Booker kisses victory goodbye against Toney

Updated: September 24, 2004, 3:50 AM ET
By David A. Avila |

TEMECULA, Calif. -- It all started with a little kiss by Rydell Booker and ended with a ferocious 12-round beating by James Toney for the IBA heavyweight title.

Before a sold-out crowd at the Pechanga Resort and Casino last night, Booker paid the price for his mocking act with a possible broken nose and a frightful beating despite Toney suffering an injury to his left arm.

"I hurt my arm in the first round throwing a jab-hook," said Toney (68-4-2, 43 KOs), holding the arm gingerly after the fight. "I was too excited. I wanted to KO him."

Despite an 11-month layoff due to an Achilles tendon injury that occurred early in the year, Toney sought a competitive opponent and found one in Detroit's Booker (22-1, 12 KOs). But the layoff led to a layer of rust.

"I give myself a C-minus," said Toney, 37, currently ranked No. 1 by the WBC. "I came out of shape."

The first round saw Booker use a lightning jab followed by a straight right hand, but Toney countered with his own snapping left jab and soon found the body an open target. But the first jab-hook he threw hurt his arm.

In the second round, Toney discovered a two-punch combination that could not miss. The right to the body and right uppercut to the face busted Booker's nose and sent blood flying everywhere. It was Toney's formula for success.

After seven rounds, Toney had built a sizeable lead and used the same right to the body and right uppercut to the chin that dropped Booker on one knee. But he got up at the count of eight.

"If I had use of my left hand I would have gotten him out of there," said Toney, who used a stiff left jab occasionally despite the pain coming from his left triceps. "He sucked it up."

The judges scored it unanimously for Toney 120-107, 118-108, and 117-110.

Chris Byrd, the IBF heavyweight title holder, said he was not impressed with Toney and would love to fight him.

"He claims to have the best defense; I have the best defense in the division," said Byrd. "Tell him to sign the contract."

Toney said he would fight anybody in the world but signing to fight three of he four heavyweights with titles means dealing with Don King.

"Don King is like the penitentiary with the keys in his pocket and the fighters are in his custody," said Toney.

Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor that promotes Toney, said they are working on an elimination bout for the WBC title that Vitali Kitschko holds. Klitschko is scheduled to fight Mike Tyson-conqueror Danny Williams in December.

"I'm here to stay; I'm ready to unify the titles," said Toney with his IBA title belt wrapped around his shoulder. "I'm ready to face anybody who wants some."

In other bouts, Mark Suarez (22-2, 10 KOs) of Riverside, Calif., knocked out his fourth consecutive opponent at 2:02 in the third round against Brad Jensen (13-14-3) in a welterweight match.

"I had to get in some work," said Suarez, who looked capable of stopping his opponent earlier but held back. "I didn't want to get sloppy and get caught with a lucky shot."

The first bout featured former bantamweight world champion Wayne McCullough (27-4, 18 KOs) against Mike Juarez (23-15-2). The fight was mostly one-sided with McCullough burrowing ahead nonstop with punches to the head and body. Referee Jose Cobain stopped the featherweight fight at 2:59 of the second round.