- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Heavyweight contender Samuel Peter erased any doubts about his controversial split decision victory against James Toney four months ago.
Peter did it impressively, using Toney as a punching bag for 12 rounds and knocking him down to easily win a unanimous decision Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 5,238 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
The victory in the title elimination bout should mean Peter will be the next challenger for titlist Oleg Maskaev, unless the WBC goes against its previous ruling, which it did after the first Peter-Toney bout. After Toney's camp protested the scoring, the sanctioning organization ordered a rematch, and Peter clearly took it very seriously.
He came in at a muscular 249 pounds -- eight less than last time -- and beat Toney all over the ring.
"I was really ready for the fight," said Peter, who credited the relocation of his training camp from Las Vegas to South Florida. "I didn't break for Christmas. I just trained hard; I ran hard, and I had never done a lot of running before."
One judge scored it 119-108 while the two others had it 118-110. ESPN.com had it a 120-107 shutout.
"I taunted him. I gave him the Muhammad Ali shuffle with a little Floyd Mayweather, too," Peter said. "This was my best fight."
Peter (28-1) started fast, landing heavy jabs in the opening round. Then he rocked Toney (69-6-3) with an overhand left, but his follow-up shot clubbed Toney behind the head, and referee Jorge Alonso warned him for the illegal blow.
"I taunted him. I gave him the Muhammad Ali shuffle with a little Floyd Mayweather, too. This was my best fight."
-- Samuel Peter
Peter came out fast again in the second and knocked Toney down with a left jab to the chin five seconds into the round. It was the first time Toney -- known for a granite chin -- had been down since his 1994 super middleweight title loss to Roy Jones Jr.
Peter continued to pound on Toney during the round, bulling him to the ropes and unloading a series of rights and lefts.
When Toney, who earned $1.1 million, finally landed a hard right hand in the third round, Peter, who made $1.5 million, didn't flinch. Instead, he marched forward and threw back at Toney.
By the fifth round, Toney's left eye was swelling. He was standing flat-footed and taking lots of punches. He was tired, too, fighting with his mouth hanging open. The defensive wizardry that made Toney so effective was nowhere to be seen. All the while, Peter slugged away and it looked like it was only a matter of time until Peter scored a knockout.
It was more of the same in the seventh and eighth -- Peter landing a few big shots and Toney throwing one punch at a time and breathing heavily.
Toney, 38, never mounted a serious offense, never did any real damage.
Yet, he somehow thought he won the fight.
"I didn't go down [in the second round], I slipped. I felt I won the fight, but it's all good. I'm still the best fighter in the world. This guy is supposed to be a hell of a puncher and he couldn't knock me out, and I started at middleweight."
-- James Toney
"I disagree with the decision. I was aggressive," Toney said.
He also disputed the knockdown.
"I didn't go down," said Toney, whose hiring of fitness guru Billy Blanks of Tae Bo video fame didn't appear to make any difference. "I slipped. I felt I won the fight, but it's all good. I'm still the best fighter in the world. This guy is supposed to be a hell of a puncher and he couldn't knock me out, and I started at middleweight."
Indeed, Toney, who was 234 pounds -- one more than last time -- is a former middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight champion. He had a strong run at heavyweight, beating Evander Holyfield and beating John Ruiz for a title in 2005 before being stripped a couple of weeks later for a positive post-fight steroid test.
"I'm still going to fight," he said. "I'll fight anyone, anywhere. I respect no one. I don't care. Nobody has ever done what I've done. I beat all the best fighters out there from middleweight to heavyweight."
Peter was more humble in victory. When asked if he was the best, his answer was refreshing.
"I'm not the best yet," he said. "The champions have the belts, so I have to give them credit first. But I will be the best."
Simms reclaims belt
Travis Simms came out of a 27-month layoff to score a bloody ninth-round TKO of Jose Antonio Rivera and regain his junior middleweight title in the co-feature.
Simms had never lost his 154-pound belt in the ring. Instead, he was stripped by the WBA, which ordered him to face a mandatory challenger other than one who had previously been appointed.
Simms' resulting lawsuit left him idle for more than two years and hungry to regain the belt that Rivera, 33, eventually won. As part of the settlement, Simms, 35, was given a shot at Rivera (38-5-1) and designated "champion in recess."
