It started out being what I expected. It ended up being a pathetic display on both sides, for different reasons.
Today in Moscow, Denis Lebedev battered, bullied, manhandled, and punished a 42-year-old James Toney, winning an easy unanimous decision on shutout scores of 120-108, 120-108, and 120-107. Bad Left Hook scored it 120-108 for Lebedev, as he clearly won just about every single second of the fight against a totally shot, totally outclassed fighter who shouldn't have ever been in the ring to begin with.
Let me be honest, for those who haven't been around here a long time: I'm not a big James Toney fan. I feel he's someone who has wasted great potential, great talent. Something about guys who basically purposely give away the chance to utilize such amazing skill really bugs me, in any sport. It's not me wagging my finger and saying, "Shame on you, James Toney!" It's just that I feel James for so long made himself a mockery. And for what? Why? What good came of it?
In the end -- and make no mistake, this ought to be the end -- he went to Russia and was utterly embarrassed by Lebedev (23-1, 17 KO). Lebedev landed left hands at will, constantly pushing Toney back, sending him staggering around the ring. Toney took hard blows. He wobbled. His balance was atrocious.
The 58 pounds he dropped between his February nothing win over Damon Reed and this disgraceful fight obviously didn't help matters. Neither did his age. And truth is, James Toney hasn't been a top fighter in at least five years, which may be kind.
But while I do admit to not feeling sad for James Toney for basically getting this overdue reality check, I do feel sad in other ways. Sad that I had to watch Lebedev, who for the second straight fight dismantled a vulnerable old man, celebrate like a goon after the fight, as if he'd just achieved true greatness. Hopping around the ring, violently high-fiving and shaking hands, grinning all the while.
It was ugly. As ugly as the "fight," during which there was no indication that James Toney -- once a great fighter, then a good fighter, then a fighter -- was actually present. He hurt his left leg early, but he shook it off (literally, he constantly shook his leg). Toney nearly tumbled to the mat on numerous occasions throwing his own right hands and badly missing.
The reflexes are gone. The stamina is long gone. The power is gone. The speed is gone.
All that remained in the body of James Toney today was craftiness and guts. No matter how one-sided, James Toney didn't quit. There is something admirable about that, in a mildly stomach-turning way. Sort of like Shannon Briggs against Vitali Klitschko, but not quite as horrible a pure beating. Buddy McGirt, Toney's trainer, probably wanted to stop this fight. He didn't. I think he knew Toney may have never forgiven him.
After the fight, Toney slumped on his stool. He had a pained, humiliated expression on his face, as Lebedev whooped and hollered and celebrated his unimpressive, no-shit victory.
Maybe it's not sad that he lost, or lost badly. But watching James Toney (73-7-3, 44 KO), the man, feel that mental and physical pain -- that was a little sad.
And sadder still, someone out there is going to give Denis Lebedev major credit for beating a guy who could barely stay on two legs for 12 rounds.
Alexander "Sasha" Bakhtin improved to 28-0 (11 KO) with an easy 10-round win over a mentally vacant Luis Melendez (31-7-1, 22 KO). Melendez did pretty much nothing in the fight.
Ismayl Sillakh improved to 17-0 (14 KO) with an easy fourth round stoppage of Ali Ismailov (18-8-1, 13 KO).