‘Call Em Out Fridays’: James Toney – Does ‘Lights Out’ Now Mean Game Over?

By Vivek Wallace – This weeks ‘Call Em Out Fridays’ segment shines light on the career of the man we all simply know as ‘Lights Out’. For years, James Toney has been known as one of the craftiest veterans to ever lace up a pair in the history of the sport, but after years battling the bulge and attention deficit gaps, this slick veteran finds himself on the tail end of a career that has recently contained fewer peaks than valleys. Like any of my other ‘Call Em Out Friday’ segments, we’ll take a look at three perspectives to ensure a fair and balanced vision. We’ll analyze a ‘Supportive’ perspective, a ‘Critics’ perspective, and after observing the ‘Neutral’ perspective, we open it up for you, ‘Joe the fan’ (pun intended) to chime in as well. So with no further ado, we commence by putting Mr. Toney under the spotlight……

James Toney – (Supportive Perspective): James Toney will go down as one of the most gifted fighters of this era, and perhaps all time. Earlier this week (the 26th) marked the 20th year of his illustrious career, and what a ride it has been for those fortunate enough to have witnessed it.

Despite starting his career out as a middleweight, Toney found a way to work his magic through many weight classes over the years, to include the sports once highly esteemed heavyweight division class which is where he now resides. In James Toney, you get a full array of attributes. Speed, adequate power, better than average defense, and enough ring intelligence to compensate for any physical ring disadvantages he might encounter against any given opponent. Aside from his God-given attributes in the ring, one of Toney’s major selling points among the fans is the heavy dosage of machismo he serves up every time he learns a microphone is in the room. From the verbal beat downs to the robust cigars, Toney has equal showmanship as he does talent, and neither have ever failed to delight those in attendance. Among the many notable career milestones in the catalog of James Toney is multiple world championship straps to include the IBF Middleweight, the IBF Super Middleweight, the WBU Light Heavyweight, as well as the WBU Cruiserweight belt. Toney actually used his supreme talents to land himself a portion of the sports Heavyweight divisional straps, but in an apparent trend that has surfaced on numerous occasions in his career, it was actions outside the ring that would eventually erase the accomplishments from the history books, and in effect, remove the proverbial ‘cherry’ from the top of what could have been a storybook career. Those activities outside the ring take us to our next chapter, as we examine the arguments of those critical of the career of James Toney…….

James Toney – (Critics Perspective): As great as James Toney has been in the ring, it’s his life outside the ring that has taken away from those accomplishments. Of the many things the critics could point out, the major dilemma starts right at home – the kitchen to be exact. The biggest knock on James Toney to date is the question of exactly how good could he have been had it not been for his love of food and leisure, which ultimately took away from his ability to come into the ring in shape with proper conditioning. Early in his career when he was nothing other than a middleweight, Toney would often say that one day he would go on to be a heavyweight champion of the world. Few denied that his talent would allow that, but many at the time had no idea how this softly manicured middleweight could firm up enough to be a true contender amongst the big boys of the sport. As time went on, that statement would prove ominous, as Toney would eventually find himself plagued by weight issues that seemed to rise near a heavyweight level despite his desire to stay in the middleweight ranks at the time. The first true sign of these weight issues came into play when Toney failed to make weight in a fight for the vacant light heavyweight IBO strap against Drake Thadzi. The required weight was 175lbs, but Toney would enter the ring weighing a hair under 180lbs. The career of James Toney would never see a weight below light heavyweight again. Toney would find reasonable success as he went north in weight, but the ‘Gods-that-be’ apparently didn’t favor him too much, as his biggest victories in the heavyweight ranks would all be erased due to everything from positive drug testing (allegedly due to anabolic steriods taken for an injured arm suffered in his previous fight), to accidental headbutts. Of the many reasons to surface which stripped Toney of his heavyweight accomplishments, the weight issues didn’t help, evidenced in Toney’s lost to Nigerian Samuel Peter in their first fight which Toney entered the ring at a career high 237lbs. Overall, these were only a few of the ranging reasons which have ultimately plagued Toney and given his critics more than enough room to talk.

James Toney – (Neutral Perspective): Hit or miss, James Toney in my estimation will go down as one of the best entertainers of the sport. Typically, those in this sport who fight, fight, and those who entertain, entertain. James Toney is well adept at both, and the intriguing part about him is that even when his weight has been an issue, his pure skill has allowed him to defeat fighters that few others could have defeated with poor conditioning. Terms like ‘throwback’, and ‘tactician’ are regular words used when the topic of James Toney is present at all times.

I think the poor conditioning and the lack of focus has been tougher for Toney to overcome at times than any opponent he’s ever faced. That alone tells me that the only one who can beat James Toney is indeed James Toney. When you look at what the legendary Bernard Hopkins did just a few weeks ago, and what Roy Jones Jr. is on the cusp of doing if he can turn back the hands of time against Joe Calzaghe, it’s no secret that even at Toney’s older age his skill level can propel him to unprecedented accomplishments – even at this stage in his career. It’s unfortunate that we haven’t seen Toney mentioned in the same breath as those two and it’s only because ONE thing they had better than him was the very thing he needs the most. That reference is to DISCIPLINE. In his last bout, despite the early stoppage, that was the slimmest and most prepared I’ve seen Toney in years and there’s no doubt he was on his way to a victory had the fight not been stopped. If Toney can maintain that discipline and finish the quest he started, there will one day be room atop the mountain. Trouble is, time isn’t on his side and the meter’s running. Hopefully Toney can put down the hamburgers and occasionally take a light jog beside it!….To be continued.


Monday: Joe Calzaghe – The Man, The Myth (An in-depth look at the career and life of the U.K.’s Joe Calzaghe)
Tuesday: Roy Jones Jr. – The Man, The Myth (An in-depth look at the career and life of Roy Jones Jr.)
Wednesday: ‘Left-Hook Lounge’ Mailbag (All mailbag questions dedicated to the fighters and the fight only)
Thursday: Calzaghe/Jones: Great Ring Moments of Adversity: (A look at ring moments of adversity in the careers of the two legends)
Friday: ‘Call Em Out Fridays’: Jones/Calzaghe – Two Countries, Two Men, One Legacy Standing In The End
Saturday: Calzaghe/Jones: Fight Strategy, Predictions
Sunday: Calzaghe/Jones: The Aftermath (Fight recap, and a look at where the two men go from here?)

(Got Questions or Feedback?: Contact ESB’s Vivek Wallace at vivexemail@yahoo.com and 954-292-7346, or show some love at www.myspace.com/anonymouslyinvolved)