James Toney vs. Wladimir Klitschko: This Fight Needs To Happen!

20.05.2006 — By Valerij “Rudolph” Calmic: The famed Emmanuel Steward made an intriguing hint about Wladimir Klitschko’s nearest plans in his recent interview, saying, in part, while the other champions are busy, his pupil may fight James Toney some time around September this year. He explained the choice of James Toney with the fact that the others will be more difficult to negotiate with..

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, Toney agrees. Incredibly, if this bout comes off, this would be the 3rd shot at a heavyweight title for Toney, in a little over a year. Of course there’s a question of Toney’s ratings, since he doesn’t appear to be listed within the IBF’s top 15. Although, if the money is right, he’ll definitely pop up somewhere between numbers 5 and 2, I’d be willing to bet. Besides, Toney has already previously leap-frogged Oleg Maskaev in the WBC ratings, when Toney fought for the title instead of Maskaev, who was just fresh out of an elimination victory.

Nevertheless, the question remains whether or not the IBF would sanction this bout between their champion Wladimir Klitschko and James Toney. However, there’s another way out of the situation. This fight could be made as an IBO championship match, of which Klitschko is also a title holder. James Toney occupies position number 6 in the IBO rankings, if I’m not mistaken. However, neither of the fighters will get many accolades for such a “championship.”

Thank God, we have The Ring Magazine. Many think that The Ring’s ratings and titles are much more objective than all others, and they’re right, simply because The Ring doesn’t charge any commission fees for their ratings and titles. This excludes any possibility of corruption. This doesn’t exclude subjectivity, of course, but unlike the alphabet bodies, The Ring cares about its image and reputation. For the time being, their heavyweight belt is currently vacant. Wladimir and Toney are ranked at numbers 1 and 3 respectively. What do we get from a fight between these two? A long awaited Ring champion, that’s what. Now that’s something worth fighting for, don’t you think?

But why is Steward so sure of Klitschko’s victory? Isn’t it the same Steward who not so long ago suggested that no one bet against Toney? I decided to try and think about this match-up as if it was a done deal.
Place of fight

Let’s start with the place. Where should it happen, in USA or Germany? I think Toney must answer that question. Like Chris Byrd, he’s not getting any younger. And, like Byrd, he’s probably thinking about a well deserved rest. Like Byrd, he’ll probably require a little bonus over the promoter’s guaranteed minimum.

Everybody knows that Klitschko can sell out an arena in Germany, even if he fights Serena Williams. Whereas, James Toney is moderately popular in the U.S.. But there’s something that can turn this fight from and “interesting match-up” into a mega-event. I’m talking about Toney’s big mouth.

After having studied the attitudes on a few American based web-sites and forums, I came to an interesting conclusion: the usually patriotic American fight fans can’t wait for someone to shove Toney’s sometimes controversial comments back down his throat. No doubt, they are ready to support anyone in this deed, even a much hated European with a “glass jaw and no heart,” a comment that they make quite often about Wladimir. If so, the location of the bout doesn’t matter at all, for tickets will sell in both Germany and the States.

Psychological war:

Now, about the mental part of the fight. Rest assured that Toney will do his usual thing to help sell the fight; i.e., cursing, swearing, perhaps, talking about Klitschko’s relatives, reminding him of all his losses, making up stories about Wladimir quitting.

Let’s assume that whether Klitschko gets mad or scared, it’s already a small victory for Toney. But I wouldn’t count on that. Today an angry Klitschko is something very different from what he was like under Fritz Sdunek. There will never be an old fashioned non-stop blizzard of punches, no matter who’s in front of him. If Toney thinks that Klitschko will rush him like someone named Vassily Jirov, he can forget about it. And if he manages to scare Wladimir with his mental attacks, then he won’t get a convincing victory anyway. Klitschko will run, jab, hold, run and jab again, and the judges will at least score it a draw.

Shape and stamina:

Well, let’s be honest here, getting himself into decent shape has been Toney’s weakest spot at heavyweight while campaigning as a heavyweight, and as many of you already know, fat heavies are said to have a spare tire around their wastes. That said, Toney’s problem is that his spare tire doesn’t just seem to come from his “hatchback, but rather, it looks more like it was stolen from a passenger bus or a huge quarry truck. I don’t know about you, but it seems he gets heavier and heavier with every fight, regardless of the circumstances. With that kind of track record, the chances are that by fight time, the 5’9” Toney might even outweigh the 6’6” 240 lbs. Klitschko. On top of that, Toney’s habit of 4 or 5 cigars per day doesn’t exactly improve you stamina, either, I would say.

As for Wladimir’s physical form, I expect everything to be in tip-top shape, with not a bit of flab around his midsection. The camp at Poconos always keeps its doors wide open for such customers. I believe that their shape will be the defining factor in this bout. Why? I’ll explain a bit later, under “The fight.”

What can be suggested to James Toney? Well, first of all, to put a hard steel chain around his fridge, along with a big lock, and then to swallow the key. Secondly, he needs to start hitting the treadmill as soon as possible, if he hopes to take off the weight by September. Or better yet, RIGHT NOW.

There is only one suggestion to Wladimir: he must get himself prepared for full 12 rounds of a high paced fight, with lots of action because Toney will likely apply a lot of pressure from beginning to end. Further, Wladimir must deny Toney any chances to rest during the fight, something that he likes to do, often exhibited by his laying against the ropes, giving himself a muchly needed breather.


