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The Lights Are Out, James Toney No Longer Relevant

BY Frank Lotierzo ON February 16, 2011
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The Lights Are Out, James Toney No Longer RelevantRemember 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

Comment on this article

Radam G says:

Nuffin' but da luv for "Lights dimmed" -- I mean out -- Toney. But now he is kind of looking like a dazed dear staring at the oncoming headlights of a mack truck getting ready mow him down. Ditto Fo-L! Holla!

FighterforJC says:

I'm one of those people who believed that Toney would be something special in the heavyweight division as soon as he takes his training seriously. After the Holyfield fight, it was all downhill for Toney,. He managed to get down to 217 against Greer but by that time it might've been too late as the fat he shed wasn't enough to counteract the effects of age. I didn't see the entire Greer fight, just some bad ringside video that a fan posted on YouTube. It was hard to gauge Toney's performance from that video, even though I read at least a couple of reports stating that Toney was quick and sharp. I couldn't tell from the video. Motivation was the biggest thing lacking from Toney, or so I thought. I never believed that Toney could beat the Klitschkos but I still felt that that Toney could bring something to the table that could make things interesting if he was in shape. And in the back of my mind I entertained the possibility of Toney actually outboxing one of the Klitschkos somehow. Despite Toney coming in overweight fight afer fight, I always felt that Toney was one serious training camp away from dazzling everyone and making a believer out of the entire boxing community. But the last straw for me was his first and hopefully last MMA outing. I was convinced that Toney had been training his butt off for nearly a year trying to learn the most fundamental aspects of MMA. I was 100% sold on Toney being motivated to prove something to himself and everyone by venturing out into MMA. It was no surprise that Couture took Toney down, but I thought that Toney would've made Couture work for it. I pictured Toney thwarting a few of Couture's takedown attempts and forcing Couture to do a little boxing. I envisioned Toney to be considerably quicker than Couture with Couture having to plod after Toney for some time before he managed to get the clinch, that is if Toney hadn't already busted him up with accurate punches. But none of that happened. Toney didn't put up a fight, didn't even throw a single punch on his feet and didn't even know how to properly tap out. In spite of that embarrassing performance, I probably still would've been forgiving of Toney had he come in impressive shape. At least I could've blamed it on his inexperience, and that if matched up with a striker who would be willing to stand and trade, Toney would still shine. But he insulted boxing and mma fans alike. Toney conned everyone and if that was his main goal then he succeeded with flying colors. Most reports indicate that Toney went home with a very nice paycheck that wouldn't have been possible had he fought in the ring, regardless of the opponent. Toney is done. He is a disgrace to himself and the sport of boxing. Many great fighters have fought on too long and ended up with humiliating defeats at the hands of low level opposition, but I can't think of any fighter who has degraded himself and his sport any worse than James Toney has.

Robert Curtis says:

Was this written by Ron Borges?? There is some truth in this article. However, empty, irrelevant and hollow are not words I would ever use for James Toney out of respect. I would say the Heavyweight division is empty, hollow, irrelevant, unsophistaced and a g-ddamned joke these days before I'd ever boldly diss the great James Toney. James has always been emotional, egotistical and easily bored. He reminds of actors like Marlon Brando or Ollie Reed, or boozy musicians like Harry Nilsson or Chet Baker. Being a genius ain't easy, I guess. But if Toney can't push himself away from the dinner table, deny himself a snifter of cognac or say no to ice cream and marble cake, well, then I guess he really never respected his competition. Why should he? Even if he won all the belts and became a Weight Watchers spokesman, he'd just be a stout middleweight in a sea of stiffs. 5 or more years ago, at any weight south of 220, I'd choose Toney over a Klitschko or any heavy alive. It's a terrible shame the way Toney let things drift, I suppose, maybe, I guess... I'd still rather watch James Toney box a kangaroo than watch either Klitschko do their Boris Karloff impression's against cherry-picked pluggers.

FighterforJC says:

@Robert Curtis: Please name these "cherry picked pluggers" that the Klitschkos have destroyed, and name those that they should've been fighting instead but chose to avoid. Thank you.

Radam G says:

The Klitschkos bros/docs are modern-day version of Dr. Frankenstein. The heavyweight division is DEAD. So these quacks/brothers are corpse picking, not cherry picking. A cherry-arse heavy softy would probably whup their arses. These suckas need something dat's dead, DEAD! A warn body of yesteryears would have ran them out of the ring. As Larry "So Contrary" Holmes said: "My sparring partners would have kayoed these [nowadays] heavyweight title belt holders." Ditto LH! Your sparringmate Joey Ballard woulda cut 'em up. Holla!

brownsugar says:

R.i.p.........

Condor says:

The lights have been out for James Toney for years. What has he accomplished at heavyweight? I suppose his best win was against John Ruiz (later scored a NC due to Toney's steroid use). Perhaps it was his stoppage of a shot Holyfield (who a year later would be stripped of his license). There's lots of Klitschko hatred out there, I get it completely, but Toney would have been hospitalized by either K. Even Wladimir, during his chinny period, would have been unfazed by anything the light-hitting Toney threw. He simply wouldn't have been able to keep him off him.

