Bernard Hopkins warns James Toney

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
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Rossen By Jake Rossen
ESPN.com
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Bernard HopkinsGene Blevins/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions Bernard Hopkins isn't about to bet the farm on James Toney's MMA debut.

There are many, many reasons for James Toney to feel uncomfortable in the Octagon on Aug. 28, but there are two factors that aren't getting a lot of play: gloves and shoes.

One is shrinking and one is disappearing.

Boxers wear shoes for traction: They plant their feet and throw, driving up from the ground to generate power. If you spend two decades wearing shoes and then begin throwing punches without them, I guarantee it's going to feel alien. Toney had them, and now he doesn't.

The boxer is also moving from the big foam clubs to four-ounce grappling mitts, and while that's usually a sign of sadism -- if he can maul with bigger gloves, imagine what he can do without -- it's also going to affect Toney's defense. Boxers can protect themselves with the same tool they use as a weapon. If Toney instinctively puts his hands up expecting coverage, a hand is going to slice through.

These are not points Bernard Hopkins brought up during an interview with Hardcore Sports Radio (and uncovered by Cagewriter) this week, but the argument is still the same: Toney is out of his element.

"When you step out into a situation where … the best MMA guy or UFC guy [goes] up against the best boxer in the world in their arena, in their arena gets their ass kicked," he said. "I don't care who it is, whether Floyd [Mayweather], [Manny] Pacquiao, Bernard Hopkins -- they get their ass kicked. That is not what we do."

Hopkins is 90 percent there. Two kinds of boxers would have modest success in MMA: The highly athletic and the highly aggressive. Mike Tyson had the fuel-injection momentum of Melvin Manhoef without the kicks, and Manhoef has earned wins despite having no ground aptitude whatsoever. Sometimes a guy's sheer steamrolling is enough.

The second contingent would resemble the early Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic: a hyper-athletic striker who can pick up defensive wrestling quickly. A few years ago, maybe the Klitschkos could've pulled it off.

I'm not willing, as Hopkins is, to totally dismiss any boxer's chances in MMA. But Toney, with his plodding, gut-slop style, ain't the guy.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to ESPN.com. His byline has appeared in the New York Times, Wired.com, and numerous other outlets. He began covering mixed martial arts in 1998.

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