On This Day: James Toney defeated fellow boxing wizard Mike McCallum in middleweight rematch

James Toney
James Toney and Mike McCallum engaged in August 29, 1992 sequel

1. OPINION was divided, among the judges and observers, about who won the first encounter between ring wizards Mike McCallum and James Toney on December 13 1991. The officials scored a draw, while plenty watching from ringside and on television made convincing cases for both McCallum and Toney.

2. THAT middleweight showdown was originally intended to be a unification fight with McCallum’s WBA belt and Toney’s IBF strap on the line. But only Toney’s trophy was up for grabs when the Jamaican veteran refused to pay WBA mandatory contender Steve Collins a $50,000 step aside fee.

3. THE important rematch was set for August 29 at the Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. Despite the importance of the fight, and the quality on offer, the bout was far from a sell-out.

4. McCALLUM dropped his professional demeanour at the pre-fight press conference to highlight the bad blood between the pair. “I’m going to kick your ass just like I did the last time,” he said.

5. THIS would be Toney’s final appearance in the middleweight division, and his gold knee-length shorts hung from a sleek and muscular physique. He would later say he was in the best shape of his career, and his subsequent ascent through the weight classes suggests it was the last time he was in peak physical condition.

6. BOTH men were born to fight and, like in their first fight, exhibited astonishing boxing skill. Few fighters have since made the hardest game look so easy.

7. TONEY kept his chin tucked, his left hand low, and exploded with counter hooks when the slower and older McCallum got close. But the 35-year-old, bidding to become boxing’s oldest active champion, refused to be dominated and repeatedly threw savage shots to his rival’s midsection.

8. AFTER 10 gruelling, close rounds, McCallum’s 81-year-old trainer, Eddie Futch, told him: “It’s very close, Mike. You’ve got to get this one and the next.”

9. BUT McCallum was tired. He sucked back air and willed himself to unleash a fight-winning effort. The rivals exchanged educated bombs, Toney switching from body to head, while McCallum scored with a triple jab. At the end of the penultimate session, both men cuffed each other in a show of mutual respect.

10. AT the end of 12, the right man won, but the scores were a little puzzling. A score of 114-114 was overruled by scores of 117-110 and 118-110 for James Toney. “It’s one thing to lose but not by that far,” said McCallum afterwards. “But 118-110? That’s ridiculous. This was a tough fight but I feel I won.”

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