Strap yourself in, James Toney. Clench your teeth, close your eyes and say a prayer. Grab tight to the arms of your chair and hold on. You’re in for a wild ride.
When Toney (66-4-2) faces Evander Holyfield (38-6-2) on Oct. 4 at the Mandalay Events Center in Las Vegas, he’ll want to make sure that extra roll of flesh jiggling around his midsection is muscle instead of extra helpings of mom’s homemade chocolate cake. He‘ll want to smuggle in a roll of quarters for his right fist if he can get away with it, and spiking Evander‘s water bottle with knockout drops is highly recommended, though considered illegal in most states.
He should cheat if he has to, because Holyfield may be an old man in fight years, but like an ornery junkyard dog, he’s still got a mean bite.
The last thing to leave an aging fighter is his knack for ending a fight early. He might get slower with age and he might get tired quicker and get hit easier. But the pop in his punch usually sticks around for the final act. His punch is just as impressive at 40 as it was at 20. George Foreman is the poster boy for that theory.
And Holyfield hasn’t exactly come out of retirement for this fight. He still dreams of someday becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, though that time in his life appears to have already slipped away. It seems like the heavyweight division stays young while everyone else grows old.
Besides, at 40, Evander isn’t that far north of 35, which is how old Toney will be next month. Face it. These guys aren’t the future of the fight game and the heavyweight division. They’re more like remnants of the fabled past, the nostalgia kings ready to put on a last hurrah. They’re two fighters on the backside of glorious careers, and neither is ready to call it a day just yet.
And that’s why there will be no surprises on the night of Oct. 4. No one will quit too early or take cheap shots or play Fred Astaire and dance all night. They’ve both been war-tested and both came away highly decorated.
The reasons Toney is moving up to heavyweight from his perch high atop the IBF cruiserweight championship is because that’s where the money is. But maybe even more important is the sobering fact that as a heavyweight, Toney doesn’t have to push himself away from the dinner table when dessert arrives. He doesn’t have to pass on the pie ala mode.
Toney’s exciting journey into the fascinating world of the heavyweight division is based on his past fights at 200-plus pounds and his recent win over Vassily Jirov, the former undefeated cruiserweight champ. It was an impressive win, but Jirov is a tough cruiserweight while Holyfield is a legendary heavyweight. That’s where the drama comes in.
Toney was quick to boast that he’ll knock Holyfield out, which is like claiming you’ll capture Bigfoot. His chances aren't good.
Of course, Toney was just getting a jump-start on ticket sales, goosing the action a little. He knows how to sell and likes to stir the pot.
Besides, the only time you take Toney seriously is when the bell rings. As for Holyfield, he’s been serious all his life.
That’s why Toney needs the roll of quarters.