By Johnny Walker
[This is the first of what will be a regular feature of news tidbits and opinion focusing on the most abused – often unjustly, in this writer’s opinion – division in the sport of boxing]
Two true heavyweights when it comes to the art of flapping the gums have been at it again this week: veteran trash talker James “Lights Out” Toney and relative newbie Tyson Fury.
The always irascible Toney will be back in action on April 7 against bare knuckles fighting champion Bobby Gunn, who currently hails from New Jersey, but whose frequent use of the interrogative “eh?” marks him as a native Canadian.
Over the past few years, it has become more and more surreal reading Toney’s bombastic interviews in his obsequious press organ, Fighthype.com (“Hey James, are you OK? Anything I can do for you?”).
Since he got soundly beat in his second fight against Samuel Peter back in 2007, Toney, who really has no business fighting as a heavyweight in the first place, has been a mere shell of his former boxing self. Now 43 years old, his reflexes are not what they were, and the years spent abusing his body have caught up with “Lights Out.”
But you’d never know it by listening to what he says (that’s when you can actually decipher what he is saying – his speech patterns have also deteriorated quite drastically).
When Toney says in his latest piece of Fighthype propaganda, that he is “the real heavyweight champion of the world,” it’s hard to figure if he’s just trying to convince his shrinking fanbase to buy a ticket to his next boxing travesty (he got whitewashed last time out by Denis Lebedev in November 2011, while supposedly suffering a serious injury – not serious enough, however, to keep him out of the ring a mere few months later), or if he’s really so delusional at this point that he actually believes what he’s saying.
“I want to blow this motherf*cker [Gunn] out of the water,” Toney says, “get Lebedev back, the Bitchhko Sisters, and then David Haye.
“Ain’t nothing changed….”
If only that last statement were true.
Then again, I suppose Toney is jealous that heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko recently chose veteran Jean Marc Mormeck of France to destroy, sending the Frenchman into likely retirement with a big payday, when Wlad could just as easily have beaten up on “Lights Out.”
Toney is obviously still hanging on, hoping that the Klitschko Lottery pulls his number and sends him into retirement with a few million dollars, but that scenario seems more unlikely with each passing day.
A loss to Bobby Gunn, and the lights will truly be out on James Toney’s boxing career.
With James Toney fading, there is room for a heavyweight contender with the gift of gab to make an impression, especially as a contrast to the gentlemanly Klitschko brothers, and Tyson Fury of the UK has made a strong bid to fill that void in the last year or so.
Fury, at 23 two decades younger than Toney, bombastically told this writer before his last bout – a tougher than he expected encounter with Canadian heavyweight champion Neven Pajkic last November – that he would quit the sport should Pajkic make any kind of a fight out of it.
“If Pajkic even gives me a good fight, I’ll retire, how’s that? If he even gives me a tidy fight, I’ll retire, because I’m going nowhere,” Fury told Boxing Insider.
“If a guy like Pajkic can even come close to me, that’s a promise. If he gives me any sort of a fight at all, I’ll retire.”
Pajkic, of course, showed up for the fight in spectacular condition, while Fury looked as if he had spent training camp watching television and eating donuts. And in the second round, Pajkic caught Fury with a hard, flush right hand to the face that sent the 6’9” Irish giant to the mat for the first time in his career.
Fury, to his credit, got off the mat and went on to win via a highly contentious quick stoppage in the next round.
And unsurprisingly, he didn’t retire.
Fury laid low for a few months following that near calamity, but now he’s back, preparing to fight fellow Irishman Martin Rogan on April 14 in Belfast.
And he’s talking big once again.
“I believe I will eventually retire as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, like Rocky Marciano,” Fury recently told The Daily Mail.
And Fury, it seems, has already mentally re-contextualized his knockdown at the hands of Neven Pajkic.
“I am a proper fighting man so I’m prepared to risk taking punches and we all know that any heavyweight can be put down by a big shot. But I always get up. In fact, my opponents are beginning to realize that the only way to beat Tyson Fury is to nail me to the canvas if they are lucky enough to knock me over,” Fury boasts.
Call it rationalizing if you will, but that’s an attitude that James Toney himself could admire.