Peter, Toney dial down trash talk to just parting shots
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Heavyweights Samuel Peter and James Toney are both exuding a quiet confidence leading up to their mandated title elimination rematch. "Quiet," of course, is the operative word.
Before the contenders met for the first time Sept. 2 in Los Angeles, both fighters spent much of the buildup trash-talking and hurling insults at each other, including a vicious, curse-filled teleconference call with the media two weeks before the fight.
It was Howard Stern-like stuff.
But now, as they prepare for their second go-round at the Seminole Hard Rock resort on Saturday night (Showtime, 10 ET), Peter and Toney have been on their best behavior.
They didn't rant and rave during their teleconference and they've been men of few words this week, especially shocking in Toney's case, considering his track record of verbal firebombs.
"I am being quiet because of training," said Toney, who lost the first fight on a controversial split decision. "I have been quiet because I have been working. We have been at it seven hours a day, seven days a week. Why should I waste my time seeing what he is saying or doing?"
"I'm sick and tired of talking," Peter offered in his deep Nigerian accent.
So instead of constant yak, the fighters preferred to offer physical evidence of their preparedness, especially after a promotion that has focused so heavily -- OK, pun intended -- on their weight and conditioning.
Neither was in particularly top shape for the first fight.
Peter (27-1, 22 KOs) was a career-heavy 257 pounds. Toney (69-5-3, 43 KOs) was a flabby 233 pounds, the fourth consecutive fight for which he showed up weighing in the 230s and clearly out of shape. Toney is 1-1-1 with a no-contest in those bouts, beating only the inferior Dominick Guinn in fight for which Toney admitted that he barely trained.
Peter and Toney, however, both appear to have taken their rematch very seriously.
Peter, who at 26 remains the youngest of the top heavyweight contenders, was a svelte and muscular 249 pounds at Thursday's weigh-in, and, at least in terms of appearance, looked like he was legitimately in the best condition of his career.
And although Toney, 38, weighed 234 (one pound more that the first fight) and still has a bit of a gut, he appeared in much better overall shape, due in large part to his hiring of physical trainer Billy Blanks of Tae Bo infomercial fame.
"All you have to do is look at James Toney and you can see he has done the work," Toney co-promoter Dan Goossen said. "James Toney has been eating lima beans, vegetables, and even fish. He's done it to make someone [Peter] pay. He is doing this to be the greatest heavyweight in the world."
Toney said Blanks was a big asset to him, but that it wouldn't change his fighting style.
"You know me," Toney said. "James is going to fight like James is going to fight. I do not have any strategy. I walk in and decide to do what I do. The only thing different is I am in 150 percent better shape."
Peter is unimpressed with the addition of Blanks to the Toney camp.
"Billy Blanks will not be inside the ring," Peter said. "When I hit him, everything that Billy Blanks told him, he is going to forget."
The result of the first Peter-Toney fight was an entertaining, but ragged affair, perhaps caused by their lack of conditioning. Upset by the decision, the Toney camp protested. The WBC, which had sanctioned it as a title eliminator ---- with the winner supposedly ticketed for a title shot against Oleg Maskaev -- ordered an immediate rematch.
"I still do not have a loss on my record," Toney said, referring to the first fight. "That is just the mistake of three blind judges. Or two of them, excuse me."
The WBC's decision was akin to a baseball umpire overturning calls on balls and strikes, and it didn't sit well with Peter and his camp. Their position was that Peter won the fight, close or not, and that he should have been next up for Maskaev.
"The first fight was not even close," Peter said at the start of the promotion. "I won by five points on two of the scorecards, and that included me losing a point."
But this week, Peter has been mum on that topic. Instead, while Peter sat quietly at the dais during the interminable three-hour news conference (which offered little more than a Don King filibuster with occasional cameos from the rest of the cast) that preceded the weigh-in, co-promoter Dino Duva revised their position on the rematch order.
"It caused Sam to train harder than he ever has and to be more mentally focused than he's ever been," said Duva, now partners with Don King on Peter after recently selling King half of his promotional company, Duva Boxing. "It will allow Samuel to win more convincingly this time."
Opening Showtime's telecast, exciting junior middleweight titlist Jose Antonio Rivera (38-4-1, 24 KOs) makes his first defense against former titlist Travis Simms (24-0, 18 KOs), who is returning from a 27-month layoff and trying to claim the belt that was stripped from him for inactivity.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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