UFC 118: Does James Toney Loss Mean End To Boxer MMA Crossovers?
After weeks of trash talk and hype, the fight between former IBA and NABO heavyweight champion James “Lights Out” Toney and UFC legend Randy Couture ended as many experts predicted. In humiliation.
Toney, whose impressive boxing resume includes a 72-6-3 record, tapped out at the 3:19 mark in the first round. But what does this fight mean for other boxers looking to make the crossover?
With many fans disinterested in boxing and UFC rapidly gaining popularity, this type of stunt seems likely to repeat. Was the Toney fight a fluke, or rather an indication of things to come?
"James Toney picked this fight, and he got a fight. Toney lasted longer than I thought he would.”
Those are the words of UFC president Dana White. Clearly a man with little respect for the 5'10 237 pound boxing superstar.
White would go on to say, “It's unfair to put a guy in there with one discipline, even if he's trained for several months.”
That begs the question...is there any boxer out there who could hold his own against UFC competition? Does a puncher have a shot against a well rounded fighter? Clearly Dana White doesn't think so.
Toney had an illustrious career as a boxer winning titles as a middleweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweight, super cruiserweight and heavyweight.
His career honors include winning Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year in 1991 and 2003. In fact, even at age 42, Toney is the current IBA heavyweight champion.
However, his numbers may be slightly misleading. Toney's most impressive career victory was against an aging Evander Holyfield while he lost to Roy Jones Jr. and twice failed to record a decision against Hasim Rahman.
Next Time, Schedule a Tune Up Game
Perhaps Toney should have set his sights a little lower in his MMA debut. The 6'1 220 pound Couture is the only five-time champion in UFC history and has already been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Typically known as a ground-and-pound fighter, Couture has a diverse skill set including aspects of Greco-Roman wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
While he is also an adept boxer, Couture is smart enough to avoid trading punches.
Could We See Pacquiao in The Ring? No.
At age 42, you will find very few analysts who believe James Toney is even close to his prime. So was this a fair fight?
To truly gauge the possibility of a boxer defeating a trained mixed martial arts fighter, we will need to see a boxer in their prime. Of course, no boxer in their prime would ever decide to crossover, making this a moot point.
Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather would never forego the millions of dollars they make per fight. Nor would they risk serious injury by fighting out of their comfort zone.
It seems that any UFC crossover would have to include an aging boxing star, who believes they can prolong their career by taking their skills into the octagon.
Maybe Some More Steroids Will Help
This type of crossover has become all too common, whether it be former gridiron star and 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker or former MLB player/juice-head/reality TV star Jose Canseco.
The untrained 6'4 Canseco, a well-documented publicity whore, lost his first MMA fight to the 7'2 350 pound Choi Hong-man in a mere one minute and seventeen seconds.
Walker on the other hand, is a fifth degree black belt in Taekwondo. In September of 2009, it was announced that the two-time Pro-Bowler had been signed by Strikeforce, and on January 30th of this year, Walker defeated Greg Nady at Strikeforce: Miami.
Despite Nady's less-than-stellar resume, Walker's success could influence others to try their hand at Mixed Martial Arts.
You Will See James Toney Go Down
Any UFC fan who watched Couture destroy Toney probably enjoyed a great deal of satisfaction in last night's demolition.
Toney's sole chance at victory was a knockout punch landed to the chin of Couture, but apparently Toney was the only person who believed he had a shot.
In an article on ESPN, Toney was quoted as saying, "You will see how James Toney boxes. You will see that James Toney hits hard. You will see why James Toney hardly ever gets hit.”
Unfortunately, nobody got to see how hard Toney hits. The heavyweight champion failed to land a single punch on the 47-year old Couture.
Can Any Boxer Compete in The UFC?
So after the embarrassment at UFC 118 the question plaguing many fans is which boxer, if any, can successfully step into the octagon?
Personally, I'd love to see that smug grin wiped off Floyd Mayweather's face after he gets locked into a submission hold, but that seems more fantasy than reality.
Honestly, it seems highly improbable that any boxer could defeat an MMA fighter. As Dana White pointed out, these boxers are one-dimensional fighters with a few months of training. Asking them to compete against well-rounded fighters with years of training seems ludicrous.
If you know that your opponent wants to stand on his feet and trade punches, all you have to do is take them to the floor and the fight is over. Sad to say, but a lot of these boxing champions will have to learn this lesson the hard way.
What About a UFC Fighter Jumping into The Ring?
Now that it is clear that boxers will be overmatched in the octagon, it's time to examine the other side of the coin. How would a UFC fighter fair in the ring?
Many fighters have boxing backgrounds including Couture and B.J. Penn, however they would likely struggle to compete against the world's best boxers.
Boxing has a plethora of rules to help guide the fight. UFC does not. Boxers are extremely well trained in one specific area while UFC fighters are more diversified. Boxers are trained to go twelve rounds not five. Boxers rely solely on their hands and footwork, while MMA uses everything.
In a street fight I would take the UFC fighter 99 times out of 100. In a boxing match though...no chance.
Get Ready For The Craziest Boxer Alive...Except For Maybe Mike Tyson
So what's next for boxing crossovers? Former WBA/WBC Welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga has decided to toss his hat into the ring, errr...octagon.
The 5'9 150 pound Nicaraguan holds a career record of 28-7 including 22 knockouts, and was once called “The craziest man in the sport” by Ring Magazine.
The 36-year old Mayorga was set to make his first career fight on May 15th but his promoter, Don King, filed for an injunction as the flamboyant felon argued that Mayorga's contract only applies to boxing.
The fight was cancelled, but when this legal process is concluded, expect to see the wild child in the octagon.
What We've Learned
If last night's events taught us anything, it is that boxers simply can not take on a multi-dimensional fighter. The litany of rules and red tape in boxing make it more sport than brawl.
In the UFC, those rules go out the window. You can kick, grapple and strike below the waist. Often times, you spend just as much time on the ground as you do on your feet.
These are two completely different animals. Unless a boxer has other training or gets lucky with a haymaker to the moneymaker, they're sitting ducks.
Toney may have helped create an entertaining spectacle but he also helped prove that UFC is about raw fighting, not just striking. If any other prize-fighters are considering a career change, I hope they learned their lesson and stay away from Ultimate Fighting. For their own sake.