Most people see James “Lights Out Toney and immediately think of an oversized prizefighter who’s reluctant to visit the gym.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Toney has always been a gym rat.
“The problem is he’s always in the gym, said former trainer Freddie Roach.
Even when the 10-time world champion has no fight in sight he’s still a regular visitor in the gym. At times he makes two to three visits to workout gyms near his home.
So when you see Toney strolling in weighing more than 230 pounds don’t be mistaken into thinking he’s out of shape. He’s just heavy.
After fruitlessly chasing after the Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, the current IBA heavyweight titleholder Toney saw an opening when Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White contended MMA fighters were superior to boxers.
“Uh oh, said Toney. “He shouldn’t have said that.
Like a prizefighter finding a hole in an opponent’s defense Toney busted through White’s previous defense against allowing a pro boxer to fight one of his UFC guys. The boxer cornered White after a fight card early in the year and both talked bluntly about making a fight.
Toney attempts to beat Randy Couture at his own game on Saturday Aug. 28, at the Boston Garden in UFC 118. The fight will be televised on pay-per-view. It’s a master boxer versus a master wrestler.
Sure other boxers have fought MMA fighters, but we’re not just talking about any boxer, this is a 10-time world champion that is a guarantee to be nominated into both of boxing’s Hall of Fame organizations.
UFC’s White, though the mastermind behind MMA’s rocket to popularity, has always been a boxing guy too. If there is a great boxing match you will see White in attendance. He’s also one of the most knowledgeable boxing experts around and that’s what grabbed his interest about Toney.
“Do you have any wrestling background? asked White when he first sat in a closed door session with Toney. “Can you defend a take down?
Toney chuckled and growled “don’t worry about. Don’t worry about. I got this.
That was nearly nine months ago and since then the master boxer has taken to two trainers to learn how to adapt to MMA. First there was Juanito Ibarra, the former trainer of Quinton “Rampage Jackson. But the Orange County-based trainer proved too far for Toney whose residence almost borders Ventura County.
Next was Trever Sherman who is based out of Vitaly Kozlov’s M-1 Global Gym in Chatsworth. That was more reasonable for Toney who often trains twice a day and sometimes three times a day.
That’s Toney. He loves to work out. More than that, he loves contact.
“He loves to work, says Sherman. “He likes the challenge of learning new stuff.
One of the new challenges was learning the sprawl.
“What’s a sprawl? Sherman recalls Toney asking.
Since then, the boxing champion has learned the benefit of learning the sprawl just like he instinctively rolls with a punch and counters with a right in boxing. It’s becoming second nature to Toney.
But will he learn quick enough to use it against Couture?
Couture, like Toney, is a master of wrestling that serves as the basis for good MMA fighting skills. This won’t be the first time he’s faced an opponent that has speed and power to render him unconscious. Remember Chuck Liddell?
As good as Liddell is in MMA you have to multiply that fighter’s accuracy threefold when talking about Toney. He’s one of the most accurate boxers in its history. If there is the tiniest crack in Couture’s defense you can bet Toney will find it. And he won’t miss.
But if Couture can ride out the punch and take down Toney and keep him down, then it will be the MMA fighter’s night.
Sherman knows this but still sees Toney turning things his way.
“Nobody in MMA has that killer instinct like James Toney with the exception of a young Wanderlei Silva, insists Sherman who has tutored other MMA fighters. “There’s never been a striker in MMA like Toney.
After working with Toney for five months and seeing what he can do against MMA fighters, Sherman is convinced that Toney will be that oddity that can traverse into the cage and use his own knowledge to an advantage.
“He does things instinctively, Sherman says. “At first I was trying to show him to do this and that but I saw that he adapts so quickly to things and uses what he knows in boxing to his advantage. He broke a guy’s nose here the other day.
Couture is no ordinary MMA fighter, but Toney is no ordinary boxer, it’s going to be an extraordinary moment when the two master fighters collide.
Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?