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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ruiz and Toney: The Next Chapter 

Those insatiable fee collectors at the World Boxing Council announced Friday that they will hold a "ceremony of December 20, 2005, in Cancun, Mexico, where Hasim Rahman will be officially confirmed as the WBC heavyweight champion of the world and presented with the green belt."

Afterwards, there will be a purse bid held if Rahman and the WBC's chosen challenger for him, James Toney, have not reached a deal by that date.

Toney, you will recall, originally defeated John Ruiz on April 30 at Madison Square Garden by unanimous decision to capture the WBA heavyweight title, but then tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone after the fight. Shortly thereafter the New York State Athletic Commission suspended Toney for 90 days for this violation, fined him $10,000, and changed the outcome of the bout to a "no decision".

Subsequently the WBA, by its own rules, stripped Toney of the title, banned him from fighting for a WBA title for two years, and reinstated Ruiz as its champion.

Ruiz also is suing Toney. He claimed in a press release "that Toney's use of Nandrolone, one of the most powerful performance-enhancing substances available, dramatically enhanced Toney's ability to fight by artificially augmenting his strength, speed and power. As a direct result of Toney's doping, Ruiz lost a fight that he otherwise would not have lost and sustained physical injuries that he otherwise would not have sustained."

It is, of course, unknown to what degree if any Toney's drug cheating actually enhanced his performance. The steroids may have been primarily used to make him heal faster from his numerous injuries, and since boxing is a hurt business, the banned substance or substances may have illicitly aided him in this regard.

Still, it is going too far to state definitively that the only reason Toney defeated Ruiz in the ring on April 30 was because of the effects of his doping. Ruiz fought Toney's fight, a similar mistake he had made against another middleweight-turned-heavyweight, Roy Jones Jr. How much extra power the dope gave Toney, as well as the ability to withstand Ruiz's power shots and jabs, is unknown, but steroids also take away in endurance what they add in other departments, and it was Ruiz and not Toney who faded as the fight progressed.

In any case, Toney was caught as a drug cheat, and, whether or not the dope turned the tide for him, was rightly punished. If anything, the measures taken against Toney were basically useless.

On an international conference call, in response to a question I asked about the measures taken against Toney, Richard Pound, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), commented, "You can imagine that with the World Anti-Doping Code in place where a serious infraction of that nature calls for a suspension of up to two years, that 90 days in that particular sport, given the frequency of competition, really amounts to nothing." He added, "And a $10,000 fine is pocket change to people in that kind of sport. So I do not personally regard that as a particularly meaningful sanction."

Also, Toney has persisted in refusing to make the full drug test report public, and also declined to have a hearing with the New York commission to state his case, as was his right, because this would have likely led to a public examination of that full report. Ruiz rightly contends, "We've challenged him over and over to make his test results public and he still hasn't because everybody will know he's a liar and a cheat."

Everybody may know that Toney is "a liar and a cheat," but it is Toney who is winning the aftermath of this disgraceful series of events.

While Toney is banned until mid-2007 at the earliest from fighting for any WBA title, that ban does not extend to and, more importantly, is not recognized by the other alphabets such as the WBC. So now Toney is in negotiations for a WBC title fight with Rahman, which will likely be a lucrative show put on U.S. pay-per-view.

And Ruiz? He is defending his WBA title next Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Max Schmeling Halle in Berlin, Germany, against seven-foot, undefeated Russian Nicolay Valuev. Many American fighters have previously gone to Deutschland only to get robbed in their fights there. If Ruiz cannot cleanly knock out his freakish but slow foe, pay close attention to how the judges score the fight.

Oh, you may have some difficulty knowing exactly what happens in Germany next Saturday. While Toney will likely reap the rewards of pay-per-view money, Ruiz's fight is not even being telecast on American TV.

Some American boxing writers who have probably never been in a fight in their lives and can't tell the difference between an uppercut and a cold cut continue to bash Ruiz. Next time you see one of these screeds, make sure to check out how often these same writers have bashed Toney for being a dope cheat.

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