I remember in the 90's people remarked about how bad the heavyweights were. And that's now considered a great era. This certainly isn't the 90's, but I think the claim that it's simply the worst era ever is overstated. Some credit needs to go to the K's for their complete and utter domination. I suspect they'll get it when they're gone (like Lewis, who was only respected after Tyson).

Isaiah says:

Wladimir Klitshcko has beaten Ruslan Chageav, Eddie Chambers and Samuel Peter all in a row if I have that right, that is. All would (and one has) beat James Toney and he wants people to think he can beat the Klitshcko brothers? Even with the old "styles make fights" excuse and that's why Toney would win.... I'd still have to say, YEAH RIGHT! The heavyweight division isn't as bad as some act like it is. There's just some haters that will NEVER give credit where it's due. Don't get mad because Wladimir beats down everyone in his path. (the one's that'll fight him that is.... Come on David QUACK Haye) Wlad is just THAT good! In the sixties and seventies, heavyweight contenders were begging to fight Muhammed Ali and were highly anxious to take any deal they could get to make that happen because they knew if they won, they could call the shots next time. These days, we have some primma donnas who forgot what, "stepping up" means even if they get a GREAT deal. Isn't that messed up?

brownsugar says:

Toney has already told his trainer Buddy McGirt that he don't hit no heavy bag because they don't hit back... this should have been the part where McGirt shows him the door.

FighterforJC says:

Toney has already told his trainer Buddy McGirt that he don't hit no heavy bag because they don't hit back... this should have been the part where McGirt shows him the door.


Yeah but Toney showed him the money first.

Robert Curtis says:

@FighterforJC. It's easy to name the chumps and pluggers. You know how to took up a fighter's record on boxrec. But it is much harder to name any Klitschko duckees, no doubt. You can't cherry-pick a petrified tree. How can they duck when no one is throwing? The problem with that pie fight between Vitali and Sam Peter is that Peter ate all his own pies before the opening bell. I wish there were some legitimate heavyweight contenders today, the same as I wish my cat could krap gold krugerands and rescue me from this life of drudgery.

Candyman says:

James Toney fought the greatest Wrestler/Grappler in MMA heavyweight history, he lasted 3+ minutes on the bottom, and he learned just before the fight that the government was trying to take his pay! Why should he even have fought? I wouldn't have! And I would fight for free. These heavyweights are scared of him!, why? Because they know Toney has been screwed out of 3 major heavyweight victories that would have lead to title shots. And as much as boxing would love to keep screwing him, they can only do it for so long before somebody calls them on it! Hello!, with that said, James probably really wanted that big pay day, since he'd been waiting for a good fight for so long, he hasn't really had a good pay day in while, from fighting anyway. Can you blame him? I guarentee, if that did not happen before the cutoure fight, it would have been a different Toney out in that cage.

Candyman says:

Who is this Frank Lotierzo sounding like every other analyst that hates on James Toney since he's been a heavyweight, after the Holyfield fight of course. very sad.

What these analyst forget or don't know cuz most of them don't train or do nothing is that the body must adjust to it's new weight, Toney started fighting at 168 or lighter, although he would be heavier in between fights like most, his body did not have to adjust to the weight because he would lose it and change weights often. even at cruiser weight, sure his body adjusted to being 200 pounds consistently, but since 2004 he's 220 pounds or heavier. with that said, his first few heavyweight fights = Holyfield, Booker, ruiz and guinn, his body was really getting adjusted and aclamaiting itself to being a true heavyweight body not only that but fighting and performing in one on a CONSISTANT BASIS. He should have won the first Hassim Rahman fight, the first Peter's fight and I dare you to go watch the second Peter's fight again and again, and not give it to Toney. in those 3 fights, he showed that he was a true heavyweight. after those 3 screw jobs = Batchelder, Rahman 2, Oquendo and Greer have nothing to offer Toney. Love it Or Hate it, Toney has really just begun his heavyweight journey.

Candyman says:

