By James Slater: Today in Moscow, Russia, cruiserweight rivals James Toney and Denis Lebedev met in a final press conference to further promote their hugely intriguing November 4th showdown. When first announced the fight had no official title attached to it, but it has now been announced that the 12-rounder will contest the interim version of the WBA 200-pound belt. This means, then, that Toney will have to make good on his agreement to get down to the cruiserweight limit for the fight; the first time he has had to do so since way back in 2003. There will be no catch-weight here.
“Lights Out,” now aged 43, has reportedly been training harder than in many a year, and the former multi-weight ruler has looked slimmed down in the various internet photos that have been made available all over the net. Trained for this one – possibly his last chance at reaching the top once again – by Buddy McGirt Senior, Toney, as is always the case, is talking a great fight.
Even being critical of Lebedv’s trainer, Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu (who, Toney told RT.com, was not worthy of his recent induction at Canastota), Toney has, quite remarkably, gone down a storm in Russia. Now, can the fight live up to the hype?
If Toney has managed to get down to 200-pounds without leaving himself drained and empty, he should in my opinion, have more than enough skill and class to be able to out-box and out-point the strong but somewhat crude 32-year-old southpaw. Trainer McGirt, in speaking with SES News, said Toney will win, but it will be “a tough fight.” McGirt also said how Toney should not look for the knockout.
Lebedev, on the other hand, WILL certainly be looking for the Knockout. The tough-looking warrior was out-boxed in a number of rounds by another living legend in Roy Jones Junior in his last fight, before his hammer-like blows finally got the job done, in quite frightening fashion, in the 10th and final round back in May. It’s clear to everyone: Lebedev is no great boxer. He is a brutal puncher, though – at least he is when he’s in there with a stationary target with little or no head movement.
I can see Toney adopting his usual counter-punching style, slipping shots while standing close to Lebedev and then making the younger man pay with hooks and uppercuts. The sheer class Toney possesses will (in my opinion!) see him bank the early rounds, but the later rounds, if he is weight-drained, could be very tricky for Toney. Unlike in his dazzling prime, Toney can be hit nowadays – and against Lebedev one punch could be one punch too many.
So much will depend on how Toney’s shifting of all that weight (remember, he was a whopping 257 in his last fight, back in February) has or hasn’t affected his stamina and ability to suck it up when the need arises.
Still, unless he falls victim to a hometown decision, I really do feel Toney (who, along with McGirt, knows what he’s doing in the gym; from a losing weight standpoint as well as everything else) will pull this one off. Toney on points is my prediction. And if he does win, Toney will have picked up yet another “world” title to add to his more than respectable collection.
James “Lights Out” Toney, the new interim WBA cruiserweight ruler? It could happen a week on Friday!