A whole lot of nothing, most likely.
Deadspin's Barry Petchesky posted a story yesterday that cuts right to the core of the upcoming fight between James 'Lights Out' Toney and Randy 'The Natural' Couture. He broke the upcoming fight down with five talking points but the first two are truly the most important:
1. James Toney is 41 years old. Forty-one! Muhammad Ali was getting beaten by Trevor Berbick at 39. Mike Tyson, who never met a payday he didn't like, hasn't fought since he was 39. And Evander Holyfield, at 41 years old, was beaten by, yes, James Toney.
What does Toney have left in the tank? Whatever he's got, it's no longer an indicator of his talent.
2. Randy Couture is 47. Yikes. MMA allows fighters to fight on longer than in boxing, but since turning 40, Couture is 6-5. Even if he gets beaten by Toney, there was close to a 50 percent chance of that happening no matter who he's fighting.
The truth: both fighters are well past their prime and really should not be viewed as true representations of their respective sports. Couture has had a roller coaster of a decade, compiling a record of 14-8 since the year 2000. While all of his fights were against top-notch competition, one would think that Randy's record would be a little more impressive due to the way that most MMA fans, casual and hardcore alike, revere him. At least, that is what Toney told Ariel Helwani in his own special way recently:
After August 28 you all really ain't gonna like me because I'm gonna destroy your so-called legend. A guy with 12 losses is a legend. Ain't that a bitch ... That's why y'all's sport is so messed up. Like boxing or the NFL or NBA, you have to retire for four or five years before you can be considered a 'Hall of Famer'. [Couture] has never retired and he's already in the hall of fame. Ya'll got shit backwards, but I'm gonna clean it up.
During the same time period Toney put together a 14-2-1 (2 NCs) record against largely forgettable opponents. The notion that his power will translate to MMA due to the lighter gloves used in the Octagon should probably go out the window as 'Lights Out' has only one stoppage in his last 10 fights spanning the past seven years. Toney stopped a badly outclassed Matthew Greer in September of 2009. Before that his last TKO victory came against Evander Holyfield way back in October of 2003.
This fight, or at least the idea behind this fight, is 15 years too late. Our sport has evolved mightily from the days of cage-fighting, ultimate fighting, human cock fighting, etc.. Now it truly is about the mixing of all the different martial arts (hence MMA, dummy!). But, 15 years ago when the UFC was first starting, this would be the type of matchup that would really grab people's attention. An Olympic-caliber Greco Roman wrestle stepping into the Octagon to take on a highly decorated professional boxer may have generated a lot of PPV buys in the early stages of the UFC but the days of singular disciplines have long since passed.
So why exactly are these two men going to fight next month? Because Toney chased Dana White around the country? Because Dana White decided to get in on the 'Freak Show' business? Or is it because White is trying to settle a debate that should not really exist? Boxing and MMA are two very separate and distinct competitions that happen to fall under the 'combat sports' umbrella. We do not see traditional stick-and-ball sports battling it out to prove which is superior so why do we feel obligated to stage fights such as these?
If Couture wins then the UFC can claim MMA to be the superior combat sport (a notion that is already widely accepted thanks to strong PPV numbers and ad revenues). If Toney wins then the UFC can shrug its shoulders and say that Couture is in the twilight of his career anyway. A Toney victory would most likely mean his next bout would be against a significant step up in competition. Or maybe, just maybe, Dana throws Anderson Silva a bone and lets him give boxing another shot, albeit against a different opponent.
The UFC will be the ultimate winners, regardless of the outcome. UFC 118 is already a must-buy due to the Frankie Edgar-BJ Penn main event. The Couture-Toney matchup is just icing on the cake as it is sure to attract more than its fair share of casual sports fans who will be curious to see how the fight plays out. Jame Toney's surreal smack talk will surely increase as we draw nearer to August 28 so that will continue to keep people interested.
To be perfectly honest and to put this in pro wrestling terms, this fight reeks of Wrestlemania 23 and the "Battle of the Billionaires." All it needs is Dana White cornering Randy while Bob Arum or one of the other big time promoters in the boxing world corners Toney. That would be the cherry on top of an unnecessary fight.