As James Toney And Roy Jones Approach The End - Who Was The Greater Fighter?

07.06.07 - By James Slater: Although both men’s careers are still sputtering on, it’s quite undeniable that James Toney and Roy Jones Jr are, as they say in America, pretty much done. Indeed, Toney looked damn awful in his last boxing outing, against the unheralded Danny Batchelder, and Jones hasn’t looked anywhere near his old self since his ascension to the heavyweight division back in 2003..

roy jones jr.Both men seem intent on pushing their luck by fighting on, however - Jones takes on unbeaten Anthony Hanshaw in July and Toney is going to keep active via his “Bum a month” boxing campaign - but for all intents and purposes, the two of them should be hanging up the gloves.

Both great fighters have already done more than enough so as to have the right to feel satisfied. There is enough glory and capturing of titles on the resume of both men to more than earn at least two or three enshrinements at Canastota. But, as pushing-forty year old veterans, James and Roy are soldiering on. At this point, with the careers of both practically through, though, let’s look at which fighter deserves to be placed the highest in terms of historic greatness.

I always think of the two as being somewhat linked together. Though they only fought one time - with Jones shutting out “Lights Out” over twelve rounds way back in 1994 - the two men do have a rivalry and are suitable for an overall comparison. There are many similarities between the two. Both captured their first world title at middleweight. Both made the move up to super middleweight and won a world title there also. And both Roy and James are among the small group of boxers to have won/attempted to win a boxing title at middleweight AND heavyweight - they even used the same guy in their attempts. And ever since the two burst onto the world stage back in the early ‘90’s, talk centred around their eventual showdown.

Roy won it easily, of course, and though they never had a return bout their rivalry continued - especially in James Toney’s mind as well as the public’s. Often Toney would bring up the name of the man who beat him with something to spare in November of ’94, usually shouting his intentions of giving Roy some payback, while many fans and experts wondered aloud when the
two would clash again. And though they never actually did, a great rivalry had been born nonetheless. Let’s face it, a three fight series isn’t always needed for such a thing to happen. Leonard and Hagler, for instance, will be forever linked together due to only having had the one super fight. I feel it is somewhat similar in the case of Toney and Jones. But who was the better overall fighter and who did more in their career, James or Roy?

Because of his win in 1994, many will no doubt shout out Roy’s name and claim he was the better fighter. But we must remember that when the two fought their much anticipated bout James entered the ring in far from ideal shape due to having had to shed a ton of excess weight. His performance mirrored this lack of proper preparation and Roy capitalized. Of course, that Toney showed up in bad condition was no fault of Jones.’ But when comparing the two greats it is unfair to use their one and only fight together as the sole barometer of their talents. James may have lost their only meeting, but he went on to accomplish many things in the ring that Roy himself may not have been able to have done.

Could Jones have beaten Vassiliy Jirov and won world honours at cruiserweight for instance? Could Roy have so utterly schooled Evander Holyfield up at heavyweight for another? And let’s not forget, James Toney, in eighty fights, has never been knocked out. Roy, on the other hand, in just over fifty fights, has been brutally KO’d twice. Does this affect Jones’ legacy?

On the other hand, the guys “lights Out” either struggled against or lost to - Montell Griffin (twice) and Mike McCallum (thrice) Roy handily defeated (after a controversial DQ loss to Griffin in fight number one). Does this give Roy the upper hand? When we compare the two men’s achievements up at heavyweight, however, James must be given the extra points there. Roy only had the one fight up with the big guys - admittedly, in a great performance that was historic to boot - whereas James settled in the division full time. His ‘win’ over John Ruiz may have been demoted to a no-contest, but Toney still made a serious mark as a heavyweight. Chalk this part of the argument to “Lights Out.”

As to longevity, quality of opposition and impact, both men are hard to separate. James turned pro in 1988 and is still a world ranked heavyweight. Whereas Roy turned pro a year later and is still a world ranked light heavyweight. Both fighters, with the occasional exception, fought nothing but solid, or very good, or even great, opposition. And both made an inedible impact on their sport - the kind of impact that will be remembered for many, many years. Let’s now look at these three categories in closer detail. Firstly, longevity.

Roy has had fifty-four fights over the course of eighteen years - a very impressive span and a slightly less than impressive activity level. James has had eighty fights over the course of nineteen years - again, a very impressive span, but with a more impressive activity level. James gets the nod here then. Quality of opposition now.

James has beaten some excellent fighters. Here I list the most formidable opponents he was able to defeat and give them a one-to-ten rating.

Sanderline Williams: W12 - rating 6
Merqui Sosa: W12 - rating 7
Michael Nunn: TKO 11 - rating 9
Reggie Johnson: W12 - rating 7
Mike McCallum: D12, W12, W12 - rating 10
Iran Barkley: TKO 10 - rating 8
Tim Littles: TKO 4 - rating 6
Charles Williams: KO 12 - rating 7
Vassiliy Jirov: W12 - rating 8
Evander Holyfield: TKO 9 - rating 7 ( due to Holyfield’s age at the time of the fight)

Overall rating - 75

Roy Jones’ list now.

Bernard Hopkins: W12 - rating 10
James Toney: W12 - rating 10
Vinny Pazienza: TKO 6 - rating 6
Merqui Sosa: TKO2 - rating 7
Mike McCallum: W12 - rating 7 ( due to McCallum’s age at the time of the
Montell Griffin: KO 1 - rating 7
Virgil Hill: KO 4 - rating 8
Reggie Johnson: W12 - rating 7
Clinton Woods: TKO 6 - rating 7
John Ruiz: W12 - rating 6

Overall rating - 75

Clearly, both fighters are very, very close as far as quality of opposition goes. So what about impact made?

James Toney, with his old-school skills, is one of the modern era’s true fighting masters. In his prime he was exceptionally hard to hit, yet had a good chin if necessary ( this is still the case, actually). He hit with serious authority and could fight moving forward or on the retreat with equal effectiveness. Without doubt, his skills were truly the stuff of a man who had totally mastered the art of the sweet science.

Roy Jones, on the other hand, was blessed with such incredible reflexes that these alone saw him to victory on many occasions. His punch power too, was deadly. Roy was able to do things in the ring that were quite amazing. His speed and timing were qualities many fighters could only dream of having. Toney mastered the basics, Jones defied them. Still, both have to be
respected as superb talents, talents that made a huge impression on the boxing world. I can’t split them here.

So far I’ve had a tough time deciding who the better overall fighter is. The only way I can think of as a decider is to compare number of world titles won. A copout? Well, maybe. But I implore any other writer to try and separate these two ring legends. For what it’s worth, Roy Jones won world belts in four different weight classes - middleweight, super-middleweight,
light-heavyweight and heavyweight. James Toney ’only’ won belts in three - middleweight, super-middleweight and cruiserweight.

In comparing two fighters that are about as hard to split as is a fat man from his dinner, I give the slight (and I mean very slight) edge to Roy Levesta Jones.

Article posted on 08.06.2007

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