When I first heard about this matchup between Toney and Couture, I was nervous. Of course, I think Randy has more ways to win and Toney has absolutely no answer to Randy's grappling skills. But Randy's chin is certainly not impenetrable. He was KOd twice by Liddell, another unorthodox striker. And in my opinion, Randy's biggest weakness has always been his overconfidence in his own boxing skills. And lets face it, James Toney has KO'd more guys than Randy has even fought....and those weren't MMA KOs where he could follow up a knockdown with more damage. Those were "Dude-went-down-so-hard-I-stepped-back-and-watched-him-sleep-through-a-10-count." KOs...with pillows on his hands....against professional boxers, the least of which has better striking defense than Couture. I still think Randy will probably win, but I don't think it's a foregone conclusion or a cake-walk by any stretch.
I thought...this is a lose/lose situation for MMA fans. If our most decorated hero falls at the hands of a loudmouth braggart in his MMA debut, boxing fans will never let us live it down. And if Randy wins, they will just say, "Well, it was Toney's first MMA fight" "Toney's way past his prime" etc etc ad nauseum. After all, Randy is heavily favored to win this fight by both Vegas oddmakers, and even several prominent boxers have spoken up saying Toney is a fool and will get clobbered. So Randy and MMA fans have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
But today I had an epiphany. I realized that we've already won! "How's that?" you ask. Answer: because 5-10 years ago if you asked anybody in the Sports world, or anybody on the street, who would win a "real fight", a street fight/bar fight/playground fight between an MMA champ and a Boxing champ, the consensus would have been overwhelmingly of the opinion that the Boxer would win easily. Why? Because 5 years ago, the average Joe, the average Sports fan, indeed the average Sports Commentator, considered Boxers to be Elite Combat-sport Professionals and MMA to be little more than a caged cock-fight between two Kimbo/Tank Abbot-esque thugs. So the fact that most of the Sports World (including much of the Boxing World) think Toney is in way over his head fighting a 47 year old MMA guy shows a dramatic shift in public opinion about the nature of our beloved sport and the skills of it's combatants. The fact that Vegas oddsmakers, guys who stand to make or lose millions on their prediction, have set the MMA guy as the overwhelming favorite, and Sports analysts and fans largely agree, shows that the perception of our sport and it's participants has already changed. Everyone knows an MMA fight is much more like a "real fight" than a boxing match, and the fact that Couture is expected by most to win this fight easily shows that MMA has already won, that our fighters are now perceived as Elite Combat-sports Professionals capable of beating even the best practitioners of "The Sweet Science" in a real fight. In other words, the world already knows that Boxing's Heavyweight Champion of the World is no longer the Best Fighter On Earth, the Toughest Man On The Planet, or any of those other titles historically reserved for Boxing's best. People now know there's a new game in town and that the guys who play it aren't schoolyard bullies, but Elite Professionals entirely capable of mopping the floor with the best Boxers on Earth.