James Toney Headlines Southaven, Missisippi, Fight Card: Full Report
By Tracy Morin, Memphisboxing.com
On April 7 at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, fans were treated to a nine-fight card that culminated with James “Lights Out” Toney (73-7-3, 44 KOs) fighting for the IBU Heavyweight Championship belt against Bobby “The Celtic Warrior” Gunn (21-4-1, 18 KOs). Toney entered the ring to “Walking in Memphis,” and walked out as the new beltholder thanks to his still-formidable power and considerable ring savvy. Round 1 opened with Toney on the attack, stalking Gunn and keeping his left hand low to lure in his opponent, who couldn’t mount an effective offense–and the story remained the same in all five rounds of the scheduled 12-rounder. Toney predominantly headhunted, landing the more telling shots and, sensing his dominance, picked up the pace in Round 4 with jolting jabs and left-right combinations. A stiff overhand right from Toney punctuated the fifth round, one in which Gunn failed to land little of note. Unfortunately, Gunn also failed to answer the bell for Round 6, his corner claiming he had broken his hand in Round 4 and was unable to continue.
In the co-main event, junior middleweight Bobby “The Prodigy” Bryant (13-0, 9 KOs) brought a significant supporting crowd from nearby Memphis and dominated Justin Flanagan (9-2, 5 KOs) through eight rounds. Though Bryant was unable to put Flanagan on the canvas, he landed a barrage of punches, including digging left hooks to the body that landed consistently and a trio of rights in Round 5. Flanagan proved durable, but he got tagged with a series of combinations, had more success holding than boxing and landed few clean shots. The judges scored the one-sided bout 79-73 (Reccia Mullins), 80-72 (Gerald Deming) and 80-72 (Mack Thornton), all for the still-undefeated Bryant.
The undercard matches offered up a few dramatic knockouts as well as competitive fights that went the distance. In the first bout, cruiserweight Chris Henry (25-2, 20 KOs) barely broke a sweat with a first-round knockout of Marvin Hunt, a veteran of more than 40 fights who went down quickly courtesy of a short right while pinned against the ropes.
Middleweights Patrick Majewski (17-1, 11 KOs) and Antwun Echols (32-17-4, 28 KOs) each tasted the canvas in a scheduled eight-rounder, with Echols being floored–and barely beating the count–in the first, then scoring his own knockdown with a short right in the second. However, Majewski came back strong in the late second round and scored a third-round TKO when referee Randy Phillips stepped in after numerous combinations from Majewski went unanswered.
Memphian Joey Bryant (2-0, 2 KOs) came out with guns blazing from the opening bell against Steven Cox (2-4, 1 KO), peppering him with a series of multiple-punch combinations that demonstrated his hand speed. Cox, overwhelmed from the get-go–and often reaching, lunging and coming up short–was knocked down in the second thanks to a right that landed flush on the temple, then was staggered with a left in the third, but managed to finish out the lightweight four-rounder. Not surprisingly, the judges saw a shutout for Bryant, with scores of 40-35 (Mullins and Thornton) and 40-36 (Deming).
Marlon Lewis (6-2, 3 KOs), fresh off a one-round TKO two weeks earlier, turned out a disappointing effort in what was supposed to be an easy night versus lightweight David Green (2-9, 1 KO). Lewis’ apparent plan was to use his significant height advantage to circle and jab, but Green took the initiative and landed the more significant blows throughout the four-round bout–including a left hook in the third that buckled Lewis’ legs. Though Lewis began the fight showing little respect to Green (even turning his back on him several times), he seemed to realize he was behind on the scorecards and came out more aggressively in the final round.
Unfortunately, Green’s work rate went unrewarded–but even though Lewis is a Memphis native, the crowd roundly booed the majority draw decision, with both Deming and Thornton scoring it 38-38 and Mullins seeing the fight at 39-37.
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (4-0, 2 KOs) demonstrated his usual calmness in the ring against Anthony Bowman, who has had more than 40 fights and offered up a plethora of rough-and-tumble tactics: He was warned twice for rabbit punching; in Round 4, apparently frustrated, lifted Hernandez-Harrison completely off the mat to a nearly horizontal position; and after the final bell needed to be restrained by the ref when he looked like he would attack his opponent. However, Hernandez-Harrison’s patience, speedy multiple-punch combos and excellent ring generalship–not to mention a slew of straight rights that landed flush against the shorter Bowman–allowed him to walk away with the unanimous decision, with all judges turning in scorecards of 40-36.
Dedrick Bell (7-12, 5 KOs) and Blake Franklin (7-4-2, 3 KOs) churned out a competitive, evenly matched effort after a feeling-out first round, but Franklin got the better of most exchanges, often pinning Bell against the ropes and landing body shots that slowed his opponent over the course of the six-rounder. Bell came out more aggressively in the final round, but again got trapped against the ropes and was caught with a short left in the closing moments. Though Bell was game, the judges were in agreement that Franklin had dominated, scoring it 59-55 (Mullins and Thornton) and 58-56 (Deming) to award Franklin the unanimous decision.
Southpaw Brandon Harder had a successful pro debut versus Willie Bryant (0-2-1) after a somewhat awkward couple of rounds during which neither fighter landed much of significance. Bryant seemed to gain confidence toward the end of Round 2, and trapped Harder in his own corner in Round 3–when Harder landed a picture-perfect short right that caught Bryant square on the chin and dropped him in dramatic fashion, with his neck and arms hanging limply on the rope. The referee began a count but quickly waved off the fight 52 seconds into Round 3 when he saw that Bryant was out cold.