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Toney ban reduced, Franca denied

Times Staff Writer

Veteran boxer James Toney and recent Ultimate Fighting Championship title fighter Hermes Franca, both facing one-year suspensions and $2,500 fines for positive performance-enhancing drug tests, confronted their appeals hearings before the California State Athletic Commission on Monday with different strategies.

Franca, 32, threw himself on the mercy of the commission, while Toney, 38, insisted he was innocent and most likely betrayed by a contaminated vitamin or herbal supplement. Toney reinforced his point with swear words at the hearing, telling a commissioner he had “disrespected” the boxer, and boasting, “I don’t need steroids to beat anybody. I’m the best fighter in the world.”

Franca’s one-year suspension was upheld.

Toney’s was cut in half, to 180 days.

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"[Toney] didn’t prove nothing, and I come here to tell the truth, and now he’s going to be fighting again in four months and I’m out for a year,” Franca said. “I was so surprised. I didn’t protest like him. I said what I did.”

Said Toney: “If it was in my system, I think it’s bull.”

Franca tested positive for the banned steroid drostanolone before his hard-fought, five-round decision loss to UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk on July 7 at Sacramento’s Arco Arena. Sherk also tested positive for steroids after the fight.

Franca has written a note of apology to UFC fans on his website, and he explained candidly Monday that he was motivated to use the steroid after suffering a pre-fight ankle injury.

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A commissioner praised Franca for “deliberately taking the approach of not feigning ignorance” as a route to a reduced penalty. But it didn’t gain him any leniency.

The commission granted him only the slight concession of being allowed to continue to work in the corners of fighters with whom he trains, such as lightweight Kurt Pellegrino on Aug. 25 in Las Vegas.

Former three-time world champion Toney, whose 2005 victory over World Boxing Council heavyweight champion John Ruiz was ruled a no-contest after Toney tested positive in New York for the steroid nandrolone, defeated Danny Batchelder by split decision May 24 in San Jose. Afterward, he tested positive for two steroids, including boldenone, a fat-reducing medication for horses prescribed only by veterinarians.

Commissioner Dr. Chris Giza met Toney’s defense with skepticism, asking, “What evidence exists beyond this hypothetical [contamination]?”

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When Commissioner Julio Ramirez suggested Toney receive a reduced 120-day suspension, Giza motioned for the full year to be upheld, adding, “Modifications require clear rationale.” Ramirez admitted he was swayed by Toney’s 78-fight career to give the boxer the “benefit of the doubt,” to which Giza argued, “So, you’re saying any athlete with a high profile” gains a suspension reduction? Ramirez answered no.

Commissioner Peter Lopez then suggested a 180-day suspension for Toney, which will expire toward the end of November, and six commissioners voted to approve it, with only Giza voting no.

Meanwhile, Sherk and another mixed martial arts fighter, Phil Baroni, had their hearings postponed until October.

A UFC official said President Dana White “won’t want the lightweight title on ice for a year” if Sherk’s one-year suspension is upheld.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com


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