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November 20, 2017

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

Ray Brewer:

James Toney packs a big punch, but boxer needs more in MMA debut

One powerful right-hand punch from James Toney could settle the argument.

If Toney, the former three-weight boxing world champion, beats legendary mixed martial artist Randy Couture on Saturday at UFC 118 in Boston, it would potentially be more than a black-eye to Couture.

It would be a blow to all mixed martial artists in the argument of which sport's fighters are tougher, boxers or mixed martial artists. The fight is being billed as boxing against MMA.

The 42-year-old Toney, a lifelong boxer who is significantly past his prime and able to secure boxing matches only against tomato cans such as Matthew Greer (his last fight in September 2009), did enough pestering of UFC President Dana White to secure a fight against Couture.

The brash Toney, who has done more than his share of trash-talking leading up to the fight, claims boxers are better fighters than martial artists. He says the 4-ounce UFC gloves, roughly six ounces lighter than his boxing gloves, makes his punches have that much more velocity.

He'll get a chance Saturday to backup his words. And those words, if nothing else, are entertaining.

"I'm not worried about whatever Randy is going to do. Randy's going to be Randy. James will be James, you know what I'm saying," Toney said in a conference call last week.

"Get this to the match and whatever happens, happens. But you know what? I'm winning, point blank, hands down. I'm not going to count."

Several, especially those in MMA circles, give Toney no chance in his mixed martial arts debut. He's a 5-to-1 underdog, which would be comparable to the chances oddsmakers have given the UNLV football team to beat Wisconsin in its season opener.

Just don't tell that to the Toney, who goes by the moniker "Lights Out" and is convinced another knockout is forthcoming. His boxing record is 72-6-3 with 44 KOs.

"You know, I'm not even thinking about losing. James doesn't lose. I'm the best fighter in the world. I'm the best fighter Randy's ever fought," he said.

Toney is partially correct — he's the best boxer Couture has fought. But winning in the UFC octagon, especially against the veteran Couture, will require strength in other disciplines such as wrestling, Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Couture, after all, was a three-time collegiate All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State and three-time Olympic alternate. If the match goes to the floor, Toney will be done.

But that won't close the books on the argument. That's because there is no true way to gauge which sports' fighters are best — it's unfair for a boxer such as Toney, someone who has been training in his craft most of his life, to transition into a top-notch mixed martial artist.

And while Toney will be able to have every excuse in the world at his disposal following a likely loss, Couture won't be as fortunate. You have to wonder why he agreed to take the fight and carry the burden of representing his mixed-martial-arts peers.

"I don't really choose to plug into that kind of pressure. I think the sport's going to be fine regardless of the outcome of this fight," Couture said. "You know, we've been expanding globally, and the sport's really taken off. I've been out there representing the sport of mixed martial arts in a lot of ways for a long, long time, so that's nothing new."

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