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James Toney: Greatness Among Us
By Jason Petock (May 10, 2004) 
James Toney
There is an incredible eight time world Champion in our midst. A charismatic, outspoken victor who talks not only with his mouth, but also with his fists. Very few will face him with confidence, or even pride. Others will find ways to avoid him. Many will discredit his accomplishments and classify him as a braggart. All will fear him. James Nathaniel Toney is not only a damn good fighter, but he is an amazing man in a world where it seems that few are cut from such fine cloth.

Toney grew up in Detroit, but was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father left him at the tender age of 3. He was no stranger to the hard living imposed by America’s ghettos, and was known in his youth to be a feared and respected street dealer. On the flip side of his existence in those times, James was also an accomplished athlete, excelling in football in high school. He even earned himself several scholarship offers at numerous colleges, including the University of Michigan. James was that good, and he still his. An apparent altercation during tryouts at the University of Michigan made him realize that he was destined for much, much more. And that greater vision and outlet would surface itself in the form of a successful career in boxing.

As an amateur, James built up an impressive record of 31-2-0 (29 KO’s). At that point in his life he decided that he wanted to go the professional route. On October 26, 1988 he did just that, and turned pro. Unfortunately his then manager was shot and killed, while Toney was building his credentials, with a record of 7-0. This tragic event didn’t deter him however, and he ended up working with Jackie Kallen, a prior Kronk Boxing Gym publicist. During those next 2 years he furthered his record to 26-0-1. He beat undefeated IBF Middleweight Champion at the time Michael Nunn, and was well on his way to perfecting his craft and many more victories.

James Toney is a smooth boxing tactician, a consummate boxer/puncher. He mirrors the reflections of the long forgotten 1940’s and 1950’s style of fighters, so intelligent and commanding in the ring. He is one of the best, if not the best defensive artisan in the sport today. Everything needed to be a great Champion, Toney possesses – a solid chin, speed, power, an impenetrable defense, courage, and most importantly the will to not only challenge the world but defeat it as well. I personally feel Toney is long overdue the appreciation and credit that he so rightly deserves, and commands on a daily basis. I owe him that much and so do you as fans.

It’s common knowledge that James Toney is not shy in his criticism of fighters that he views as sub-par or overrated. He has often called many fighters garbage and bums, and to be honest he’s not only entitled to his opinion as we all are, but there may also be some validity and truth to what he’s saying. Whether you agree with his blatant observations, or consider them hot air, there is no question that boxing should be indebted to James Toney, and thank him for being a part of it. We should thank all of its heroes, warriors who display their wills on a public display for the whole world to see.

Several writers condemn Toney regularly. It is my aim to uplift the public’s image of him, of all fighters who are targeted on a regular basis by negative press, and recognize him for what he is. He is a forerunner, a victor, a Champion, a boxing historian, an artist and a family man. James Toney is boxing. He’s a natural and flows through the sport like blood through the veins in your body.
Some feel threatened by Toney. I embrace him. He’s honest, hardworking, dynamic and a titan. He’s everything that those who criticize him want to be subconsciously, but refuse to admit to. James speaks while others cannot. He fights with an uncanny natural ability, almost like, and most definitely a reincarnation of the old greats. To witness James Toney’s pugilistic mastery is not only a privilege, but a boxing lesson. James can school anyone, anytime, in any number of ways. He is Ezzard Charles, and Jersey Joe Wolcott, and Jack Johnson, and Sugar Ray Robinson all rolled up into one.

Now before you adamant Roy Jones Jr. supporters make your case, consider this. When James fought Roy, he had lost 47 pounds in 6 weeks, was dried out and had to receive an I.V. after the weigh-in. I’m not making excuses, just presenting facts. James won a slow 12 round decision, and that’s when Toney wasn’t at 100%. I hope they can agree on the figures so we can see them do it again, this time on level ground. After their bout, James cited he was weakened by making weight, and it was more than obvious.

James “Lights Out” Toney has accomplished many credible and wonderful things as a professional prizefighter and Champion. He deserves praise and recognition, not animosity and jealousy. We should do write-ups that honor him not only as a fighter, but also as a man. Toney is one of my favorite boxers, and it is his colorful personality and ring genius that should make him one of yours as well. He has rededicated himself to the only profession he has ever known with his entire being, and you have to admit he is extremely good at it.

James has been the victim of the all consuming black hole that I like to call negative press, but he won’t receive any here. Toney is a credit to his profession, a boxing purist in the highest form, and most of all a needed presence in the fight game. He has a backbone and speaks his mind; we need more strong people like him defending our sport. If all of us just lie down and concede to the elements, what hope is there for the future of boxing?

“Lights Out” has earned his props don’t you think? I do.
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