By Johnny Walker
You’ll have to forgive me for having a “WTF?” moment today when I heard that Polish heavyweight Tomasz “Goral” Adamek is planning to fight washed-up, 43-year-old heavyweight James “Lights Out” Toney at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on the afternoon of September 8.
The Klitschko brothers have ended or severely and negatively altered the course of many other boxers’ careers (ask Calvin Brock), and it’s starting to look like Adamek is not the same fighter that he was before being destroyed and humiliated by WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in front of his Polish fans last year in Wroclaw.
Since coming back from the Klitschko abyss, Adamek has looked mediocre in a points win against journeyman heavyweight Nagy Aguilera, and even less impressive in barely eking out a win against a “Fast” Eddie Chambers who was fighting with one arm after sustaining an injury to his left bicep early in the bout.
Interestingly, neither Adamek nor his trainer Roger Bloodworth appeared to notice that Chambers was only using his right hand for the majority of the fight.
And so now: James “Lights Out” Toney.
It’s hard not to see the choice of Toney as a cynical move by Adamek and his promoter, Main Events. This fight is going to be a Pay-Per-View feature in Poland, and the loyal Polish fans residing in the Newark area will likely flock to the Prudential Center once again to see their hero lay a certain beating on the sadly hapless former great Toney, whose reflexes are now a mere shadow of what they were even a few years ago.
As has been said many times of late by myself and others, James Toney has no business in a boxing ring in 2012.
“I heard an interview with him the other night and he is clearly brain damaged,” ESPN boxing scribe Dan Rafael said during a recent online chat..
“I don’t say that to mock him in any way. I have been a Toney fan for many years. But he sounded like he was chewing on rocks. It is sick and sad that any commission would allow him to enter a ring. I am not a doctor but James sounds way worse today than he did just a year or two ago.”
But Toney–who was totally humiliated by Russian cruiserweight Denis Lebedev late last year in a Moscow whitewash, and then scored a win over club-level fighter Bobby Gunn in a non-televised bout when the latter man broke his hand–has his reasons for fighting on.
353,966 reasons, exactly – the amount of dollars the California State Government says that Toney owes in back taxes.
Probably the happiest person to hear about this fight will be Toney’s unofficial videographer Elie Seckbach, who always seems to show up wherever the fighter is to get him to mumble a few punchy, obscene and repetitive putdowns of other boxers, like a kid tormenting a caged animal at the zoo.
For all but his most delusional fans—and there are still more than a few of them around—the James Toney show long ago morphed from a riveting drama to a tragicomedy.
This fight with Adamek could be—should be, in fact—Toney’s final act in boxing.
Anything less than a stoppage win for Adamek over a shot former legend will be regarded a failure in front of his adoring Polish fans.
For those who like rubbernecking at traffic accidents, maybe this match-up has a certain dark, baleful appeal.
But for the rest of us, well … pass the Pepto Bismol, because I feel a little queasy.
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