James Toney vs Vassiliy Jirov (Harry Markson Award FOTY 2003)
IBF cruiserweight title
James Toney, once the P4P best fighter on the planet, had been hit with inconsistency since his one-sided loss to Roy Jones Jr in 1994 and his subsequent loss to Montell Griffin. Between this time and 2003 Toney had stayed active fighting at Light-heavyweight, Cruiserweight and Heavyweight building up a solid run of wins and a couple of losses including a 2nd loss to Griffin. Jirov, a former Olympic Gold Medalist holding amateur wins over Antonio Tarver and Julio Cesar Gonzales, was the big punching undefeated champion having knocked out 27 of his 31 opponents and winning his title in a 7th round KO of "King" Arthur Williams. He was making his 7th defense of the belt against Toney who had earned a shot by taking out Jason Robinson in 7 rounds. Both men were looking to prove their worth. Toney was looking for a way back into the big leagues of PPV and Jirov was looking to get that marquee name on his record to help him break the glass ceiling. This fight lost out to the rubber match between Arturo Gatti (RIP) and Micky Ward for FOTY in 2003 but won the Harry Markson Award for FOTY. It's a must see for boxing fans, featuring technical offense and defense, wild exchanges, huge shots being given and taken by both men and huge displays of heart and will. Enjoy it!