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Happy Birthday, James Toney – where does “Lights Out” rank all-time?

Boxing great James Toney celebrates his 49th birthday today, yet we do not know for sure if his fighting career has yet reached its end. Back in May, “Lights Out” fought what was dubbed his “final” fight, stopping journeyman Mike Sheppard in a heavyweight bout.

But the lure of one more fight is there for Toney as it is for every fighter who finds it so incredibly hard to walk away. I messaged Toney’s manager John Arthur shortly after the Sheppard win, asking him if it really was the end for his fighter:

“Yes, James has retired – unless someone offers to pay him a large purse. What he’s worth,” Arthur replied.


So, if there is another big purse to be had, Toney may well lace ’em up one more time. We all know he shouldn’t fight again, that Toney has absolutely nothing left to prove and virtually nothing left to prove anything with, but Toney answers to no-one. Toney’s great days, however, his truly great ring performances, came to an end in the early to mid 2000s. But what a special fighter Toney was from 1991, when he burst onto the world stage to crush the gifted Michael Nunn at middleweight, to 2003, when he shockingly became just the second man to stop the great Evander Holyfield up at heavyweight.

“Retiring” with a fine 77-10-3(47) record, one that has a few too many losses that shouldn’t be there, Toney, as he likes to say himself, “Kicked ass from middleweight all the way up to heavyweight.” Indeed, these days, Toney says he should have been a heavyweight all along.

Despite standing just 5’10,” – one-half-inch taller than long-time middleweight king Marvin Hagler – Toney rumbled with monster heavyweight punchers like Sam Peter (twice) and Hasim Rahman (also twice) and he fought naturally bigger men like Lucas Browne, John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo. Yet despite giving away such physical advantages, Toney was never once KO’d throughout his entire, nearly 30-year, pro career (debut in October of 1988).

Toney fought the best the middleweight division could offer, the best and baddest the super-middleweight division could offer, he fought some quality men at light-heavyweight, a few top-notch fighters at cruiserweight, and the above big names at heavyweight.

With an armful of world titles in his possession – some globally recognised, others not – it’s clear Toney has done it all. He needs to fight no more. Let’s hope the all-time great instead gets busy enjoying himself, today and over the coming years.

All-time great? Just where does Toney deserve to be ranked all-time? Top 40? Top 30? Thereabouts, for sure.