T Nation

Elite Fighters Training & Sparring


A very relevant way to start this thread. With sparring that took place on thei day (June 5th) over 20 years ago!

Toney and McClellan. Two very contrasting favourites of mine.

Toney of course was an "old school" craftsman; twice in the first thirthy seconds he slips outside of McClellans left and uses his shoulder to turn and get behind McClellan. And then immediatly at 0.32 again!

McClellan was a more straight up offensive fighter, typical of Emmanuel Stewards Kronk stable. around the 2.20 mark we see McClellan up and mobile. Very impressive for a guy who's technique and accuracy has been largely forgotten- or overshadowed by his monstrous power.


Oh man! James Toney before the cheeseburgers....

Great find and great session though


Yeah; he was something else.
When I was younger I was beguiled by the power and speed of McClellan.
But in my old age (:D) I not only believe Toney to be superior, I can see clearly from this spar how Toney could have outboxed and dismantled him.

I'm hoping we'll get a little discussion on this (I know London will have some nice insights into Toney's tech,) but have a nice vid of Valero sparring Morales too.


What a great video. Really nice find mate.

McClellan was a beast, but I'm with you, Toney was a visibly superior fighter.

To me, Toney (before he ate all the pies) was almost a perfect fighter. He really had everything, including respectable power, which for a defensive wizard is rare. He was also just plain exciting and liked a good fight. He also has almost every bad habit it is possible for a fighter to have, and yet is almost untouchable.

What I always found interesting about Toney is the fact that he has an extremely upright, orthodox stance for a defensive master. What I thought was particularly interesting from that video was to see the amount of work Toney's back foot does. He is constantly adjusting it by millimetres, creating angles, space and time for himself. I always think you can spot a good fighter when they have a busy front foot, making tiny adjustments to keep themselves free from a tangle when in range. Toney seems to do a lot of that work using his back foot, despite the fact that he maintains a largely orthodox stance.


He was a throwback in many ways. In style obviously borrowing heavily from fighters pre WW2 and in practice his regular fights and intensity.

I like Toney as I can identify with him. His brilliance meant that he became almost complacent in defense. This is my own inherent weakness; I lay on the ropes, amusing myself- but without Toney's brilliance.
Leaning away to the right could be suicide for another fighter, but Toney carries it off- largely as you stated because of the activity of the rear foot.
Most guys operating defensively place the weight largely on the back foot- elevating the front shoulder for that "false line of attack." Toney's rear foot movement means his weight is shifting a lot; and his head follows.
Mayweather seems to use a similar tactic, although his weight is largely toward the rear, his pivots and sidestep from the back foot make him a nightmare to catch.

Regarding your comment about good fighters constantly adjusting the front foot for different angles, attack strategies etc. Ricardo Lopez was one of my favourites for this.


Lopez was a very nice little fighter. I actually think Floyd is quite a good example of a fighter who uses front foot adjustments extremely well. I hadn't honestly noticed that Floyd uses the back foot adjustments to make himself more elusive, so I need to go and study more tape! It wouldn't surprise me though, as it does seem to be something the best defensive guys do naturally. I am pretty sure I've noticed Sweet Pea doing the same thing in footage of him.


Man I posted this ages ago, fuck you!

Just kidding, it's a great little gem and I'm glad to see it getting some attention. Toney was brilliant in his youth. Most fighters are endlessly claiming how they "could've been", I think toney is one of those truly sad stories because its not that he "could have" its that he "should have". Still a stellar career all things concerned, but just short of ATG status I think.


His front foot movement is exemplary. He brought the "check hook" into vogue, but most kids trying to emulate him, dont stop to consider that he doesnt "throw" the punch he "delivers" it, by setting it up with that lead foot.
I remember moments in some fights where he was under pressure- perhaps Castillo 1 and Jesus Chavez- the elevated front shoulder allowed a barrier, with the right foor moving back- fraction by fraction, creating counter opportunities. A lateral step then orbits the opponent.

At 0.59 seconds of the following video it cuts out frustratingly as mayweather steps forward with the right foot- encircling Chavez, in a manner not unlike Toney vs. McClellan above.
4.54, shows a nice upper body shot of this, without the shoulder contact. Between 1.59 and 2.03, he also uses that rear leg to let of a number of attacks from within a 90 degree arc, that look impressive, but also leave him safe from Chavez's impressive aggression.
Mayweather becomes much more combative after this and although still brilliant, I don't believe his rear leg is utilised for defense much after this.
This was actually a really entertaining fight.

