Monday, July 12, 2010

Toney vs. Couture: Excitement Versus Effectiveness


A python kills a crocodile using its body to suffocate the life out of it. A tiger kills a crocodile using it claws and teeth to bleed/maim it to death. Both methods are extremely effective. But which is more entertaining?

Since the Ricardo Mayorga vs. Din Thomas fight was scrapped by the ever-persistent king of promoters, Don King, the James Toney vs Randy Couture fight seems to be one of the truest forms of Boxing Meets MMA (or Boxers Meet Mix Martial Artists). One is a decorated warrior who has reached the zenith of the boxing world. Toney was once a svelte middleweight who was atop the mythical and popular pound-for pound ratings. He was immortalized in an old Sega Genesis game featuring Legends of The Ring. He was also a true multi-division champion who fought the best competition and usually won.

In the other corner, Couture has lived a life few other combatants can compare, except the truly elite superstars. He has suffered MMA's highs and its lows. He has upset, been upset and came back to do it again. He does have one-up on Toney. In addition to the accolades in entertainment, Couture is also a movie star. Both Toney and Couture have ruled their respective sports at one time or another. Now, they both look to help fuel PPV buys (though, deservedly, Toney deserves much more credit in the hype department).

Make no mistake about it: They are both Hall of Fame fighters in their respective sports who are well past their primes. But maybe this will make the fight more of an event.

When Muhammad Ali met Antonio Inoki in a ring, he was in his boxing gear and Inoki was kicking him from the ground, where it stayed for the dull remainder of the spectacle. But times have changed and economics is king. Toney will leave the friendly confines of the ring for a cage, though Couture would probably be as comfortable in a ring, so long as UFC rules apply.

No one who has ever fought can question the effectiveness of a choke or any other limb-altering technique. Now for the question of excitement; the UFC answers this. Strikes are much more celebrated. Look at their past and present promos. Other than a slam or choke, knockouts are the highlight reel.

Say what you will about Toney and Dana White, but you better include their ability to sell a fight. People who know boxing and know Toney is near, if not past the end of his winning days, still want to see this fight. MMA fans who have seen Couture rise only to fall (rinse and repeat) also want to see this fight.

MMA fans are already certain of the outcome: Couture will do a double leg, take Toney down, and either ground and pound him or submit him. Either way the referee will have to save Toney.

Boxing fans are sure that Toney will catch Couture coming in and turn the lights out. The one thing boxing fans are failing to realize is that Couture can miss a takedown or two, Toney cannot afford to miss any punches. Couture has been punched and kicked in a fight whereas Toney has only had to worry about the hands. Toney has been grossly out of shape in boxing for a few years whereas Couture is always in top shape. Toney will have to at least learn the sprawl whereas Couture just needs to stay away on the feet.

All these advantages are for Couture. Even the excitement level belongs to the "old man." Even in his losses, he is exciting. Toney was once a fighter who talked trash and backed it up with his boxing prowess. But that was once upon a time. Maybe Couture can bring the animal out of Toney. It will be interesting to see if Toney becomes a helpless crocodile if he falls to the clutches of Couture or if he becomes a ravenous tiger fighting for its life against a python.

One thing combat fans can be sure of is that the build up, the entrance and walk, and the verbal assault from Toney, and the first few minutes (if it lasts that long) will be exciting even if the ending is anticlimactic.

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