Both fighters are technically sound, there’s no arguing about that. However, at least Toney’s technique leaves no questions, since he’s a highly skilled fighter that few fighters can match. As for Klitschko being a stiff fighter, only those who still can’t tell the brothers apart say that. Yet, regardless of what people say, technique alone doesn’t win fights. Rather, it’s the physical capabilities and how a fighter multiplies them with his technique is what matters most.

Wladimir Klitschko is a masterful long distance boxer, there’s no doubt about it. Though not well known, Wladimir, has never really trailed in a fight, as his ability to control a fight with his left lab, left hook, keep him well ahead, even in the fights he lost by knockout. Really, there’s only one way to beat Wladimir, and that’s by stopping him, otherwise, you’re in for a long night of eating jabs.

Essentially, Toney’s realm is a mid to close range fighter, who is more of a throwback fighter to the fighters of old, when they gutted it out on the inside, throwing devastating body punches. This is understandable, certainly, given Toney’s severe height disadvantage and relatively short arms, even in light heavyweight standards. However, Toney knows how to fight on the outside, as well. For example, he knows how to throw a well-timed jab, which is kind of a strange looking jab, I might add, not by the book. He throws it from his waist, with his elbow higher than his fist, but still, it’s a very well-timed and an effective jab, all the same. Toney also knows how throw an unexpected right swing over the top. However, his growing girth is clearly becoming an obstacle, because this counter punch is quite physically demanding from the way Toney throws it. I mean, it takes effort and time to first dodge the opponent’s jab and then to shift his weight from the back foot onto the front foot and so forth. Against Rahman, however, this punch was not as effective as in Toney’s previous bouts, for when he would attempt to throw it, he often missed and lost balance, which made him run half way across the ring in order not to fall. Likewise, there was a small episode when Rahman was able to counter with his own right hand after a missed right swing from Toney, and lucky for him, Toney had his left hand up, thus blocking Rahman’s shot.

Not surprisingly, I feel that Wladimir’s work at long range is something very pleasant to see. Once I was thinking about musical analogies among boxers. I see James Toney as a saxophone player, whereas Nikolai Valuev is probably the stand-up bass, and, as for Wladimir Klitschko, I think he reminds me of a rhythm-guitar, in the sense that, all he does is very sharp, accurate, and right by the notes. Sometimes he gives out short but very solid “solos,” like some rhythm-guitarists like to do from time to time, pleasing the listeners and surprising the lead-guitarist.

About the defense:

Everything is very simple with Wladimir’s defense. For instance, he blocks most punches, while at the same time, jumping back away from danger; he has also developed a very reliable block against a left hook (thank you, Manny), and when in close quarters, he holds and applies little dirty tricks, such as a quick uppercut to the head. It’s not a knockout punch by any means, but it definitely gets his opponent’s attention. On the other hand, Toney’s defense is something completely different. First of all, he tries to dodge punches in such a way as to put himself into position to throw a counter right hand. Something that he used quite effectively against Rahman, because he simply doesn’t seem to know how to throw a jab without jumping forward a yard, leaving himself open for Toney’s right hand counter. As a rule Rahman would miss with the jab, while Toney didn’t even need to take a step forward before Rahman was already within Toney’s range. Thus, Toney’s defense is the beginning of his attack. Wladimir, indeed, is quite different. He either defends himself, or attacks, although rarely does he do both at the same time.
The fight

I won’t write much about this, other than saying that a well prepared Wladimir will need to move the entire bout, never stopping even for a moment. Moreover, he needs to stay busy, firing off constant punches, if he wants to come out on top. Whereas, Toney loses simply because he throws less punches, can’t keep up with the pace, takes pauses and experiences difficulties with reaching Wladimir.

For his part, Wladimir simply has much longer arms, is much taller and moves around the ring faster than many would like to admit. So, with all these assets on his side, will this victory spell victory for the big Ukrainian? You bet. However, Wladimir supporters should get themselves prepared for statements like, “This was a marathon, not a boxing match” and “He didn’t fight like a man,” and other such nonsense from fans of Toney. No doubt, Sam Peter’s fans will grow in numbers, and there will appear a crowded James Toney fan-club in the politically correct Russia.
My official prediction.

Some might say, “what kind of a prediction are you making where there is no knockout on either side?” I understand your displeasure, especially since John Ruiz, a relatively light puncher, was able to land his jab and left-right combinations, quite frequently in his bout with Toney, and even rocking Toney with one of his right hands. Further, some might people might also say, “what if Wladimir hits him with his patented left jab, right cross? Well, the thing is, James Toney may be loud, but he’s no fool. I felt that he deliberately let Ruiz get away with a lot of punches, simply because he knew: “I’ll still out punch this Teddy Bear, no matter what he throws and how many times he connects.” Yet with Hasim Rahman, it was already a totally different story. Toney was much more diligent at slipping Rahman’s jabs and power punches. This tells us only one thing: James Toney never underestimates his foes, no matter what he says in public.

However, the above description is not my official prediction. My prediction is like this: Toney takes this fight seriously and goes into intensive preparation, realizing, that this isn’t the kind of fight you can win on talent alone. And that’s when he pulls a ligament, tears a biceps or gets stomach ulcer. And if this happens (and I’m pretty sure it will), I have a question. Will the Klitschko supporters have the right to say that Wladimir sent Toney into retirement? I mean, almost no one denied themselves the pleasure of patting Rahman on the shoulder for “retiring” an injured Vitali Klitshko, right?

Article posted on 20.05.2006

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