Rewind to 1994, and what a truly fantastic fighter James Toney really and absolutely was. Before he began to lose his focus as far as his discipline at making weight was concerned, Toney was an old-school operator who, as he boasted himself, could do it all. Box going forwards, box going backwards, fight on the inside, score vicious knockouts, take a great shot – “Lights Out” could indeed do it all.
In the fight Toney engaged in on this day back in 1994, with the equally tough and determined “Prince” Charles Williams, Toney showed his infighting skills in fine fashion. Due to the way Williams, the former IBF light-heavyweight champ, went right at Toney and remained on top of him pretty much all night long, Toney had no choice but to show his infighting stuff. And Toney enjoyed it.
With barely a glimmer of daylight between them, Toney, 43-0-2, and Williams, 36-5-2, battled hard, hard, hard in their 168 pound title fight. Williams had shed a good deal of weight to make the super-middleweight limit, yet he was rewarded with a career-best payday. And we fans were rewarded with a truly great, intense (almost) 12 rounds of savage, punishing warfare.
Why almost 12 rounds? Because Toney, his left eye battered shut, sensationally scored perhaps his career-finest knockout in the final round of a fight that would have been remembered as something special even without the highlight reel KO.
These two take-no-for-an-answer warriors fought the quintessential fight in a phone-booth, with both men digging in, taking turns landing and taking shots. Toney’s body work was superb, Williams’ stamina was incredible for a man who had had to drop down some seven pounds (Williams actually weighing in at 167.5). Both men showed an awe-inspiring blend of skill, heart, guts, and toughness. Toney’s expression, one that would have won him many a poker tournament, never changed all night, this despite the red-hot battle he was warring in. Williams did begin to look tired late on, this no real surprise. There was no way the challenger could keep up his almost insane pace. Toney did find some space as he came on in the later rounds, with him getting the better of things at distance.
But it was close on the cards. It was a war. It was heading to the finish line. But then, in the 12th round, with Williams still bringing the fight to Toney even though he was running on empty, a half-blinded “Lights Out” let loose with what was very possibly the best right hand he had ever thrown. Williams crashed down in dramatic fashion; his body bent almost in half. The courage Williams had shown during the fight came out one last time as he tried to get back up, but it was not to be, with Joe Cortez counting Williams out as he tried with all his remaining might to rise.
“He crumbled,” a victorious Toney said. There had been just :15 seconds left in the round, in the fight. Both men more than played their part in giving us a classic fight that could be described as underrated.