Whatever you think of him and his decision to be still fighting when in his mid-40s and way past his best, it has to be agreed how future Hall of Famer James Toney has given his whole life to the sport that made him famous, respected and successful. An old-school warrior and fiercly proud of it, Toney, who has already achieved more than enough to have walked away satisfied, has two more goals to reach before he’s done: to have fought a total of 100 pro bouts and to retire as the undisputed heavyweight champion. One of these targets may well be reached, while the other will not. Toney is next scheduled to box in Latvia on July 26th against the huge Evgeny Orlov. Even at this stage in his career, Toney should have enough left to out-score the man-mountain who is colorfully known as “The Molecule From Hell.”
After that fight is done – it will be Toney’s 91st bout – the show will continue for a further two years or so or for as long as it takes for Toney, as stubborn a man as you could wish to find, to achieve his century of prize fights.
Who knows what Toney will be like health-wise when he finally hangs ’em up, but the former champ’s place in history will be secure. How many top-level boxers have close to 100 fights these days? Not many at all, even if it’s against so-so opposition as it has been lately for Toney (barring his recent defeats, to Denis Lebedev and Lucas Browne).
Toney will stick it out, probably winning a couple then dropping a decision (Toney has never been close to being stopped and this won’t change unless he is somehow given the fight he says he wants with Wladimir Klitscko) and then winning a couple more before the curtain comes down on a born fighter’s career. The final contributions to boxing Toney makes will not be seen by the large audience that saw him in his prime, but Toney will convince himself he is still the star he was in the 1990s and early 2000s. He isn’t of course, nor is “Lights Out” even half the great fighter he once was. But one thing he is, was and always will be is old-school, and whether you care about his latest quest or not, Toney deserves respect for that.
Toney, though, will always be looked at by many as a fighter who could have done even more in the sport, if only he’d been as dedicated to training as he has been to the actual fighting.