John Ruiz v James Toney- Did Toney really cheat?

15.01.06 - By James Slater: In April of last year James "Lights Out" Toney got the chance to fulfil his vow of becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. He won a points verdict over WBA champ John Ruiz, in a surprisingly entertaining fight, at New York's Madison Square Garden. It had also appeared at the time that James had kept his other promise; to rid the sport of one of the most ungainly and dull heavyweight title holders in recent memory. He promised he would prevent any further possibility of us fans being subject to the sorry spectacle of a John Ruiz "fight."

Toney weighed in at a high 233 pounds but this didn't affect his stamina and it was Ruiz who was looking the more tired in the late rounds. The decision was unanimous and James enjoyed his fourth reign as a world champion..

Well, he did for about ten days. Shortly after his great win news broke that sent shockwaves through the sport. Toney had apparently tested positive for steroids. Both of James' post-fight samples came back positive for a chemical called Nandrolene, which, although produced naturally in the human body, when over a certain level is an indication of the use of steroids. James was stunned, he simply couldn't believe it. The New York State Athletic Commission immediately declared the Toney Vs Ruiz bout a "no-contest", fined James $10,000 and suspended him for ninety days.

When challenged by the media, Toney maintained his complete innocence saying, "If I'm on steroids then I'll put every steroid company out of business because I was a fat bastard for the Ruiz fight!"

He certainly didn't have the look of a steroid user. Toney and his team were given a month to present their case. Joe Goossen advised James to put the whole thing behind him and let the WBA make their decision regarding whether or not to strip him.

"Could we get a fleet of fancy lawyers in here and put an appeal in? Of course, but we're not trying to do an O. J. Simpson and do the crime and get away with it - it's more important to us the fans know he didn't try to cheat no matter what was still in his system".

Goossen was referring to the combination of medications that James had used before the fight in an effort to control the inflammation and tissue growth following surgery on his left arm that was injured in his fight with Rydell Booker. The left bicep and triceps were badly torn and definitely required surgery. So, apparently the medication was still in his system when he was tested post-fight, hence the result. Should he have been stripped then? (The WBA chose to reinstate Ruiz as champion on May 18th) If James cheated knowingly then of course, yes, but there is a very strong argument that says he did not. A career threatening injury was treated by a doctor who informed James that had the fight taken place in July, as originally scheduled, then all the medication he'd prescribed would have been out of his system. But James had done HBO a favour and come in at short notice to fill the April date, which had been made available due to an injury sustained by Vitali Kitschko ( preventing Vitali's bout with Hasim Rahman). It appears as though this willingness to fight earlier than scheduled cost Toney dearly. Because whether or not you gave him the benefit of the doubt (for what it's worth, I did) there are many more people who chose not to. As with Fernando Vargas, who was punished more severely than James was, the
damage to his image has unfortunately been done. And although other fighters have found themselves in similar positions; even Roy Jones Jnr tested positive for drugs after a light heavyweight fight a few years back, James' case brought far more headlines thanks to his fighting in the sport's premier weight division.

A lot of people refused to let the dust settle and allow Toney to carry on with his career un-criticised and, even though he has tried to put it behind him and focus all his attention on his, still very much alive, dream of capturing the heavyweight championship, a lot of mud has definitely stuck. What I would say on a final note on the Ruiz fight though, is that James
Toney absolutely does not need performance enhancing drugs of any kind to defeat such a boxer. His skills alone are more than capable of doing that!

And so to the now obvious question, are James' skills more than capable of defeating his next opponent, Hasim "The Rock" Rahman? Many people will no doubt say that Toney is very fortunate to be getting a second crack at a heavyweight title. At least those who have him labelled as a cheat will. However, surely even these critics have to admit that this upcoming bout is the best match up available among today's shallowly talented heavyweight pool.

I believe that come March, James Toney will have made huge inroads towards surfacing at the very top of such a pool.

Article posted on 15.01.2006

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