I didn't see Danny Green's WBC super middleweight title shot against Marcus
Beyer last year -- a fight the rugged Australian dominated in brutal fashion
but ultimately lost by DQ after intentionally head-butting the German
southpaw -- and I didn't see Green's one-sided beatdown of Eric Lucas last
December, when the durable Canadian was so savagely attacked round after
round that his corner threw in the towel, but I know the "Green Machine" can
to yours truly and to everyone at the Wild Card Boxing Club with one bloody
sparring session with James Toney that took place Friday, Aug. 27.
By going seven hard rounds with the former three-division champ who is now
campaigning as a heavyweight, Green, the WBC's "interim" title holder at 168
pounds, showed that he can take a punch, deliver a variety of power shots of
his own and press the action in the ring for an extended period. If and when
Green is able to land lucrative matches against the likes of Joe Calzaghe or
Jeff Lacy, I don't know if the Australian will beat the popular title
holders, but he'll damn sure make them fight their hearts out.
How do I know this?
I finally saw a tape of Green's sparring session with Toney, a gym war that
flyweight contender and witness Brian Viloria called a "classic that was
worth paying to see."
What I saw was indeed better than probably 75 percent of the fights I watch on TV
or cover live, and although if I were to score the rounds like a real boxing
match the Green-Toney sparring session would be as one-sided a contest as
Felix Trinidad's recent pummeling of Ricardo Mayorga, it was also an
exciting matchup of machismo, much like the Latino showdown that took place
on Oct. 2.
It was the kind of hard, fast-paced sparring that had people at Freddie
Roach's crowded Hollywood gym and other nearby boxing clubs talking for
days; and this being the age of the Internet, word traveled fast and far.
By the end of the day the session took place, some of those who had
witnessed it e-mailed their boxing fan friends and "Internet fight scribes"
like myself with their first-person accounts. Within a couple of days, a
downloadable file of the sparring session was available on a boxing Web site
and message boards were abuzz with rumors of just what had taken place in
Hollywood. One week after Green and Toney went at it, the mainstream
Australian media even reported on the gym war.
Here's a sampling of some of the e-mails that I received:
I live in Australia and yesterday there was a report on TV that Aussie's super
mddle weight Danny 'The Green Machine' Green had been sparring James
"Lights Out' Toney and apparently putting the smackdown on him both in the
ring and out. Supposedly, James Toney had missed two scheduled sparring
sessions with Green. Danny then called James' management and told them that
he would turn James' Lights Out if he missed another sparring session.
Have you heard of this? Can it be true that the intimidator of all
intimidators, James Toney, is being intimidated by a smaller fighter? Peace
-- Derrick Cruz"
I had indeed heard of the sparring session, as regulars from Roach's gym
e-mailed me the day Green and Toney slugged it out. According to witnesses,
Green did show up to the Wild Card gym two days in a row hoping to get in
the ring with Toney (though nothing was officially scheduled as Toney's
management had no idea Green was even in the country, nor were they looking
for super middleweights for their fighter to spar with).
"Green was in town with Jeff Fenech, who had a flyweight (Vic Darchinyan)
that was getting ready for a title shot and was sparring with Israel
Vazquez," Roach recalled. "Green wanted to know if we had any work for him,
and I told him the only guy close (in weight) to him was James."
Green's eyes must have lit up at the thought of testing himself against a
man who has been telling the world for well over a decade that he is the
toughest S.O.B. alive.
But Toney failed to appear two days in a row (on one of the days he was
attending a press conference for his upcoming fight with Rydell Booker), and
according to Roach, Green got a little skeptical of Lights Out's gym reputation.
"He started asking me after the first day "Is he gonna show today?' being
kind of sarcastic," Roach said. "Green's a nice guy, but he's kind of cocky.
On the third day I got a call from James and I told Green, 'James is on his
way and he told me to tell you that he's coming to kick your a--'."
Indeed, when Toney finally arrived, the "smackdown" reported by the
Australian media went down, but the other way. Here's an e-mail from someone
who was there:
James Toney sparred with Danny Green today; that kid is TUFF. I've heard of
him, but never seen him fight. He sparred with the Russian cruiserweight two
days ago but it wasn't at the Wild Card, I don't know who won that contest.
Israel Vasquez sparred with Jeff Fenech's kid that is fighting for the title
on ESPN next week; he is a 112-pounder, I think, but I don't know his name,
they said it was a hell of a sparring match, but I missed it. Anyway, James
played with Green, but he hit him with some hard shots, and Green took them,
Green's offense looked pretty good too, but James wasn't really going after
him; he laid on the ropes and counter-punched, but man, the way James
breathes when he is in the ring is enough to scare the (expletive) out of his
opponents. I'm sure you've heard it. He still needs to drop some weight too;
he is about 235 right now, Freddie wants him down to 215 by fight time.
