his eyes appearing glazed over, his manner that of a man who has been in too many wars and lost too many brain cells.

Referee Jay Nady asked him if wanted to continue and Holyfield murmured that he did through puffed lips.

But fortunately, Don Turner, his trainer of nearly a decade, tossed in the towel at the 1:42 mark of the round, stepped through the ropes, put his arms around Holyfield and gently led him back to his corner, like a father bringing home a lost child.

"I had to stop the fight," Turner said. "I didn't want to see my guy get hurt. I love him too much. I've seen four guys get killed in the ring."

So has Holyfield had enough?

"I am not going to retire," he said. "I am going back to the drawing board. But I am going to pray and give it serious thought. If I can't get myself reacting more and punching more, I will make that decision [to retire]."

Nobody was talking about retirement on the Toney side. Just the opposite.

Although he is only five years younger than Holyfield, Toney began a new phase of his 15-year boxing career Saturday night. Having started as a middleweight in 1988, Toney moved up the weight ladder until last April when he won the International Boxing Federation cruiserweight title.

By winning Saturday night over a big name like Holyfield, regardless of Holyfield's advanced age and frayed skills, Toney has gained the credibility he needs to join the growing list of heavyweights vying to become the next big name in the division with the expected retirement of Lennox Lewis sometime soon.

After the fight, Dan Goossen, Toney's promoter and the man who has rejuvenated a career seemingly going nowhere, was talking to another newly arrived heavyweight, Roy Jones. Toney would love a rematch against Jones, who beat him in 1994 when both were super-middleweights.

"I'll fight whoever," said Toney (67-4-2, 43 knockouts). "Whoever Goossen lines up, I'll knock them out. From 195 pounds to 295, whoever it is, step up."

Toney's weight had become the largest question mark hanging over his head. When he stepped on the scales at Thursday's weigh-in at 217, 27 pounds more than he weighed in his last fight, there were doubts about whether he could retain his advantage in speed and boxing ability over Holyfield.

But by the third round, it became obvious that Holyfield had deteriorated too much for Toney's added weight to make a difference.

"Next time, I'll be better acclimated to the weight," Toney said. "I'll be quicker."

As the fight wore on, Toney began pounding Holyfield almost at will with his right hand and mixing his attack up with damaging body blows. One caused Holyfield to lift one of his feet off the ground.

Heading into the ninth round, Turner had his surrender towel ready.

"I told him in the corner," Turner said, "that if he didn't show he could win this fight in the next round, I was going to stop the fight. Before Toney had even knocked him down, I had already made the decision to stop it."

Holyfield, who had memorable battles with Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, George Foreman and Lewis, drops to 38-7-2 with 25 knockouts. But more telling is the fact that he is 2-4-2 over his last eight fights.

Most boxing careers end sadly. If Holyfield persists in going on, it only figures to get sadder.

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