Toney returns to action tonight in San Jose - Hopes to challenge Wladimir Klitschko later in the year

james toney24.05.07 - By Gary Jones: James Toney (69-6-3, 43 KO’s) returns to the ring tonight for a 10-round tune-up bout against Danny Batchelder (25-4-1, 12 KO’s) at the HP pavilion in San Jose, California. Toney, 38, always one to struggle with keeping his weight down, is coming into the bout at 229 lbs, slightly lighter than usual, but a far cry from the 160 lbs he fought at while campaigning as a talented middleweight fighter 15-years ago, while in his prime. Since then, Toney has eaten his way out of one weight class after another, though not without winning titles in the middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions. He almost had a major heavyweight title, winning a 12-round decision over John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title in April 2005, but the fight was ruled a no contest after Toney tested positive afterwards for steroids.

Unfortunately, it’s been pretty much downhill for Toney since then, with him winning only once in the past two years, while losing twice and fighting to a draw. In fact, he's lost his last two fights going into his bout with Batchelder, each against Samuel Peter. Before that, Toney fought to a draw with Hasim Rahman, though many people consider this a loss for Toney as well, as he was pretty thoroughly handled by the bigger Rahman for most of the bout.

Despite all this, Toney still firmly believes that he’s not only capable of winning another heavyweight title, but also unifying the titles which he’s stated as one of his goals before he retires. Is Toney deluded or does he know something that we don't know? At this point, if he has something that he's holding back, he'd better start showing it soon because his time and chances are quickly running out with his age now nearing 40-years-old. Not too many heavyweight fighters have been able to successfully fight into their forties, and the ones that have - George Foreman Joe Walcott - were naturally big men with a lot of power. The same can't be said about the rather diminutive Toney, who has neither power or size in the heavyweight division. It wasn't always that way when he fought at his natural weight, the middleweight division, but that's far back in the rear view mirror.

With a win over Bachelder, Toney is hoping to line up a fight with Wladimir Klitschko, the IBF heavyweight champion, later on in 2007. It remains to be seen, however, whether Wladimir will elect to defend his title against Toney, given his marginal track record in the past two years. That said, the fight would likely be mildly entertaining, much more than Klitschko’s recent defense against Ray Austin. If nothing else, the fight would be interesting as a side show attraction, pitting the 5’9” Toney against a near giant Klitschko, who at 6’6,” would have a huge size advantage going into the bout, not to mention the youth and superior power. Still, stranger things have happened, and Toney, with all his ring expertise, might have a chance at pulling off a minor miracle and winning such a bout. Bigger miracle, it would seem obvious, would be for Wladimir to decide on fighting Toney in the first place, given Toney's poor showings against Rahman and Peter. Certainly, a win over a journeyman like Batchelder, isn't going to undo the damage from the losses and suddenly elevate Toney any higher. For that to happen, Toney will have to beat someone much better, surely a contender or two. At this point, it's not looking like Toney, 38, is moving in that direction and showing the kind of urgency that he needs to given his advanced age.

As for tonight’s bout with Batchelder, don’t expect him to last for long against Toney, no matter what kind of shape James comes into the fight. Batchelder has lost three out of his last four bouts, losing decisions to Brian Minto, Matt Godfrey, and stopped by Alexander Dimitrenko since 2006. No shame in that, but the one-sided nature of the losses would indicate more trouble against Toney, who is arguably a more talented fighter than all of them put together. This fight is more a tuneup bout, one to keep Toney’s skills from rusting before another big heavyweight bout, which if everything goes as expected, will be Klitschko or one of the other heavyweight champions.

Article posted on 25.05.2007

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