James was threatening to shoot the Aussies, calling them (names), telling
them to never come back, but Green was unfazed. After the sparring match
Green waited for Toney to shower to shake his hand, and James told him,
"Next time you talk (expletive) about me I'm going to (expletive) you up for real!" and he
started talking (expletive) to him. He busted up Green's face pretty good, and I
thought they may need to stop it, but he was tough. James never really tried
to hurt him, though. -- JB"
This is a fairly accurate account of what happened, although in my opinion,
Toney did put some snap on his punches and did attempt to hurt Green on more
than one occasion. The Aussie simply refused to back down, which may explain
Toney's nasty attitude after the session.
Here's one more:
I was at the Wild Card Boxing Club on Friday and saw some great sparring.
Isreal Vasquez and "Vic" Irene Pacheco's opponent. That guy is real tough.
They went at it real hard. The guy can punch, both being a little dirty that
had everyone in the gym watching. The australians were yelling
instructions and even Mario Lopez was yelling instructions in Spanish to
Vasquez. It was a war with neither one holding back. After that was Danny
Green and James Toney. Toney was talking and even calling out Jeff Fenech.
Green is a tough dude. Toney busted him up pretty good. Just wanted to let
you know. Take care and keep up the great work. I'm picking Vic in an upset.
The guy is hungry. -- Robert"
It seems Green didn't want his stablemate, Darchinyan, to hog all the action
with Vazquez, the IBF's 122-pound titlist. And the "Machine" showed that he
could get down and scrap as hard and fast as the little guys.
For the first round and a half, Green boxed Toney from the outside, bouncing
on his toes and firing off hard one-two combinations. Toney was forced to
charge forward behind a stiff jab of his own, which set up some hard right
uppercuts that snapped Green's head back. By the middle of the second round,
Green was pressing Toney to the ropes and getting off with hooks and crosses
to the body and head, many of which were blocked or rolled with.
Both men mixed their punches well. Toney scored with uppercuts and left
hooks to the body, while Green blasted back with double hooks to the head
and rights to the body and head. By the third round, Toney was parking
himself in a neutral corner and inviting Green to shoot off his best punches
(an invitation the smaller man gladly accepted). However, after a minute of
absorbing every punch in the book, the bigger man would answer back with
jabs and right hands that jarred Green back on his heels.
"Jeff Fenech, I pitty you, boy! How dare you come in here callin' me out!"
Toney yelled at the end of round three.
In rounds four and five, Toney once more parked himself into a corner and barked insults while taking the best
shots Green could muster. Toney fired back when he felt like it -- some
punches were mere swats, others had real snap on them. Although at times
Toney looked sort of like a big grizzly bear playing with a fish that he was
about to eat, Green began to make adjustments while on the inside and slip
and duck under some of the bulky heavyweight's counter punches.
In rounds six and seven, Green's nose spurted blood all over the observers
standing ringside, but he continued to throw punches in combination that
would have knocked out most 168-pounders, while Toney snarled, "You're a
cheese champ; a paper title holder!"
"James gave (Green) a beating -- he was all busted up and I think his nose
might have been broken -- but that Danny Green, I'll tell ya, he's got a lot
of balls. I'll give him that," said Roach, a former featherweight contender
who was known for his heart and relentless attitude in the ring before
becoming one of today's most respected and sought-after trainers.
Green's trainer, Fenech, a former three-division world champion who was
recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, was also known for his courage and
his aggressive "take-no-prisoners' fighting style.
Maybe that's why the sparring session was allowed to last seven rounds
despite the obvious size disparity between the two fighters. Neither Roach
nor Fenech want to see anyone seriously hurt in the ring, but both men will
give a fighter the benefit of the doubt as long as he's willing and punching
back -- and that's just what Green did for seven rounds.
Green, who looked no more than 180 pounds, could not match Toney's skills,
physical strength or punching power, but this gym war wasn't about working
with one of the game's best technicians and learning the finer points of
pugilism -- it was about Green testing his toughness against one of the
better, and toughest, champions to come along in the last 20 years.
Mission accomplished. Green knows he can hang with a heavyweight contender,
one of the best fighters, pound-for-pound, on the planet and one of the best
super middleweights ever.
Green would have fit nicely in the 168-pound mix during the '90s, when card-carrying tough guys in both the U.S. and the UK -- such as Toney, Nigel
Benn and Steve Collins -- held versions the 168-pound title. But this era of
super middleweights is looking pretty good with Calzaghe, Lacy, Manny Siaca
and Green's Australian rival Anthony Mundine.
Green versus any of today's top super middleweights should produce fireworks. If you want an advanced
look at this real-life road warrior (he traveled to Germany to fight Beyer,
to Canada to take on Lucas and to the U.S. to challenge Toney), check out
our debut edition of "Gym Wars."