Ray Mercer, top, put his sweet science skills to good use in toppling Tim Sylvia.
A 48-year-old Ray Mercer is not exactly a perfect precedent for James Toney's MMA aspirations, but it's about as good as he's going to find. That's why Toney may find some interest in watching Mercer get a spoon-fed return to MMA on April 16 against underwhelming heavyweight Ron Sparks (5-0, with four of those wins against one-and-done fighters who had not fought before and have not fought since).
Mercer may be the one to blame for the recent boxing imports -- Toney, Ricardo Mayorga, B.J. Flores, possibly Shannon Briggs -- because of that viral win over Tim Sylvia in '09. For his part, Sylvia taught his MMA peers that if you stand perfectly still in front of a professional boxer, you might find yourself able to point out weak spots in the arena's roof.
Sparks may use more wisdom, and Mercer may not have much of a defense even against a sloppy tackle, but this is about the speed a pro boxer can expect to remain competitive in. If James Toney can learn to defend a world-class grappler's clinch or takedown at the age of 41, it would be a miracle the Vatican would have to acknowledge.