James Toney: Is He A One Fight Heavyweight Wonder ?

14.06.04 – By Frank LotierzoGlovedFist@Juno.com – He’s back, and he’s calling out everybody who is somebody! He is James “Light Out” Toney. Toney appears to be recovered from his ruptured Achilles Tendon, maybe not quite 100% physically, but most definitely mentally and emotionally. A few months back Toney was scheduled to fight Heavyweight contender Jameel “Big Time” McCline. The fight versus McCline was thought to be the continuation of Toney’s ascend to the top of the Heavyweight division.

In his last fight prior to the scheduled fight with McCline, Toney stopped former four time Heavyweight Champ Evander Holyfield. The McCline fight had to be cancelled when Toney ruptured his Achilles Tendon in training. The fight with Holyfield was following up another outstanding performance by Toney. In his last fight before Holyfield, Toney decisioned Cruiserweight title holder Vassily Jirov. Toney was in great shape for Jirov and fought an outstanding fight. The Jirov fight marked a somewhat resurgence of James Toney because he was in tremendous shape, and seemed extremely purposeful. That is something Toney hadn’t shown for a few years.

After the Jirov fight, there were lingering questions as to if Toney could show up two fights in a row in great condition. Again, this was something Toney wasn’t really known for. He has always struggled with his weight, and has a reputation as a fighter who doesn’t live in the gym. Well Toney did, he showed up in peak shape for Holyfield, despite being significantly heavier than he was for Jirov.

In his fight with Holyfield, Toney was just about brilliant. He boxed, counter-punched, used some great head and shoulder feints and totally befuddled Holyfield. Toney went on to stop Holyfield, thus marking the beginning of his Heavyweight journey. Now we await the return of James Toney post Holyfield, post ruptured Achilles. Since the Holyfield win, Toney has been garnered with much high praise and adulation. In some cases almost to a fault.

Since the Holyfield fight, there has been a ground swell of writers and fans who now go on record declaring Toney the man to beat in the Heavyweight division. Something that I don’t endorse as of this writing. And here’s why. I’m probably in the minority, but I am not so convinced that Toney won’t suffer some residual from the ruptured Achilles. I know many athletes who have also suffered the same injury and they never really fully recovered 100%. In fact all of them were below the age of 30, Toney is 34, and they weren’t about to challenge the World’s biggest and best fist fighters to a fist fight.

Another thing that also befuddles me is why is Toney assumed by many to be the heir apparent? He’s only had one fight at Heavyweight, and that was against a totally shot and eroded 40 year old Evander Holyfield. On top of that, Holyfield is an old 40. Due to his lack of size and one punch knock out power, just about all of his fights versus the upper tier Heavyweights were taxing on him physically and most of them went deep into the fight or to a decision. Toney’s claim to fame as a Heavyweight is Holyfield, period.

The Holyfield who fought Toney had nothing, absolutely nothing. He looked old and shaky just moving around the ring before the fight even started. In fact Holyfield couldn’t do a thing versus Toney even when Toney just stood in front of him and did nothing. You could almost see Holyfield running threw the things in his head that he wanted to do, the things that came natural when Holyfield was at his best. It took him forever and a day just to get set to punch, something that was never seen when he was “The Real Deal.” The bottom line is that Holyfield couldn’t get off, despite Toney being right in front of him. That just shows Holyfield had more to do with his poor showing than Toney did. If Holyfield wasn’t capable of doing anything when he’s not being met with any stern resistance, how does Toney warrant all the credit.

I know James Toney has a Hall of Fame chin and is an outstanding smart old school fighter. It’s just that I need to see more from him other than just beating Holyfield. Many forget that Holyfield has been living off of his name since beating Michael Moorer in their rematch back in November of 1997. Holyfield from 1998 forward starting with his bout versus Vaughn Bean has been a shell of what he once was. Other than his fight with Hasim Rahman, he’s looked awful. That encompasses his fights versus Bean, Lewis I & II, Ruiz I, II, & III, along with Byrd.

Chris Byrd is another example of why beating Holyfield post 1997 isn’t the be all that some may think. Since winning a one sided decision over Holyfield, Byrd has fought twice. In those fights he won and drew with Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota. However, he hasn’t really looked that good and some believe he lost both of those fights. And if you really look at it objectively, the Holyfield that Toney beat was even further down the wrong side of the hill than the one who fought Bean, Lewis, Ruiz, Rahman, and Byrd.

I know Toney is a great fighter, but I haven’t seen enough of him to believe that he is or will be a dominant Heavyweight. I know his bravado and demeanor influences a lot of observers into giving him the benefit of the doubt, deeming him the main man at Heavyweight. I for one need to see more, and I am always skeptical justifying everything off of one or two fights. That’s just me. Maybe Toney will turn the Heavyweight division upside down. I just need to see more of him at that weight than against an empty package wrapped as Evander Holyfield.

Couple the unknown as to how Toney will recover from the ruptured Achilles Tendon physically, along with only having one Heavyweight performance to judge, I need to see more. I feel strongly that he would never beat Vitali Klitschko. I also would pick an in shape and dedicated Tyson to beat him along with possibly a couple other ranked Heavyweights. Too bad we didn’t see Toney-McCline, because it would’ve been a great indicator on how far Toney can go in the Heavyweight division. I know one thing, if McCline is anything close to a good fighter, Toney should have no chance. If McCline was trained and prepared right with the right attack plan, there is no way he should lose to James Toney.

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