By Johnny Walker
Every time veteran heavyweight James “Lights Out” Toney gets in the ring these days, alarmed boxing scribes and boxing fans alike are increasingly asking, “Why?”
At age 43, overweight, his skills just a shadow of what they once were, Toney’s retirement from the ring seems long overdue. Still, the fighter—whose deteriorating speech patterns may be evidence of pugilistic dementia—continues on what seems to be a futile path in the heavyweight division, ignored by the top heavyweights for whom a fight with this version of Toney is a no-win proposition.
“I heard an interview with him the other night and he is clearly brain damaged,” ESPN boxing scribe Dan Rafael said recently.
“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 doctor but James sounds way worse today than he did just a year or two ago.”
The puzzlement of Rafael and many others as to why Toney keeps soldiering on was perhaps partly solved this week, however, when under a new law, the State of California released a list of its Top 500 tax deadbeats.
On the list along with actress Pamela Anderson ($524,241.80) and filmmaker Nicholas R. Cassavetes ($273,003.09) is one James N. Toney of Sherman Oaks, California, who owes the government $353,966.19.
A lien was filed against Toney on January 7, 2008.
And to make matters worse, the new California tax law that allowed Toney’s name to be published will also, starting in July, give officials the power to strip delinquent taxpayers of their professional licenses, including those of physicians and lawyers (it’s doubtful boxers will get an exemption).
Toney’s repetitious and vicious insulting of the world heavyweight champions, the Klitschko brothers, and of other big heavyweight names like David Haye, would thus seem to represent a desire on his part to secure one last big payday by which to dig himself out of the financial hole he’s now in.
Alas, Toney may have left it too late.