By Jake Donovan
It was a bout that was supposed to spell the end for one faded heavyweight, and offer one last chance to the victor.
Instead, the main event of Fox Sport's special edition of FoxSports' "The Best Damn Fight Night, Period" ended in controversy, with former three-division champion James Toney winning via third round stoppage against former linear heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman.
The bout aired live from the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California.
Both fighters sought to establish their jab early; in fact it was all that was offered in the opening round, with Rahman also occasionally touching Toney to the body. Round two was a barnburner by comparison. Toney opened up a little more, landing a right hand late in the round that got Rahman's attention, though Hasim immediately returned fire a right hand of his own before the bell.
It was a Rahman right hand that started off the third round, landing flush enough to draw a rise out of the crowd. Toney quickly went to his bag of tricks, landing two to the body before taking it upstairs, his grace far exceeding his pudgy 226 lb. frame. Rahman went back to the jab, looking to put to use his height and reach advantage. It didn't work, as Toney was able to slip a lot of the incoming and repeatedly counter with right hands that had the crowd oohing and ahhing by rounds end.
But leave it to the heavyweight division to offer the ultimate tease. Just when things began to pick up, the fight came to an abrupt end. Rahman suffered a cut above his left eye, which replays confirmed resulted from a clash of heads.
Attending ringside physician Dr. Paul Wallace determined the cut too severe, coupled with Rahman's complaint of his vision being compromised, which prompted the stoppage.
Confusion quickly set in as to what would be the correct final decision. Rahman was under the impression that the bout would be ruled a no-contest, since the bout ended on a cut produced by an accidental foul before four completed rounds. By his own admission, not even Dr. Wallace was aware of how the California State Athletic Commission would rule it.
"I made the medical decision based on the fighter and his corner insisting that he couldn't see. The evaluation of the cut was never done. It was solely based on the fighter stating three times that he couldn't see."
It was then determined by the CSAC that Rahman informed the doctor that he didn't want to continue, resulting in a 3rd round injury stoppage win for Toney, who picks up the 71st win of his Hall of Fame career, against six losses and three draws.
It's not the ending he hoped for, but promoter Dan Goossen summed it up best in assessing the win at this point in Toney's career.
"We'll take the win any way we can," quipped the promoter afterward, though adding "The bottom line is, I think James would've stopped him regardless."
Toney believes the same as his promoter.
'It's a disappointing way to win; I was going to knock him out in seven rounds like I told everyone in my camp."
Instead he settles for a win laced with controversy, though the soon-to-be 40 year old heavyweight blames Rahman for the anti-climactic ending.
"If it were me, I would've continued to fight. But he wanted a way out. If I was him, I'd go balls on and keep fighting."
Rahman isn't Toney, nor does he agree with anything he or the California State Athletic Commission had to say.
"The cut was deep, blood was streaming into my eye" explained Rahman, who falls to 45-7-2 (36KO) in snapping a four-fight win streak. "All of a sudden after the headbutt, he starts catching me with hands I didn't even see. The guy headbutted me, what else you want."
The fans wanted more. Rahman just wanted a fair shake.
"Everyone knows this was some home cooking. We're going to appeal it."
Considering the miscommunication in the corner, he might have a case. Until that happens, it's Toney's career that's momentarily resuscitated. A former world champion at middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight, Toney hopes for one last victory lap in a still relatively wide open heavyweight division.
Naturally, he believes he's the best heavyweight in the world, though would prefer to carry on his mission of taking care of unfinished business. The stoppage tonight avenges a poor showing against Rahman two years in a bout that resulted in a disputed draw.
His next two fights were the fifth and sixth losses of his career, to which he made it clear afterward that he's anxious to avenge.
"Sam Peter, you will see me again."
Whether or not boxing will ever again see Hasim Rahman remains to be seen. The former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world insisted before the fight that should he lose, he has no desire to stick around in a gatekeeper capacity. However, the questionable nature of the outcome leaves the door open for perhaps one last run.
While two heavyweight careers near the end, two fighters just beginning their career helped open the telecast, though their four-round fight was joined in progress beginning with the third round. By bout's end, local super bantamweight Rico Ramos was the last man standing in a battle of previously unbeaten newcomers, taking a unanimous decision over Jonathan "Jon Jon" Velardez.
Action picked up from the third round, but two rounds of action was enough to detect the disparity in skills. Ramos has already been in tough, while Velardez carried a very soft 6-0 record into the ring, though his halo style haircut (not unlike faded former middleweight contender Raymond Joval) was perhaps enough to help him gain airtime.
It certainly didn't help him fight any better. Ramos controlled what little action was shown. Velardez' lone shining moment came in illegal fashion, landing a body shot on the break late in the third round.
Final scores were 39-37 across the board, all for Ramos who advances to 5-0 (3KO). Velardez loses for the first time as a pro, falling to 6-1 (4KO).
The show was presented by Goossen-Tutor Promotions.
Jake Donovan is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Tennessee Boxing Advisory Board. Contact Jake at [email protected]