IF YOU call yourself a fight fan, then don’t you dare miss this one today.

James Toney vs. Randy Couture in UFC 118 is an epic battle that finally sheds light on the conundrum: What happens when a world champion boxer faces an octagon legend under MMA rules?

PRECEDENT. The match-up is actually not novel as other boxers have crossed over to compete in a rival sport, but none of them bear the credentials of the storied James “Lights Out” Toney and none of those fights transpired on a platform as huge as UFC 118.

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The best precedent that comes to mind would have to be Rey Mercer vs. Tim Sylvia.

“Merciless” Mercer is a former WBO heavyweight champion who fought Tommy Morrison, Larry Holmes and Lennox Lewis back in the 90’s.

While not exactly known for his skills and power, Mercer strutted a granite chin and it was only when he got older when he started to lose by stoppage.

The enormous Tim Sylvia is an accomplished mogul in the MMA world. He is a former UFC heavyweight champion who has also fought in several promotions and holds wins over Andrei Arlovsky and Brandon Vera.

The lumbering Sylvia started out the fight with a kick. So far so good.

But then as he advanced he made a critical mistake—probably the worst you can make when you are up against a world champion boxer—he dropped his left hand.

Mercer pitched a booming overhand right which landed smack on Sylvia’s jaw. The UFC veteran fell down like a sack of potatoes and lay twitching on the mat some seconds later.

The fight was over in just nine seconds.

MY TAKE. It’s not rocket science, guys. The boxer will always have the advantage in striking while the MMA fighter has the upperhand in just about everything else.

I think Couture will eventually find a way to bring down Toney and snuff the air out of him but till then, “Lights Out” will be dangerous.

Toney is clearly past his prime. And despite being the older fighter, Couture has maintained his physique and is always in shape.

In stark contrast, even when he was boxing as a heavyweight, Toney yo-yoed between 215 and 235 pounds.

Of course, we all know that standing at only a shade below six feet, Toney isn’t even a true heavyweight, but became heavy of weight by habit as he ate his way out of the middleweight and super middleweight divisions.

But any boxing columnist worth his punch lines can’t help but root for Toney.

What I love about him is the attitude. He represents the sport in that aspect and for that I am willing to forgive his slovenly ways.

KEYS. For Couture to win, he should of course go for the takedowns. He should keep a high guard and try to exhaust Toney’s reserves. A tired James Toney would be easy pickings for him.

For Toney, he only needs to keep within striking distance and knock Couture out. This he can do, even if mounted.

But hell, I’m praying he pulls this off. I might as well write about synchronized swimming if I don’t root for him.

LAST ROUND. It’s on Last Rounder Aron Ryan Lee who celebrates his birthday this week. Cheers!

(jingo_quijano@yahoo.com)