It’s not much of a fight when the best punch thrown comes in the prefight news conference.
But Montell Griffin isn’t about to complain.
Griffin outpunched James Toney Wednesday when words turned to blows at the news conference, then outboxed Toney Friday night at the Lawlor Events Center to capture Toney’s World Boxing Union light-heavyweight title.
Although all three judges scored the fight for Griffin, an angry Toney claimed that the title had been stolen from him.
Judges John Rupert and Keith MacDonald scored it 116-112 while judge Doug Tucker had it 119-109, giving Griffin 11 of the 12 rounds. The Times scored it 115-114 for Toney.
Predictably, Griffin said, “I don’t think it was close.”
Just as predictably, Toney was upset.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “I won nine of the 12 rounds. He ran the whole fight. How can you give it to him? I got robbed tonight.”
The only injury occurred Wednesday, when a Griffin punch at the news conference cut Toney’s lip.
Although stats alone can be misleading, in a fight this uneventful, they can provide some measure of what happened. Toney won the statistical battle, connecting on 266 punches to 231 for Griffin. Toney connected on 44 percent of the punches he threw compared to 40 percent for Griffin.
This was a rematch of a fight held in February of last year, a fight Griffin won on a majority decision.
The victory enabled the 26-year-old Griffin to remain unbeaten at 26-0 with 18 knockouts. Toney, two years older than Griffin, is 53-3-2 with 35 knockouts. Other than Griffin, the only other man to beat Toney is Roy Jones. Griffin is hoping to fight the winner of a planned spring match between Jones and Virgil Hill.
In a preliminary match, Eric “Butterbean” Esch made a triumphant return after a five-month absence because of a biceps injury. Esch (25-1, 21 knockouts) stopped Sean Jegen (6-3, six knockouts) 2:47 into the first round of a scheduled four-rounder.
Esch obviously didn’t use his time off to diet. He weighed in at 322 pounds, 121 pounds heavier than his opponent.
Tonight’s marathon card at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio is headlined by World Boxing Council strawweight champion Ricardo Lopez (43-0, 33 knockouts), who’ll be making his 18th title defense, the most among active champions. Lopez’s opponent will be Myung-Sup Park (11-4, 10 knockouts). Also, World Boxing Association featherweight champion Wilfredo Vazquez (46-7-3, 35 knockouts) defends his title against Bernardo Mendoza (49-6, 28 knockouts).