Remember when James "Lights Out" Toney used to be a special fighter and marvel to watch? Toney had a pair of extremely quick hands and could really put some spectacular combinations together fighting as a counter-puncher. And when it came to taking a punch, Toney was as good as there's been. On top of that, if you were to make up a list of fighters with the highest boxing IQs in history, Toney would have to be included on the list, and much closer to the top of it than the bottom. James was always loose and relaxed in the ring and fought with supreme confidence. He also fought the best boxing had to offer during his generation, and his post fight interviews were pretty good too.
James Toney was boxing's version of Charles Barkley and one never knew what he was going to say because everyone and everything was fair game to him. And like Barkley, Toney has said some really ridiculous things that went virtually unchallenged by the media and writers who covered the NBA and professional boxing.
In less than two weeks Toney, 72-6-3 (44) will fight under the Marques of Queensberry rules for the first time in 17 months. The last time Toney was seen fighting, he lost in the Octagon by submission to MMA legend Randy Couture five months ago. The fact that Toney lost to Couture didn't come as a surprise to anyone. What it showed was Toney who weighed in at 217 for his last fight versus Matthew Greer, took MMA even less seriously than he has boxing when he weighed almost 235 when he challenged Couture. Then again would it surprise anyone that Toney would play LeBron James in a game of one-on-one if it was for the same money he was paid to tangle with Couture? And he'd boast how he was going to school LeBron until it was over, then he'd blame the officials after he lost.
It's been over seven years since James Toney was a factor in boxing. That's right, you have to go all the way back to November of 2003, the night he stopped Evander Holyfield in one of the stellar showings of his career. In fact Holyfield, who's still actively fighting, was finished and a non-factor on the heavyweight scene four years before he fought Toney. Actually, Evander is the only active big name fighter who is more irrelevant than Toney in 2011.
Toney's opponent on February 24th is 39 year old cruiserweight/heavyweight Damon Reed, 45-14 (32). And as usual Toney is saying all the right things in the leadup to the fight. Things like he's never left boxing and he's training his butt off. Which has about as much merit as him saying the top heavyweights in the world are afraid to get in the ring with him. These proclamations should ring hollow with all sophisticated boxing fans. The reality is no one who has money to spend to buy a ticket takes Toney seriously, simply based on his body of work over the past seven years.
Toney, 42, loves to refer to the Klitschko brothers as the Klitschko sisters, with the hope of convincing the boxing public they fear him, or perhaps in the back of his mind he believes he can talk himself into a bout against one of them. Not a chance. Why would Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko fight a 5' 9" heavyweight who isn't ranked and couldn't beat Hasim Rahman convincingly in two fights, or even get by Samuel Peter once in two fights, almost five years ago? Did it slip his mind that Wladimir took Rahman apart before he stopped him, and both brothers pitched virtual shutouts versus Peter before they stopped him?
Sure, styles make fights and just because the Klitschkos handled Rahman and Peter easier than Toney did, doesn't mean that both brothers would toy with Toney. Oh, but they would. The fact is James Toney not only couldn't compete with either Wladimir or Vitali, he doesn't have tool one to beat them, and would stink the venue out if he fought either of them. Even if he could get to Wladimir's chin, he lacks the punch to even faze him, let alone rattle him. And he'd never get close to clipping Vitali and would take a ceaseless pummeling until the referee stopped the fight. And if you're thinking Toney could get past David Haye, I'd jump at the chance to lay whatever the Vegas odds were on Haye.
There was a time when James Toney was one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers/fighters in the world. However, those days are long gone and they are never going to be rekindled. James is still a character and talks a great game, but he more resembles an empty wagon. His boxing acumen and cast iron chin are the reasons why he's never been hurt or taken a beating in the ring. Make no mistake, even at almost 43, he can still protect himself while in the ring. The reality is, he can keep his opponent from beating him up. It's just that he can only fight three or four noteworthy rounds of a 12-round bout against today's best heavyweights, thus killing any chance he'd have to win a decision.
It might be a while before anyone administers Toney a serious beating in the ring, but the days of him administering one versus an upper-tier heavyweight died in the ring the night he fought Evander Holyfield. Toney's WWE act has run it's course and he's now just a footnote in boxing lore, and not even close to a serious heavyweight contender.
Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com