James Toney, Tyson Fury, Evander Holyfield and the Dog Days of Summer


by Johnny Walker

We’re now in the dog days of summer, when there’s just not much going on boxing-wise. Boxing web sites are all struggling to fill the vacuum, looking for something, anything to write about, so just about anybody can get a little boxing press attention for himself right now if he just talks loudly enough.

Enter James “Lights Out” Toney and Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield.

43-year-old heavyweight Toney has become a cipher as far the actual sport of boxing is concerned, a guy who seldom fights and looks bad when he does. But his mouth–when you can understand what he’s saying, so garbled is his speech these days–still works, and Toney is generating a few column inches for himself lately by calling out rising Anglo-Irish star Tyson Fury in the boxing press.

Fury might wonder at his current popularity with other heavyweights: American prospect Deontay Wilder has also been calling him out. Perhaps these gentlemen saw Canadian heavyweight champion Neven Pajkic–who as it turns out was weakened by a bout with food poisoning at the time–knock Fury flat in the second round of their fight last year, before the referee kindly rescued the Anglo-Irishman in the next round by stopping the bout in the middle of an exchange and awarding the win to Fury.

Tyson Fury: suddenly the man to call out

Beating the seemingly vulnerable Fury would mean a lot of press attention and a rapid rise up the heavyweight rankings, so it’s no wonder that a neophyte like Wilder and a faded case like Toney want a piece of him. But Fury reportedly has his sights set on a contest with one of former champs Ruslan Chagaev, Sergei Liakhovich, or Jean Marc Mormeck next.

Toney, of course, has about 350,000 other reasons for wanting to fight a top heavyweight name: that’s roughly the amount of dollars he owes the California State government. So he’s at it once again, barking like your neighbor’s annoying mutt in the hopes that Fury will throw him a metaphoric bone in the form of a fight, just to shut him up.

The most interesting thing about Toney these days is wondering if he really believes the crap he spews to the press. This is a guy who got hammered–twice–by Sam Peter, yet who says he’s going to knock out Tyson Fury AND both Klitschko brothers. Toney’s last meaningful win at heavyweight was a points victory over John Ruiz seven years ago, and that was later negated by his positive test for a banned substance.

Toney’s stock dropped even lower recently when he was dropped as Tomasz Adamek’s next opponent after the proposed bout caused a media outcry. Toney then released a video threatening one of the writers who criticized the bout, and was promptly jettisoned as the Polish heavyweight contender’s next dance partner. Toney then released another video in which he sheepishly apologized for the previous one.

Still, there’s an–ever-shrinking–element in the boxing public that believes Toney is still the same fighter he was a decade ago when he beat Vassiliy Jirov. For them, the reality of Toney’s career in the last decade is irrelevant–they believe in Toney in an almost religious sense. These types actually believe Toney can knock out one of the Klitschko brothers, when his last meaningful stoppage win was over Evander Holyfield way back in 2003.

Both Holyfield and Toney should be long gone from the boxing scene, and yet here they are.

Former heavyweight champ Holyfield currently rivals Toney in the delusional sweepstakes. He also called out the Klitschko brothers in the press last week, like Toney taking advantage of boxing’s dog days of summer to get himself a little press attention. Also like “Lights Out,” Holyfield, 49, is a sad case, another tax deadbeat so broke that he has been reduced to auctioning off his prized boxing possessions and selling his mansion in Georgia at a very reduced price.

Like desperate Vegas gamblers, both Holyfield and Toney are hoping for one more big score that will rescue them from financial oblivion, and they see the Klitschko brothers as the vehicle by which to get there. But there is very little for the reigning champs in such matchups. If the brothers win, they have beaten up on old men, on faded, damaged American legends, and will be criticized for taking the fights. And in the (highly unlikely) event that they should lose….

It thus seems that there is only one solution for Toney and Holyfield, one that they have so far ignored: fight each other.

There are still enough true believers left in the USA to make a Toney versus Holyfield rematch of some interest. And the media criticism in the case of Toney vs Holyfield II would be muted, as both men are seen as over-the-hill and in the same approximate health, and unlikely to do much more damage to each other than has already been done. This increasingly seems like the only way left for either man to get anything like the payday he craves.

So, if Holyfield and Toney simply must continue, please guys, just fight each other, and leave Tyson Fury, the Klitschko brothers and the rest of the heavyweight division alone, for your own sakes and for the sake of the sport.

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