It may be a controversial opinion, but I think Mayweather got "lazy" as he's climbed divisions.
Obviously the top seed in the sport at the moment- back in the lighter divsions, he was very active- the rear foot working constantly on the defense- the front leg working constantly on the offense.
It seems to me in his more recent marquee fights, he relies on the shoulder roll and pull counter almost exclusively- very intricate technical movements, but understood by the crowd so that he nearly always gets a reaction (I have the Marquez and Hatton fights in mind here.) I know that Mayweather reverted back to a traditional "European" defense for large spells against Judah, but I must watch that fight again and see whether he relied on the front or rear leg for defense and countering.

Very good point about Sweet pea. As a southpaw I haven't even looked at Pernell and tried to steal anything yet... he was unbelievable! I'll have to learn how to slow things down when i watch him anyway...


Thats it Davo; I'm trawling the internet- grabbing your best stuff and snatching the credit for it :smiley:
I had a friend in Kronk under Emmanuel and after his passing, I was recommended to gather these up in case one day they are removed and lost.

Toney was a real shame.
I cant specualte too much- I've never met him, I'm just a fan. But when I watch his early career; even his middlew and super middle days... it is like looking back at an ATG, but the story turns sour after Jones imo.
Psychologically he was never the same I believe.


This I find surprising to say the least.
I had always held parallels - Valero and Monzon. This video discourages any such thoughts.


I don't know, I think Toney's problem has always been being james toney.

He had SERIOUS trouble making weight for the jones fight because he had eaten himself up to around 200lbs. He had to starve and dehydrate himself to make weight, and they had him on an IV drip just hours before the fight. I still think Jones would've won regardless, but I dare say it would've been much more competitive. Even in that state Toney lands some telling counter shots on an otherwise dominant jones during that fight.

Ive joked about it on here before, but would not be surprised to find out that Toney has a legitimate eating disorder. It couldn't be just hubris, Toney is a smart fighter he had to have known Jones was a serious threat to his undefeated record.


Oh absolutely agreed. The problem was evident well before Jones.
And was perhaps a factor in that fight also.)

I read a very interesting Book recently (the title of which escapes me right now,) in which Bob Arum shared your belief.
The life of a professional boxer is mentally and emotionally taxing. Toney had vulnerabilities there from childhood, even if he had a skull made of titanium.


Just looking back at the first round of Monzon and Morales.

For almost the entire round Morales rotates to the right; very curious tactics vs. a southpaw.
Every so often he takes a step left and pops a jab over the right shoulder as seen in 0.26. Perhaps more use of this tactic would have caused Valero to rotate to his left, altering the nature of the round.
At 0.40 we see EM trapped in the corner, I believe Valero actually gives ground allowing Morales room, only for him to become shipwrecked on the ropes again at 0.50.

The middle minute, I find interesting and makes me wonder if they had trained before this round. Perhaps it was fatigue caused two world class fighters to trample their feet so clumsily?
At 2.22 we see valero perform a tidy pull counter from a Morales attack, perhaps suggestive of skills we never really saw.


I found 1 hour and 34 minutes of tyson sparring footage from before the tubbs fight, not sure if I should post it in here or make a new thread, since AFAIK none of the guys hes sparring were name/elite fighters




Some of its been on the internet before, but theres quite a few bits of footage I couldnt even find back when I was madly tracking down every one of tyson's sparring clips.

It's japan, I think??

I like these clips, I think its a great example of showing that Tyson absolutely could outbox guys at mid range, obvious counter punching ability.


The second guy is Oliver McCall, I believe.


Find it very surprising how much of Tyson's head movement comes from above his waist. He notably steps it up when he spars McCall.


It's great, honestly have to think if tyson would've stuck with rooney we wouldve seen him get more mature and more experienced and just a freak of a fighter to deal with. Imagine if he learned to fight on the inside like Joe frazier could, i.e not letting himself get tied up.

But shit how you gonna give a 20 year old all that money and all that pussy and not expect something to go wrong


Rooney seemed to be a good surrogate after D'amato. What could've been is scary.
I like the way Rooney drills Tyson in the video below.
He interrupts sequences to impart more information- almost pacing a round in doing so.
Tyson later had a habit of blowing himself out and it seemed Rooney was trying to impart to him how to fight in spots to avoid that.