With Mike Tyson still in jail and interest in the heavyweight division at an abysmal low, fight promoter Bob Arum will try to raise the echoes of the golden 1980s when Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran made middleweights boxing's most dynamic class.
Arum has matched International Boxing Federation super-middleweight champion James Toney (45-0-2) against IBF middleweight king Roy Jones (26-0) for Toney's title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Nov. 18.
"This is the best middleweight match since the Hagler-Leonard showdown in 1987," said Arum, who will sell the pay-per-view event on TVKO. "This is a throwback to the '80s. We've matched the two best middleweights, if not the two best fighters in the world."
It was not just a promoter's hyperbole. In a recent Ring magazine poll, Toney was ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound behind welterweight champion Pernell Whitaker, with Jones rated seventh.
This will mark the biggest payday for both fighters. Each should earn close to $2 million from Arum's projected pot of $20 million. Toney is guaranteed 45 percent of the proceeds and Jones, who must give up his middleweight crown, 25 percent.
"We should be paid like heavyweights," said Toney. "This is the fight every fight fan wants to see."
Toney obliterated and outgrew the middleweight class, save for boxing master Mike McCallum, with whom he fought to a draw in 1991 and won a narrow decision in 1992.
The Ann Arbor, Mich., native has weighed as much as 176 pounds in stopping Anthony Hembrick last January and recently defended his crown against former light-heavyweight champion Prince Charles Williams.
Jones, who has had managerial problems since turning pro in 1989 and split with his father-trainer, Roy Sr., has campaigned the past year as a super-middleweight, but failed to exhibit the same explosiveness he did as a 160-pound fighter.
"I'll fight Toney any way I have to -- toe-to-toe or by boxing him, makes no difference," said Jones, who first gained international attention when he was deprived of a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, by controversial scoring.
Toney vs. Jones will be Arum's second promotion in November at the MGM's 15,000-seat arena. On Nov. 5, he will stage the on-again Michael Moorer-George Foreman championship match for Moorer's World Boxing Association and IBF crowns. The WBA had threatened to remove its sanction.