James Toney-Damon Reed: Can Toney Put Reed’s Lights Out?

By James Slater: The last time we say all-time great James Toney in action in combat, it was not in the ring; it was in the cage. And as we all saw, the 42-year-old multi-weight champ didn’t do very well at all in his efforts at transcending sports. Toney was forced to tap out in his fight with the accomplished Randy “The Natural” Couture, as the winner’s arm-bar sucked all the oxygen from Toney’s lungs by way of his strangled neck.

No matter: “Lights Out” (who had the guts, the nerve, the stupidity, the desperation - or whatever you want to call it - required to choose to step into the battlefield of an accomplished athlete), now prepares himself to get back into the boxing ring. Still insisting he can see off both the Klitschkos and David Haye (the “Bitchkos” and “Gaye,” as James refers to the three reigning heavyweight champs), Toney will face journeyman Damon Reed on Feb. 24th, in San Bernardino, California.

On paper, when we recall how exquisite Toney’s skills used to be, this fight is an easy, showcase win for the Ann Arbour man. But is Toney that fighter any longer: the superb hard-to-hit technician that took the legendary Evander Holyfield to pieces in painful fashion in 2003?

The last time we saw Toney in action in the boxing arena (at least those who saw the non-televised show saw it) was in September of 2009, when he took out the limited Matthew Greer in the 2nd-round. Even in that fight Toney appeared to get at least close to staggered before he got the job done. As a result, what we all want to know is - how much punch resistance has Toney got these days? In his prime this issue never came up, seeing as how Toney was so hard to hit flush. Maybe he can still summon those amazing defensive skills today; who knows? But if he cannot, does the hard-hitting (if otherwise limited) Reed have a genuine chance of scoring an upset; the biggest of his entire 66-fight pro career?

It sure would be an undignified spectacle, seeing the great James Toney laid out by a guy with 14 losses on his record. But at this late stage in his career James really is playing with fire; running the risk as he is of being show up by an inferior, yet fresher opponent. And though Reed, 45-14(32) is almost as old as Toney at age 39, most of his fights, win or lose, have been short. As such he may have less wear and tear on his body and brain. Could this see Reed through to an upset win?

At this stage in his life, no fight is a sure thing for Toney. After all he’s accomplished in his truly incredible 22-year, 81-fight pro career, James should either be at home relaxing and doing nothing or putting his vast knowledge to use by trying to mould the next great fighter. Instead, he is mixing it with limited, but dangerous punchers such as Reed as he tries to talk his way into another big fight.

Can the James Toney story possibly have a happy ending? Will the former middleweight king escape the sport without being put firmly in his place by a naturally bigger, better-conditioned fighter he really had no business tangling with in the first place?

Toney doesn’t figure to lose to Reed on Feb. 24th, but as long as he continues to believe his once-sublime skills can allow him to not only hang with, but defeat, heavyweight giants such as guys named Wladimir and Vitali, he is in real danger of seeing his famous nickname come back on himself in a major way.

Can Toney put Reed’s lights out? Maybe (otherwise Toney will win a wide decision), but one day, at his current age, he will find the trick played on him by a much younger, much bigger, much more powerful heavyweight.

Toney deserves credit for the way he stubbornly refuses to accept that his best days have gone - especially as he does so whilst mixing it with heavyweights - but how much longer will we pay to watch him do so?

Article posted on 05.02.2011

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