Simms (25-0, 19 KOs) sure didn't look like a guy who had been off for so long.
He had a huge second round and appeared to break Rivera's nose with a straight right hand. Rivera's nose immediately began bleeding badly, but Simms didn't let up.
He knocked Rivera into the ropes and referee Frank Santore Jr. called a knockdown because the ropes held him up.
Simms was in complete control throughout the fight.
In the ninth, Simms, a southpaw who effectively switched to an orthodox stance throughout the bout, hurt Rivera with a left hand. A follow-up blow knocked Rivera to his backside against the ropes.
He made it to his feet at nine, but Simms, of Norwalk, Conn., attacked immediately and was creaming him with shots when Santore intervened at 2:00.
"I saw he was dropping his hands and I was looking to drop my big left hand on him," Simms said. "I knew he couldn't take it. I'm not known as a power puncher. I'm a stick-and-move guy, but I just showed everybody in the world that I have a punch."
Rivera, of Worcester, Mass., agreed.
"He hit me with some good shots. He got me," said Rivera, who was making the first defense of the belt he won from Alejandro Garcia in May. "I told the referee that as long as I am standing, don't stop the fight. But he told me he wanted me to fight another day. It was a character builder. Many fighters have come back from a loss."
Simms hopes the impressive performance helps him get a fight with a big name in the star-studded division.
"I'm looking to get in the mix with the top fighters in the division," he said. "Cory Spinks or Oscar De La Hoya or Floyd Mayweather. I don't care. It's my first fight back in 2½ years. I got my ring rust off. The next time I will be even more impressive."
• Six months ago, Roman Karmazin lost his junior middleweight title on a majority decision to Cory Spinks, in large part because he wasn't aggressive enough. That was not the case in his return.
Karmazin dominated James Obede Toney (no relation to the main event heavyweight), stopping him in the fourth round of a middleweight bout.
Karmazin (35-2-1, 22 KOs), of Russia, used his powerful left hook repeatedly to wear down Toney, of Ghana. He finally dropped Toney (21-3-1) with a fast four-punch combination -- left, right, left, right. Toney got up dazed and Karmazin finished him a few seconds later.
Karmazin trapped him against the ropes and was landing left hooks at will when referee Frank Gentile called it off at 2:05.
Karmazin doesn't plan on staying at middleweight, but returning to junior middleweight in an effort to reclaim his title.
• Guillermo Jones (34-3-2, 27 KOs) of Panama, who twice challenged for junior middleweight titles, was impressive in his heavyweight debut almost 50 pounds heavier as he destroyed Jeremy Bates (21-13-1) in the first round.
Jones, a top cruiserweight contender for several years, was supposed to fight for a vacant belt in July. However, he got ill a few days before the fight and withdrew.
In his return, Jones -- now trained by Kevin Cunningham, who also trains junior middleweight titlist Cory Spinks -- brutalized Bates.
During the onslaught, Jones, who weighed 213 pounds, landed a pair of powerful uppercuts and a right hand that did enough damage to send 227-pound Bates staggering into the ropes and causing referee Santore to give him a count. A few seconds later, Jones was all over him again and Santore stopped it at 1:44.
Jones managed to stop Bates, an insurance salesman by day, in quicker fashion than Evander Holyfield did in August. Bates lasted into the second round with the former four-time heavyweight champ.
• Welterweight Devon Alexander (10-0, 5 KOs), who fights out of the same stable as junior middleweight titlist Cory Spinks, overwhelmed Maximino Cuevas (9-5) with a dazzling array of punches from all angles before stopping him in the fourth round. Alexander, a southpaw who turns 20 next month, picked Cuevas apart with precision. He opened a cut over his left eye in the fourth round and was hammering him when referee Santore called it off at 1:44.
• Heavyweight Bermane Stiverne (9-0, 9 KOs) destroyed Otis Mills (5-3-1) via first-round TKO. Stiverne, 28, a Cameron Dunkin-managed prospect, showed fast hands and a big punch. He dropped Mills with a huge right hand and finished him at 1:48 with a follow-up flurry.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
1dKevin Van Valkenburg