By James Slater: I don’t know about you, but I was almost sure I’d seen the last fight in the great career of James Toney after his bad, heavy, one-sided points loss to the strong but somewhat limited Denis Lebedev. Toney had pushed his body hard enough to get down to below 200-pounds for the first time in years, yet he had almost nothing to offer when the fight with the Russian southpaw began.
Okay, an injured leg didn’t help, but Toney failed to win a single minute of a singe round during the 36-minutes of combat; which was awful to watch. No disrespect to Lebedev, but “Lights Out” would have played with him had he met him in his prime. Anyway, the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer did not choose to walk away after that humbling loss; instead signing to fight tough guy and reigning bare-knuckle champ Bobby Gunn, 21-4-1(18).
This fight will go down in Mississippi on April 7th, up at heavyweight, and Toney is hoping that a win will lead to bigger heavyweight fights. Sounding his usual boisterous self whilst giving an interview with Fightyhype.com this week, Toney said that after he’s beaten Gunn, he wants Lebedev again, then David Haye (or “Gaye” as James calls him), then the Klitschkos (or the “Bitchkos” as Toney calls Wladimir and Vitali.) “Ain’t nuthin’ changed,” Toney said.
But things have changed; as anyone who saw Lebedev’s commanding November 2011 win will be only too aware. In fact, as crazy as it may sound to some, Toney looked so faded from his former glory in the fight in Russia that a loss to Gunn cannot be in any way ruled out. Lebedev was simply too strong, too young and too tough for Toney. Gunn, another guy who has nowhere near the skill set Toney has (or had), is also mega-tough, ultra-determined and motivated for the April fight in a big way.
Years ago (and no disrespect to “The Celtic Warrior”), Toney would have won this fight with something to spare. But today? I’m not in any way confident the former multi-weight king has what it takes to see off a rough, tough warrior who wants it more than he does. Had the Lebedev fight not happened, I’d be telling anyone willing to bet on Gunn that they were crazy. But the memory of that sad spectacle from Moscow will not fade from my mind.
What if Toney, 73-7-3(44) fails to KO Gunn? Set for 12-rounds, the battle with the man from Canada (who, it must be said, is no spring chicken himself at age 38; yet he is no way near as worn as Toney is) could get ugly for Toney if it reaches the later rounds. Is James taking this fight seriously? He better be: if he loses this one his career will certainly be over – as anything approaching a top level one, anyway.
I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling Gunn might just fight the fight of his life and pull it off next month. Will such a result count as an upset here in 2012, though?