As a general rule, boxers were highly dismissive of their counterparts in MMA. Back then, Marvin Hagler referred to it as "street fighting," Bernard Hopkins dismissed it, saying, "I don't want to watch two grown men wrestling with panties on," and Floyd Mayweather offered, "Just imagine what happens if a heavyweight contender lays hands on an MMA fighter. We both know what the aftermath will look like."
Well, times have changed, and apparently so has the boxing world's view on MMA, because James Toney's promoter, Dan Goossen, is already angling for a rematch after UFC 118. A boxing rematch.
Acknowledging that Toney is at a "severe disadvantage" in his upcoming fight with Randy Couture, Goossen released a statement to the media offering Couture the same payday he will receive at UFC 118 to face Toney in a 12-round boxing match.
Goossen's 848-word missive includes a short history of Toney's boxing success, admits "the odds are greatly against James" and essentially challenges Couture's manhood in an attempt to set up payback for what seems to be an expected loss.
"If Randy Couture believes he would be at a severe disadvantage going against James in a boxing match and not accept this challenge, then all we have next week is a boxing legend taking up another challenge, in another sport, that few, if any, would be willing to do," Goossen said in the statement. "Until that challenge is taken, James Toney will stand alone as one of the most gifted, true warriors of all time"
Goossen is right about one thing, and that is Toney's warrior spirit. He is indeed taking on a challenge that few would, and for that he deserves the respect of the MMA world regardless of the outcome. But what Goossen fails to mention in spelling out his challenge to Couture was that the insults and taunting in this supposed feud between combat sports have nearly always been one-sided.
Every MMA fighter trains boxing, and therefore has an appreciation for it. They may not think it is the ultimate combat art, but they recognize its value, as well as the difference between a boxing master like Mayweather and someone just proficient enough to get by.
Indeed, it's always been the boxers slamming the mixed martial artists, ridiculing their standup, calling them glorified bar brawlers, and in some cases, resorting to homophobic metaphors to describe ground fighting.
Toney was one of those at the forefront. In April 2007, he told the Boxing Confidential radio show, "UFC is not ready for someone like me. I am too violent. If they want to make it boxer vs. UFC, if Dana White has the b----, like he does on TV, he can call Dan Goossen and we can make it happen."
Though Goossen says that he met with the UFC regarding Toney way back in 2003, since then Toney has been the one calling out MMA, not the other way around. I remember sitting in a Memphis restaurant last December when Toney showed up, saying that he'd heard White was there and he wanted to sign to fight in the UFC. A month later, he showed up unannounced at another UFC event, this one in Las Vegas, in hopes of signing.
This is what he wanted.
It was always about him proving he could beat an MMA fighter on their turf. Goossen simply has his guy's back and he can't be faulted for loyalty. He compared Toney's plunge to "if football's Tom Brady took his Super Bowl arm and tried to step in and pitch for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series."
That's not quite right; Toney's bringing a rusty old knife to a gunfight.
All along, they knew this day would come, and now that it's nearly here, the white flag can't be raised fast enough.
The MMA folks, well, they just wanted respect. In that, it appears they've succeeded even before Couture can try his first takedown. Recently, Hopkins confirmed that he's a converted MMA fan, and conceded even the best boxer would probably lose in an MMA cage.
"I don't care who it is, whether Floyd [Mayweather], [Manny] Pacquiao, Bernard Hopkins -- they get their ass kicked," he told Hardcore Sports Radio. "That is not what we do."
Goossen, too, found room for praise.
"While UFC in this instance is trying to show that their athletes are superior to those in boxing, I believe both sports, different as they are, exhibit real fighters."
We knew that all along, Dan. We knew that all along.
Too bad for you Randy Couture is smart enough to know that he'd have little chance in James Toney's world. Too bad for you it wasn't the other way around.