It is precedent in all fighting/combat sports, the belt must be taken from the champion, when a young up and comer fights a legend, he must take the fight from the legend. Rahman is not a young up and comer, but he did not have anything to offer Toney anyhow. Peter's however was and is still an up and comer, Toney easily won the first Peter's fight!!! The second fight was closer, but I have watched this fight several times over and recently as well. I am going to give it to you as simple as possible, let's look at like a tug of war. Toney makes Peter's miss, drawing him in, and then punishes him with powerfull blows, keeping him from tugging back(making him miss) while pulling him in further(punishing power blows), this happens all fight long. What I am saying is that Peter's never was able to pull Toney in the tug of war, but Toney was able to pull peter's many times through out the fight with out much resistance. Sometimes there was no movement, but when there was it was Toney doing the pulling. Not only that but any excitement that happened in that fight was initiated by James Toney. James actually pressed the action and invited Peter's inn time and time again. I could tell you all day and night how Toney won these fights, but he was robbed, all because they want to give it to the young guy and Toney looks a little chubby... back to my very first point, If James Toney makes you miss, punishes you with counter shots, talks to the judges and crowd telling them how easy it is, that is a James Toney fight, that = a James Toney victory. On top of that guys, Toney was the one to Initaite much of the action in his fights against Samuel Peters, he lead with the jab, he was being held and pushed and belted in the back of the Head. Guys were not talking about robbing a guy of a victory were talking about twice robbing James Lights Out Toney from at least 2 heavyweight title shots against the Klitchkos, which Peter's clearly did not and does not yet have the experience to fight anyway. They are disscriminating and trying to put a hault on James Toney's legacy by robbing him of clear James Toney victories, Peter's did not take those fights away from the still active still potent legend James Toney

Thank you, sincerely

Candyman, respect.

Robert Curtis says:

There is no disgrace in being James Toney. Find some private collector selling JT's fight collection on DVD. Watch in awe. Yeah, Toney's past it. Tell us something no old school boxing fan doesn't already know. My advice to boxing writers: scold old fighters for fighting past their time, but avoid being disrespectful. Freddie Roach trained Toney for a while. No doubt he learned from the brilliant Toney and must have imparted that knowledge to the best fighter of our time and all time: Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao.

FighterforJC says:

LOLLLLLL. Let's all give Toney credit for the fighter Pacquiao is today. Pacquiao owes his abilities to Toney as much Shaquille O'Neal gets his tool size from having sparred with Shane Mosley. LOL. Nobody is discrediting Toney's amazing talent, but if ever a great fighter could undo his accomplishments, Toney is the perfect guy to do it. You can criticize old timers like Holyfield and Mosley for staying too long all you want, but at least those guys take themselves and the sport seriously. There are many things you have no control over like diminishing reflexes, speed and stamina, but one thing that is in your hands is getting in top shape. Toney has not been in shape since he fought Holyfield, and even then Toney's shape was questionable, as the commentators expected Toney to be even LIGHTER for his next fight. Toney has disgraced the sport by fighting out of shape and testing positive for steroids on multiple occasions (no Olympic drug testing required!). The opportunities he was given against Rahman and Peters he blew by coming it at least 20lbs overweight. There's no excuse for that. The ultimate insult was convincing everybody that he's been training in MMA for 10 months and is in the best shape of his life.

the Roast says:

Hey Candyman, So let me get this straight, I have to watch those awful Peter-Toney again? And this time Toney will win? I remember Peter, who cannot box, outjabbing and outboxing JT. Do you know Jerry? He had a slightly more crazy idea that Riddick Bowe was gonna come back and beat the K bros. Havent heard from Jerry or Bowe for a long time. I'm gonna go say your name five times into my mirror so you will apear at my house.

Candyman says:

it is simple, you were wrong the first time you watched it. Those were Toney fights, period. Hell Toney's jab was more effective than Peter's, at least james jabs are real, Peters just holding his hand out there half the time pushing and holding. it's simple, you are wrong and you were wrong.

the Roast says:

Come on man. The first fight was close but the second was not. Toney's days as a contender are over. Dude would be a stepping stone if there were any heavyweight prospects on the rise. It's just the way it is. Respect your opinion. Keep the comments coming. We need all the real fight fans we can get around here.

FighterforJC says:

it is simple, you were wrong the first time you watched it. Those were Toney fights, period. Hell Toney's jab was more effective than Peter's, at least james jabs are real, Peters just holding his hand out there half the time pushing and holding. it's simple, you are wrong and you were wrong.


On the merit of Toney's superior jab over Peters, let's declare Toney the greatest evah!

Candyman says:

thank you " Roast" i sincerely appreciate that, fine example of not a real fight fan, the guy under you with his sarcastic shot at me... lol anyways,,, I am just saying these guys commenting on the Pteres fight probably watched it once or twice, I have disected round by round both fights, and the fact is Toney won both fights. It is sasd that the judges and many people give Peter's every EVEN round just because...Toney made him miss, puinichsed him for it and gave the crowd a show, Peters did not take either fight from Toney! ( Which is what Peters has to do). If Toney is in good shape, he can beat any top contender in the division, if he is in great shape and really making a run, he can beat any heavyweight champion.

the Roast says:

Well Candyman, we all take our sarcastic shots once in a while. It's all part of the fun! We'll see what happens with James Toney. He needs a serious fight soon, he's running out of years. That Micheal Nunn fight was a loooooooooooooooooooooong time ago. I hated Nunn so I appreciated that KO. Hey when I said your name five times into the mirror you never showed up. Haven't you seen the movie?

Shlomo says:

James Toney has/had the best naturally-gifted inside game in boxing. Had he only spent some time training and watching his weight, he would be at the top of the cruiserweight or even lt. heavyweight divisions still.

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