Kendall Holt, James Toney Pull Out Close Wins; Holt Deservedly, Toney Not So Much

I was all prepared after watching the Versus show to write up a sappy official farewell to one of my all-time favorite fighters, James Toney. I’ve thought Toney should retire for a year or more now, and with what appeared to be a fairly clear defeat at the hands of heavyweight Fres Oquendo — who recently lost to a very faded Evander Holyfield — should have done the trick. Instead, Toney pulled out a split decision win from a fight where I thought he won no more than three rounds. Toney, looking severely on the decline himself, had terrible balance and couldn’t pull the trigger on his patented counter rights, while Oquendo was faster, sharper and better on D throughout. It wasn’t an easy fight to score in every round, but I’m surprised two judges found room to give Toney the victory. That’s a lot of benefit of the doubt. I guess Toney fights another day. Between getting caught with steroids in his system a few times, his increasingly slurred speech, the fact that he got hurt in the later rounds by the relatively light-hitting Oquendo and this overall poor showing, I wish he’d stop now. Bet he doesn’t.

IMG_3187 Holt vs Hopkins 01.jpgOver on Showtime, Kendall Holt got a more deserved split decision win over late substitute Demetrius Hopkins. The two junior welterweights (140 lbs.) fought well in spurts — it was a boxing match, not a slugfest, and one littered with technical flaws, but a very good one in spots. When Holt was aggressive, and he was surprisingly so, he simply outworked, out body-punched and out-powered Hopkins, who fought at times like the aged version of his famous uncle, Bernard. Which is to say, his defense was tight and he did very little besides land the occasional jab and sharp right hand. When Hopkins’ jab was particularly sharp and he threw more than one punch at a time, he won those rounds. The speed of both men, and the clean punches they did land between the good defense both exhibited, made it an entertaining contest, even if Holt was sloppy at times and Hopkins was aggravatingly inactive at times. On my card, Holt won in the final round, when, after a few rounds of Hopkins building momentum, Holt found that extra gear that all the good ones have and out-hustled Hopkins. That made it 115-113 for me. I liked the aggressive version of Holt, who had a good game plan and looked sharp defensively despite his aggression, while Hopkins showed he has the talent to hang with the top junior welters if not the right mentality at this point. Next up for Holt is a fight with Tim Bradley, and I bet it’s a nice one.

(Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.