ESB Exclusive Interview: James Toney

15.01.06 - By Travis Marks: For close to fifteen years the mercurial James “Lights Out” Toney has entertained the public. Whether be in or out the ring, Toney has a way of capturing a crowd. On May 10, 1991 Toney arrived into stardom following his upset knockout win over then pound for pound dynamo Michael “Second To” Nunn. Toney, trailing in the fight all night stopped Nunn in the eleventh round and in the process became the IBF Middleweight champion. Following that win Toney went on to fight and defeat a virtual who’s who in the Middleweight and Super Middleweight. Mike McCallum, Iron Barkley, Reggie Johnson, and “Prince” Charles Williams are opponents who were conquered by “Lights Out.” During that time span Toney revealed that he was not only a super talent in the ring; he also had the gift of gab. His pre and post fight interviews were always entertaining..

Toney’s career hit a snag when he lost his IBF Super Middleweight championship to an undefeated Roy Jones Jr. by unanimous decision. He followed up that loss by dropping a decision to Montell Griffin in his debut fight at Light Heavyweight. Following that defeat Toney returned to his winning ways but his dedication was not there like it once was as he was often out of shape for fights. Rock bottom came when he lost to little known Drake Thadski by majority decision in May 1997. Toney fought once more and then took a two year break to sort things out.

After fighting for a few years in obscurity, James Toney returned to prominence when he captured the IBF Cruiserweight title on April 26, 2004 from Vassiliy Jirov in one of the great bouts of the new millennium. Toney made a successful move to Heavyweight following that win by knocking out former great Evander Holyfield.

Toney captured Heavyweight gold by defeating then WBA champion John Ruiz. His victory was short-lived when he was stripped of his title for testing positive for steroids. James did not let that stop him. He continued his winning ways and was rewarded when the WBC made him the mandatory challenger for their version of the Heavyweight title. recently caught up with the former three time and three division champion James Toney. At a press conference held in the fabulous Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park it was formally announced that Toney will be challenging WBC Heavyweight champion Hasim “The Rock” Rahman for his title on March 18th, 2006 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Rahman became champion when former champion Vitali Klitchsko vacated the title by retiring due to a debilitating knee injury. Toney filled us in on his thoughts about this upcoming bout, his run-in with Rahman and also reflects on his career. James, How excited are you about this fight?

James Toney: (Answering before the question is fully asked in an extremely animated manner) I’m excited! I’m excited because it’s finally happening. It took a while to get here. I never thought it would happen. We kept on waiting for the fake champ Vitali Klitchsko and that never happen, so then after he bailed out “Rock” (Hasim Rahman) was good enough to go ahead and save the fight. He didn’t really want to fight me but he had to fight me. I give him credit for sticking to his word.

ESB: What style problems does he present to you?

JT: None at all. There is nothing new here. I see stuff like this everyday. I have been preparing for this all my life. Since day one in boxing, being in the Kronk Gym (Emanuel Steward’s famed boxing gym located in Detroit, Michigan), and the Johnson recreation center, I have been prepared. I have been in with all the best fighters in the world, from middleweight to heavyweight and I have destroyed every single one of them.

ESB: What do you think about him as a fighter?

JT: He’s a good fighter but like I said, he’s not on my level. And I’m going to show him that come March 18th.

ESB: Tell us something about the altercation that happened between the two of you.

JT: (Becoming very animated and also raising his voice) Let’s get something straight right now, he did not slap me! I wouldn’t let my momma slap me and get away with it. He did not slap me! What it was was that me and my wife were down in Cancun having a good time. Everybody was around me, when he (Rahman) came out nobody was paying him attention so he said “The Champ is here.” I looked around, “Oh you’re talking about me.” Next thing you know he pushes me and I push him back. With four hotel security guards holding me back, two had my legs and two had my arms, he tried to slap me. I swung back like this (leaning his upper body back) he nicked me on my lip and cut me. That’s where the supposed slap came from. That’s some real bullshit. If he really wanted to get at me he could have got at me. Like I said, I don’t have bodyguards for me, I do have bodyguards with me but the bodyguards are for those motherf**kers. Period!

ESB: Why have you been able to do the same things at heavyweight that you were able to do at middleweight?

JT: I’m a natural born fighter. Look at my tapes; I haven’t deviated too much from when I first started. I still fight in the pocket; I rather stay in the pocket. That let’s you know who the fighter is. And you see when I get hit (smiling) I smile at the guy and let him know that shit aint do nothing.

ESB: Have you ever been hurt in a fight?

JT: Yeah, I’ve been hurt before. But you know what? When you get hurt, you don’t leave a notice. You don’t go ahead and run like this (moving back and panicking) that’s when people know you’re hurt. And when you are violently hurt that’s when you start dancing, you do like Roy Jones (doing a dance mocking Roy Jones, the onlookers burst into uncontrollable laughter)

ESB: Who hurt you? Merqui Sosa?

JT: Sosa hurt me! Iran Barkley hurt me also. When Iran hit me, I swear to God to this day, when that motherf**ker hit me dog, I felt that shit for two weeks. But like I said, I was going to let him know. It’s a mind game; your mind gets you to through things.

ESB: What’s keeps you going in boxing?

JT: I love boxing. I love to fight. I have fun fighting. I love to fight.

ESB: Who would you like to fight if you’re successful against Rahman?

JT: Whoever you people (the press) want me to fight, that’s who I’ll fight. I don’t want ya’ll to put me in there with anybody who’s a “Great White Hope.” I don’t want any of those. I want a legitimate challenge. That’s why I’m fighting Rahman, he’s a legitimate challenge.

ESB: Can a fight with Chris Byrd happen?

JT: (Raising his voice and initially addressing his entourage) You hear this shit? The Chris Byrd fight was suppose to happen the night before the Superbowl…in Detroit. But you know what, he did that shit in his last fight, everything got cut off. He killed himself. And anyway, I hope you send this message to Chris Byrd: Quit having your wife talk for you, Piggie Smalls. His wife’s name is Piggie Smalls Byrd.

ESB: Let me ask you one last question. Are you still the King in Madden? Because I know my Madden game is thorough and no one is beating me.

JT: (Getting excited) I got a challenge! When do you want to do this?

ESB: Whenever, we can play today if you want to.

JT: I have to leave today. Fight week bring your ass down to Atlantic City. Who do you use?

ESB: I use the Lions. With Joey Harrington.

JT: You use the Lions? I’ll smoke your ass! By the way go get my new boxing game “Lights Out versus the Legends”, it comes out in February. You’ll see James Toney fighting Joe Louis, all the way down to Jersey Joe Walcott.

ESB: Is there anything you like to say in closing?

JT: Travis, I’m going to kick your ass come March in Madden. Cause you can’t see me in Madden, can’t nobody see me in Madden. You’ve got a lot of talk out there, bring your ass and bring the cash. would like to thank James Toney for granting us an interview. We would also like to wish him the best of luck on March 18th as he attempts to capture the WBC Heavyweight championship belt from Hasim Rahman.

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Article posted on 15.01.2006

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