You’ll never find James “Lights Out” Toney pounding on a heavy bag.
“The bag don’t hit back,” chides Toney.
Sparring and more sparring is what the Southern California boxing icon prefers. Banging heads and blasting bodies is what he does for preparation. No hitting stationary bags.
The 43 year-old Toney (73-7-3, 44 KOs) returns to the ring after suffering a knee injury and defends the IBA heavyweight title against Bobby “The Celtic Warrior” Gunn (21-4-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday, April 7. The title fight takes place at the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi.
The last time Toney entered a ring he suffered a first round knee injury when his leg tangled with Denis Lebedev in a cruiserweight battle held in Moscow, Russia. Unable to secure a fight with a heavyweight, he dropped down in weight to the surprise of many and weighed in at 199 pounds.
Despite a tear in his knee suffered early in the fight that left him mostly immobile against Lebedev, he refused to stop and continued fighting on one leg.
“Man, I didn’t want a knockout loss on my record,” said Toney at the IFC gym in Van Nuys. “I told Pops to not stop the fight.”
Toney used his wits and always dazzling defense to keep from absorbing too many blows flush. Lebedev had a great day and won every round. It was an accomplishment that no other fighter had ever done. Not even Roy Jones Jr. in his prime could make that boast.
The certain-to-be-Hall of Fame candidate Toney dropped nearly 60 pounds to take the fight in Russia. It was a feat that many doubted possible. The knee injury left him unable to win any rounds but remarkably he emerged with little superficial damage.
“I’m good now,” said Toney, who sparred tirelessly against heavyweight Giovanni Sarran for 10 rounds on Tuesday. Sarran fights undefeated heavyweight Alex Flores at the OC Hangar on Thursday, April 12.
John “Pops” Arthur, trainer and mentor for Toney, said that it’s been difficult to find opponents willing to meet the Michigan native in the ring. Gunn was willing to accept the offer without hesitation.
“Bobby Gunn is not an easy fight,” said Arthur, who is a former fighter. “He’s got a lot of heart and fights like that.”
Gunn, 38, has been fighting in the Bare Knuckle circuit and is the acclaimed world champion of that sport. He is also a former IBA cruiserweight world champion.
“He (Toney) is a world champion and a future Hall-of-Famer. I know what I have to do that night, and my plan is to go out and do it,” stated Gunn. “My time is now, and I truly believe with all my heart that at the end of the night I will be holding up the IBA heavyweight title belt.”
Both fighters are nearly the same height and both expect a victory.
Toney doesn’t know much about his opponent.
“Only thing I know is he’s a short m------f---- and he’s going to get hurt,” says Toney.
After the disappointment of enduring an injury in his last bout, the former middleweight, super middleweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion knows that time is moving in the wrong direction.
“I’m looking for another big fight after this,” said Toney. “Someone like Chris Arreola or the Klitschkos would be fine with me. Everybody is younger than me. So what.”
Other fight chatter
Santa Ana’s Ronny Rios headlines the boxing card on Saturday April 7, at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, Calif. Also on the Golden Boy Promotions fight card will be Hugo Centeno Jr. (12-0, 6 KOs) fighting Gerardo Prieto (7-12-1) in a junior middleweight contest.
WBA bantamweight titleholder Koki Kameda (27-1, 17 KOs) of Japan fought Nouldy Manakane (24-10-1, 14 KOs) of Indonesia and WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Tomonobu Shimizu (19-3-1, 9 KOs) fought Tepparith Singwancha (19-2, 12 KOs) of Thailand today in Yokohama, Japan.
WBO female middleweight titleholder Christina Hammer (11-0, 7 KOs) defends her title against Julie Tshabalala (4-1-1) on Thursday April 5. The match takes place Brno, Czech Republic.
WBC bantamweight titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka (15-0-2, 11 KOs) will be challenged by former world champion Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan (37-4-1, 27 KOs) on Friday April 6. Also, WBC junior lightweight champ Takahiro Ao (22-2-1, 10 KOs) defends against Terdsak Kokietgym (46-3-1, 31 KOs). Both fights take place in Tokyo.
American heavyweight Kevin Johnson (26-1-1, 12 KOs) upset Alex Leapai (25-4-3, 20 KOs) with a technical knockout win at 2:22 of round nine. Johnson picked up the IBF Australasian title. Johnson sparred in Riverside with Chris Arreola in the past.
Former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham (34-3, 27 KOs) beat Piotr Wliczewski (30-3) by unanimous decision after 12 rounds. Abraham won the WBO European title last Saturday in Kiel, Germany.
WBC female junior bantamweight champion Ana Maria Torres (28-3-3, 16 KOs) retained the title by knockout over Maria Miranda (14-8). The end came at 10 seconds into round four in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. IBF flyweight Ava Knight stopped Thailand’s Hongfah Tor Buamas (15-5) in round 10.
Venezeula’s Jorge Linares (31-3, 20 KOs) was upset by Sergio Thompson (22-2, 20 KOs) on Saturday in Cancun, Mexico. Linares was expected to win thus setting up a rematch with WBC lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco. It was Linares’ second consecutive knockout loss.
Russia’s Andrey Klimov (13-0, 7 KOs) retained the WBC USA lightweight title with a well-earned decision over Colorado’s impressive Robert Rodriguez (6-1, 2 KOs) after eight rounds in Pomona, Calif. Other winners last Saturday were Ricky Duenas (10-1, 4 KOs) with a second round knockout; Jesse Roman (10-0, 6 KOs) by decision, Vahe Saruhanyan by knockout and Alexander Podrezov by decision.
Former middleweight world champion Kelly Pavlik (38-2, 33 KOs) scored a second round knockout win over Aaron Jaco (15-3) last Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. Also, Riverside’s Saul “Neno” Rodriguez (4-0, 4 KOs) won by knockout in 19 seconds. It was his fourth consecutive win by knockout in one round.
Ju Hee Him (16-1-1, 6 KOs) kept the GBU junior flyweight world title by knockout against Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (5-2). The stoppage came at the end of round six and took place in Seoul, South Korea last Friday.
Derrick “Whoop Dat Ass” Murray (3-0, 2 KOs) of St. Louis won by knockout over Miguel Armendariz (0-8-1) in round two. Murray was a late fill in and fights at featherweight. The match took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday.
Jose “El Loco” Hernandez (13-5-1) beat Peter Oluoch (11-6-2) by unanimous decision on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. Also, Maywood’s Lisette Medel (6-1-1) beat Sarah Pucek (4-2-1) by decision after five rounds of a lightweight bout.