Should James Toney Really Be Fighting At Cruiserweight Today?

06.07.06 - By James Slater: As a young man in high school, James Toney weighed a solid 205 pounds. Then, in the late 1980's, when beginning a boxing career that is still going strong almost twenty years on, he tipped the scales at 160 pounds. The scaling down of his poundage was done purely to be able to fight in the middleweight division, which is what James' management team wanted then. The way James tells it now, however, he never wanted to fight at such a low weight - ever. But he sacrificed, and as we know, became a world champion at middleweight. It wasn't long though, before he started having serious problems. He made the move up to super middleweight two years after winning his first championship, and was successful in challenging for world honours at the new weight also.

The move up had been one that was absolutely necessary. For in a middleweight title defence - against Francesco Dell'Aquila - Toney had failed, miserably, to make 160. He couldn't get any lower than 167 and chose to accept a fine instead of trying, agonisingly, to shed any more pounds. To some, he should have been stripped of his title. Or, as in the recent case with the Coralles v Castillo fight, the match should have been called off. Whatever the case, James, who had looked unimpressive against the limited Dave Tiberi not long after the Dell'Aquila affair, knew he had to move up so as to continue with his boxing career.

But then, again in a short period of time, James started to struggle to make 168. He was beaten for the first time in his professional life in his fight with Roy Jones as a result of his weight making difficulties. So, yet another move up was made. James would now compete as a light heavyweight. No world title was won at 175, however. In fact, James would spend as much time in the weight class above it - the cruiserweight division - as he did occupying the light heavyweight ranks. He would use this as a resting place, to fight at when he couldn't (or wouldn't) make 175. After a decade in the sport, Toney had fought in four different weight divisions. But he hadn't been a world champion in some time. He finally resumed serious training in 2002 though, when finding new motivational guidance from joining the Dan Goossen promotional team of Goossen Tutor, and being trained by new hand, Freddie Roach. And, in truly great shape for the first time in long years, a well muscled James Toney wrested the IBF cruiserweight title from Vassiliy Jirov in a superb fight. He hadn't finished his move through the weight divisions yet though.

For quite some time, "Lights Out" had made references to his going up to fight in boxing's ultimate division. James wanted to be the heavyweight champion! And this is where we find ourselves today. James has accomplished a lot in his fine career already, but he feels as though his ultimate destiny still awaits him. Amongst the heavyweights, he says, is where he should have been fighting all along. With his weight fluctuating anywhere from 217 pounds to 237 of late, it really is astonishing that James was ever a super middleweight, never mind a middleweight, at any time. The question is, is where he is now where he should be?

Of course, James has no business weighing in at a whopping 237 pounds, which he did in his last fight, against Hasim Rahman. But is he entitled to be fighting as a heavyweight? Should he, in all reality, be busy making the 200 pound limit as he sees off all challenges for his cruiserweight belt? It is a tough one to answer. James has proven that he CAN fight as a heavyweight. He has defeated a good fighter in Evander Holyfield and a reasonable one in Domminick Guinn. At the same time, he has maintained his ring smarts and rock solid chin. What has been missing though - at least it was missing in his last fight - is a well conditioned body capable of fighting for three full minutes a round. Can Toney get this necessary element to his game back once again? - he did look good in the Holyfield fight, after all - or are his five feet and nine inches simply crying out to lose some serious weight?

Due to his brilliant fighting talent, James IS able to get away with boxing as a heavyweight. At least he has been able to do so. In all truthfulness, however, there is no real justification in him failing to make the cruiserweight limit today. Only laziness and an "I'm the boss" attitude make him fight where he is now. If he had had a dedication to training and the ability to control his weight, James could have been a true great at 200 pounds. At such a poundage, I believe, was his natural calling all along. For there is some truth in what James says about the early days of his career. He shouldn't have been fighting at such a low weight. What he has done, though, is take it to the opposite extreme. As a result, by fighting against the big men, Toney is taking a gamble every time out.

And he faces genuine danger in his very next fight - against the power punching Samuel Peter - this bout could very well be the one where the grossly ill prepared Toney gets hurt. He has gotten away with it until now, as I've said because of his incredible fistic talent. But he is running an awful risk, when he could be, and should be, boxing effectively and honourably a weight division lower. He may well defeat Peter - it wouldn't be a shocker if he out-boxed the crude Nigerian - but eventually ANY fighter performing out of his natural weight class will come to grief. And I believe the natural weight class for James Toney was, and is, the 200 pound one.

There is no doubt, Toney should be solidifying his legacy one weight-class south of the heavyweight division.

Article posted on 07.07.2006

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