James Toney vs Mike McCallum I – Highlights (Great Tactical BATTLE)


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December 13th, 1991. 2 supremely skilled Middleweights; Mike McCallum aka “The Body Snatcher” and James “Lights Out” Toney met in the ring to produce one of the best (albeit underrated) Middleweight fights of all time, with Middleweight legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler as guest commentator.

This bout was originally a unification fight but McCallum was stripped of his WBA Crown ten days before the fight due to dispute over monetary issues with the sanctioning body.

Prefight records; Toney 28(20)-0-1, McCallum 42(34)-1.

Entering the bout, the favorite McCallum was an 11 year veteran who had won world titles at 154 and 160 pounds with notable victories over top oppositions such as Michael Watson, Steve Collins, Donald Curry, Milton McCrory, Julian Jackson, Sean Mannion, Luigi Minchillo, Ayub Kalule, Herol Graham & Sumbu Kalambay.

On the other hand, the undefeated 23 year old Toney making the 3rd defense of his IBF MIddleweight Title had commendable wins against Merqui Sosa, Francesco Dell’Aquila, Reggie Johnson & Michael Nunn.

In the first 12 minutes, Toney and McCallum established their jabs and the fight developed into a fast paced tactical affair.

Going into the mid rounds, McCallum switched to a lower gear and started to rely more on his experiences as a seasoned technical fighter; feinting more, upping his jab output and made Toney (who had a 12 year age advantage) worked harder and missed more frequently.

The Body Snatcher also managed to get in the inside and work the body (his trademark) and reduce counter punching opportunities for his younger opponent.

However, Toney made adjustments and was able to land clean punches particularly in the championship rounds where he wobbled McCallum a few times and knocked his mouthpiece out twice. The 12th frame was the best for Toney as he hurt McCallum badly in the early goings and towards the end of the round.

Overall, this was a brilliant tactical battle by 2 elite warriors who put up a dazzling display of boxing skills although Toney appeared to have done the better overall work..

After 36 minutes of action, the 3 judges had it a 3 way split at 114-114, 112-116 & 115-113.

Due to the outcome, both fighters rematch in August 1982 with Toney’s IBF strap on the line once again.

In a 2009 interview with The Ring, Toney named McCallum the best fighter he’s ever faced;

“That’s an easy choice, right off the top of my head it’s the Body Snatcher. He was the best fighter I fought at Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Cruiserweight. Out of all the fighters I fought, I respect him the most because he made me think about everything I tried to do. Before McCallum I was just runnin’ in on everyone, but he made me slow down and think for the first time.”

He also added McCallum had the best jab and defense as well as the smartest fighter he’s ever met in the ring.

McCallum (in a 2012 interview with The Ring) similarly considered Toney to be the best overall fight he’s fought;

“He (James Toney) wasn’t a complete fighter the first time we fought, and I still believe I won that fight. But he learned in that fight and he got better. He grew with each fight. By our third fight, he was a different fighter, a complete fighter. He was someone who could do it all, fight inside or outside, work offense and defense at the same time, just like me when I was younger. I like to think that I helped James mature as a fighter.”

Toney and McCallum went on to battle each other in an underrated trilogy; a rematch in August 1992 and a rubber match in February 1997.

Their 1992 rematch was again an IBF Middleweight Title defense by Toney while their 3rd and final bout in 1997 was for the vacant WBU (1995-2004) Cruiserweight Championship.

How do you guys score this fight? Personally, I thought Toney won a close one but I’d like to know what you guys think.

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