“He didn’t pay his electric bill, so his lights must go out,” James Toney ahead of his 2003 clash with Evander Holyfield.
Some fighters, be they greats or mere club fighters, never make an official retirement announcement. Instead, usually after a loss, they just fade away quietly; fans only realising they haven’t seen them in the ring for quite some time before wondering where their one-time hero is now. It looks as though it might be this way for one of the greatest defensive fighters in history, a man who, in his own words, “kicked some ass all the way from middleweight up to heavyweight.”
The fighter in question is James Toney and although it could be wishful thinking speaking about how Toney, aged 47 (48 next month) and an astonishing 89 bouts into a career that began in 1988, might have called it a day – after all, Toney could remerge with yet another return fight at any time – things have been quiet lately.
Toney has gotten himself into promotional work so maybe he has things other than punching someone and getting punched (more the latter in Toney’s more recent fights) to do to occupy his time now. At one point, it looked like Toney, a truly born fighter, would never be able to quit (and again, caution could be advised before hoping he has seen the light) but he has not been seen in a ring for almost a year now and Toney has had nothing newsworthy regarding another fight on his Twitter page for a long time.
Last seen losing a decision to an unheralded Charles Ellis (who, for whatever reason, has not built on the win, instead remaining inactive himself since the August 2015 victory) Toney knew that loss was a bad one for him; maybe not as bad as his loss to Jason Gavern in the UK tournament “Prizefighter” back in 2013, but bad enough. Maybe enough for Toney, once an untouchable middleweight, super-middleweight and a mighty fine cruiserweight and heavyweight, to have realised that even as stubborn and as determined a person as himself must face facts some time.
If Toney has retired, he walks away with a fine 76-10-3(46) ledger and he also walks knowing his call to The Hall of Fame will surely come some day. Toney, in all of his fights, was never, ever stopped; he scarcely touched the canvas throughout his near 30-year career. One of the best defensive fighters ever? Definitely. Possessing one of the most unbelievably reliable chins in the sports history? Another definite.
If he has fought his last, Toney will no longer run the risk of having his own lights put out by a fighter who would not have been capable of giving him adequate sparring during his prime years. Toney doesn’t go out with a win, but his reputation is largely intact. He was hugely skilled in his 20s, while in his 30s he got the job done with a combination of skill, experience and sheer toughness. Toney gave us some great fights and some great performances.
Now that it’s (apparently) over (and just watch Toney go and ruin everything by announcing how he is back to kick some more ass in the next month or so!) it’s time to appreciate Toney for what he was: a magnificent boxer/fighter/puncher/ warrior.
Some of Toney’s best wins/performances:
KO 11 Michael Nunn, 1991, middleweight
D12 Mike McCallum, 1991, middleweight
W12 Mike McCallum, 1992, middleweight
WRTD9 Iran Barkley, 1993, super-middleweight
TKO4 Tim Littles, 1994, super-middleweight
KO12 Prince Charles Williams, 1994, super-middleweight
W12 Vassiliy Jirov, 2003, cruiserweight
TKO9 Evander Holyfield, 2003, heavyweight