James Toney sounds off on the heavyweight division
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.
By Johnny Walker
The tragicomedy that James “Lights Out” Toney’s career has become is set to continue after Toney was a the beneficiary of an injury to his opponent last evening at the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi.
Toney’s opponent, Bobby Gunn, injured his hand in the fourth round, and after giving it a go in the fifth, was forced to retire for the night.
This non-televised “title fight” was a farce from the get-go.
Toney initially billed himself as the “IBA Heavyweight Champion of the World,” but a look at the IBA’s web site showed that title to be vacant.
Then the promotion claimed the fight was for the “Vacant IBA Heavyweight Title,” but on the eve of the fight, the IBA nixed that idea and disowned Toney and Gunn.
The fight was finally sanctioned as a title bout by the IBU, which must be a truly desperate organization.
So expect the newly crowned “IBU Heavyweight Champion of the World,” James Toney (74-7-3, 45 KOs), to be crowing in a slurred and garbled voice about being the “real heavyweight champion of the world,” about how “the man makes the title and not the other way around,” and about how the “Bitchko sisters and David Gaye” are ducking him.
For all but his most devoted fans, Toney ceased to be funny or amusing long ago.
Now, he mostly comes across as a combination of sad, angry, and monotonous.
What is really interesting here is that James Toney is a 43-year-old fighter, far past his prime, obese, and possibly suffering from pugilistic dementia.
Yet while the 40-year-old WBC world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, a gentleman and Toney’s opposite in every sense, always gets asked, to the point of rudeness, when he is going to retire, one seldom, if ever, hears any journalist ask James Toney the same question—a question that is far more pertinent in Toney’s case.
Instead, Toney’s interviews are usually conducted by people who only wish to flatter him and try to get him to take a few more obscene shots at his perceived foes in the boxing world.
Such people should take a long look in the mirror, as they are only encouraging Toney to continue doing long-term damage to his health.
Toney’s chances of ever securing a match against one of the Klitschkos or David Haye would seem to be minimal, but after seeing Jean Marc Mormeck’s pitiful effort against Wladimir, you almost can’t blame Toney, who is rumored to be broke, for hanging on and hoping to score one final big payday.
It’s up to those around Toney to convince him that it’s over, but it seems no one is either willing or able to do that.
So boxing is stuck with James Toney for a little while longer.
By Johnny Walker
Back in February when tonight’s James “Lights Out” Toney vs Bobby Gunn heavyweight “title” bout was announced, we at Boxing Insider wondered whether the promotion was misrepresenting Toney’s status.
Toney was billing himself as the “IBA world heavyweight champion” at that time, even though the obscure boxing organization’s own web site listed that title as “vacant.”
After our article was published and inquiries to the IBA went unanswered, the promotion changed course, billing the Toney vs Gunn fight as being for the “vacant IBA world heavyweight title.”
Now, on the eve of the fight comes word that the IBA has washed its hands of the bout entirely.
According to a news flash on Fightnews.com:
Tonight’s heavyweight clash between James Toney and Bobby Gunn will not be for the IBA world heavyweight title. According to IBA vice president Bob Case, it was confirmed by IBA president Dean Chance last night that this title is NOT at stake in this fight. He went on to say that the IBA was never contacted about sanctioning this fight for the vacant title, which was formerly held by Toney.
Toney, who supposedly weighed in at 200 pounds for his humiliation at the hands of Denis Lebedev in Russia last November, tipped (or broke) the scales yesterday at 248, the second highest weight of his career. His rapidly deteriorating speech and his delusional statements about being the “heavyweight champ of the world” have prompted many, including ESPN’s boxing scribe Dan Rafael, to wonder how Toney is able to get a license to fight.
“I heard an interview with him the other night and he is clearly brain damaged,” Rafael said yesterday.
“I dont 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.”
About the only reason to be interested in tonight’s farcical bout is to see whether this is the night that James Toney’s long boxing career finally comes to an end.
Toney has truly become a cautionary tale in the annals of boxing.
[update: latest reports have this bout now being sanctioned as a title fight by the IBU]