Toney vs. Booker: Toney's Last Pass

26.07.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - It was reported last week in The Detroit Free Press that former IBF Middleweight, Super-middleweight, and Cruiserweight Champ James "Lights Out" Toney (67-4-2, 43 KOs) will be fighting later this year. His opponent is Cruiserweight Rydell Booker (22-0, 12 KOs) and the fight is scheduled for September 23rd. The bout will take place at the Pechanga Casino outside of San Diego and will be shown on Fox Sports. At stake will be the IBA Heavyweight title.

This will be Toney's first bout since stopping a severely eroded legend named Evander Holyfield last year. Since beating Holyfield, Toney has made Boxing headlines for two reasons. The first being that he ruptured his Achilles Tendon while training for a scheduled bout with Heavyweight contender Jameel McCline, the other is because he's been calling out every top fighter in Boxing from Middleweight to Heavyweight. No doubt when James Toney is on his verbal game, he's every bit as funny as he is good in the ring. However, I'm somewhat disappointed in Toney's choice of Booker for his opponent. Although after suffering a serious injury like an Achilles tear, maybe I shouldn't be. Maybe in his first fight back he shouldn't fight an upper-tier fighter, just in case he's not completely healed. It's just that Toney talks so much trash, that when you hear that he's fighting, you're let down if it's not against Vitali Klitschko, Mike Tyson, Chris Byrd, John Ruiz, or even Jameel McCline. At least I know I am.

Booker, 23, has fought twice this year. In those two bouts he won a split decision over journeymen Tipton Walker, and stopped Ken Murphy. Booker has battled his weight throughout a majority of his career while fighting almost exclusively in the Cruiserweight division at around 200 pounds. Never in his career has he been in the ring with a fighter on the level of Toney. On top of that, his two biggest wins have come against an old Arthur Williams and fringe Cruiserweight contender Uriah Grant. Obviously Booker has nothing for Toney, and the only way this fight can be somewhat competitive is if Toney is fat and out of shape. Or if he is hindered by his recovering Achilles. Again, I will keep reminding myself that this is his first fight after an injury and if he comes through Ok, we'll see him trying to fight one of the top Heavyweight's in the World, hopefully. Those same fighters who he has been admonishing and screaming for every time he is interviewed or in front of a camera or microphone.

At this time James Toney is the darling of the Heavyweight division to many fans and writers. A moniker that he deserves since he has looked outstanding in his last two fights, beating Jirov and Holyfield. In Jirov he beat an undefeated World Champion. After Jirov, he stopped Holyfield for only the second time in his career. Coming out of the Holyfield fight, Toney has received much high praise. I have been one of the few who has held back on heaping so much high praise on Toney for beating Holyfield. Look, no one will ever convince me that the Holyfield who Toney beat wasn't a completely shot fighter. As far as I'm concerned, Holyfield's ineptness as a totally shot fighter was just as much a contributing factor as Toney's swiftness and skill.

The fact of the matter is the Holyfield who Toney beat was the same relic of a fighter as the Joe Louis that Rocky Marciano knocked out and the Muhammad Ali that Larry Holmes pummeled. The last time Holyfield resembled anything close to an outstanding fighter was in November of 1997 when he knocked out Michael Moorer. Other than a few rounds against Hasim Rahman in June of 2002, Holyfield has looked shot and tired while exhibiting every single sign that an astute fight observer would look for in a fighter who is at the end of the road. Having said that, I'll give Toney some praise for his convincing win over Holyfield.

That praise pertains to one undeniable fact, it's still Holyfield. Throughout his career Holyfield has demonstrated courage and determination on a level that any hard core fight fan can respect. In all reality Holyfield must be considered dangerous even when he's going down. So in that regard, Toney must get some praise for the way he beat Holyfield. No fighter ever had their way with him like Toney did. Despite age and totally eroded skill, beating Holyfield does mean something, even today. But enough is enough.

Since his impressive win over Holyfield, I've seen where many consider Toney the top Heavyweight in the World. Believe me, I more than recognize Toney's ability and skill as a fighter. No doubt Toney is truly an outstanding/great fighter, who has a cast-iron chin and an indomitable will. Those are all indisputable facts, but too me the burden of proof is still on him regarding his place in the Heavyweight division. Declaring Toney the best Heavyweight on the scene is more than a reach at this time.

Maybe it's me, but I need to see him in with more than a shot 41 year old former great, even though it was Holyfield. Based off of his performance in his last two fights, Toney has earned the respect to possibly be considered one of the top five or six Heavyweight's in the World. However, I'm not ready to place him on the top of the pack just yet. I'd love to see how he would cope with and answer the size, strength, and toughness of Vitali Klitschko. How about him confronting the tricky and cunning Chris Byrd? Byrd has a better resume than Toney when comparing who they have fought and defeated. Another thing that is overlooked about Byrd is the fact that he is super-tough mentally and physically along with having a terrific chin. Toney would have too out-smart and out-hustle Byrd to win if they ever fought. On top of that Toney is not a great puncher above 200 pounds, no way can I see him stopping Byrd. A Toney-Byrd fight would be one I'd love to see.

Toney-Ruiz would be very interesting, a match up that Toney would most likely be favored in. In my mind that's a tough fight and I'm not sure I would pick Toney without some reservation, as I'm sure some would. Toney-Golota would be highly anticipated as well. Golota is a skilled Heavyweight, who is bigger and stronger than Toney. If Golota fought Toney with the same mental resolve he fought Byrd with, I could definitely see a scenario where Golota wins.

I'll even settle for Toney-McCline, a fight that was on the docket until Toney's Achilles injury. In fact I'd love to see Toney against Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko's chin may be an issue, but Toney would have to get to it, and remember, Toney doesn't punch like Sanders or Brewster. On top of that, I'm not ready to say for certain that Toney can weather the early barrage that Lamon Brewster had too in order to catch Wlad and expose his chin? In a fight versus Toney, it's very possible Wladimir's chin may never even come into play. That fight would probably come down to whether or not Toney survives the first four or five rounds, just as a Toney-Tyson fight most likely would.

The bottom line for me is, I need to see more of Toney against some live Heavyweight's. I'm disappointed that Toney has agreed to fight Booker, but I can understand it and will give him a pass. Since he is coming off of a serious injury and is unaware how his body will react, he gets a pass one final time. However, after this fight, I need to see him ranting and raving trying to get one of the above mentioned fighters in the ring. I don't want or need to see him fight Hopkins, Tarver, or Jirov. He needs to fight either Vitali Klitschko, Byrd, Tyson, Golota, or Ruiz. Again, I'd even be happy with McCline or Wladimir Klitschko.

Since turning pro James Toney has shown that he will be remembered as a great fighter. Not many would dispute that, at least I don't think so. Unlike many, I'm not yet convinced on what kind of Heavyweight he is. I hope I'm swayed one way or another within his next couple fights. Until then, the burden of proof remains on Toney for me.

Article posted on 26.07.2004

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