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Avila Perspective, Chap. 155: James Toney and More

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  • Avila Perspective, Chap. 155: James Toney and More

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    By David A. Avila

    James “Lights Out” Toney clearly epitomizes the meaning of a true prizefighter.

    In the last 60 years no other pugilist possessed more fighting skills than James “Lights Out” Toney nor more willingness to face the best during his era.

    Yet, Toney was overlooked by voters in last year’s International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    It was an egregious oversight.

    You can really judge a fighter by the number of Hall of Fame fighters encountered in his career. Toney fought numerous during his career including Mike McCallum, Roy Jones Jr. and Evander Holyfield.

    There could have been more if some fighters had been willing to meet with Lights Out. Instead, many took the easy way out.

    Toney was and is an old school, hard core, line-em-up and knock them down kind of fighter. The word “avoid” does not exist in his vocabulary. When Toney was still a super middleweight, he always vocalized his desire to fight heavyweights like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

    People would stare at Toney as if he was delirious.

    Finally, in 2003, promoter Dan Goossen took a chance and matched Toney against undefeated cruiserweight world champion Vassiliy Jirov. It was a clash of titans televised nationally that allowed fans to witness one of the most brutal fights seen in years. Toney floored Jirov in the last round and that proved to be the margin of victory.

    Six months later, Toney was matched against the great former heavyweight champion Holyfield. After nine rounds of scientific brutality Holyfield’s corner threw in the white towel. It was only the second time Holyfield was ever stopped via knockout.

    In April 2005, Toney was matched against WBA heavyweight titlist John Ruiz at Madison Square Garden. It was all Toney and after 12 rounds he was declared the victor by unanimous decision. But a PED test revealed Toney had traces of a banned substance used by a medical physician to treat a torn muscle suffered in an earlier fight. Not enough time had lapsed for that drug to leave his system and the world title was stripped from Toney.

    Still, no fighter that encountered Toney in the boxing ring can claim they beat him up. Yes, some fighters like Roy Jones Jr. won by decision, but no one ever beat up Toney. No one. His skills were off the chart good.

    The Michigan native fought out of the pocket and dared anyone to enter his realm. Even when he suffered a torn knee against Denis Lebedev in Moscow, Toney was still able to fight on one leg in a title fight loss that went 12 rounds.

    Even the Klitschko brothers dared not fight Toney. Though they both towered over him by several inches, the late great trainer Emanuel Steward advised them to avoid the skilled Toney. Steward personally told me several times their style just didn’t mesh well against the Michigan prizefighter who retired after 92 pro fights.

    In my opinion Toney could have fought in any era and possessed one of the best chins boxing ever saw. He was never knocked out. And when it came to fighting skills, no one ever had more than “Lights Out.”

    It is time to vote Toney into the Hall of Fame.

    Heavyweights in Las Vegas

    A new spark to the third encounter between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder has been added to the WBC world title fight that takes place Saturday Oct. 9, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Fox pay-per-view will televise.

    With Oleksandr Usyk dethroning Anthony Joshua for the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles, it should make it easier to unify all the titles with less fuss from competing media outlets. It should.

    Heavyweights can be deceiving simply because of their raw power. One punch truly can change the outcome and whoever has the better chin should win. In this case it might mean Fury, but these are heavyweights.

    Body shots seem to be foreign to both Fury and Wilder. Though the British heavyweight did connect with a few in their second meeting, Wilder has yet to go that direction. Whoever concentrates on the body first will win.

    These are two extremely tall heavyweights who both hunt for the head. Fury has shown adeptness at using head movement to avoid blows to his cranium, but his body remains vulnerable. It’s the same with Wilder.


    Former super welterweight titlist Liam Smith (29-3-1, 16 KOs) meets Anthony Fowler (15-1, 12 KOs) in the co-main event on Saturday Oct. 9, in Liverpool, England. DAZN will stream the fight between super welterweight contenders.

    Smith lost his title to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez five years ago and lost two subsequent attempts to regain a world title. Only Alvarez was able to stop him before the final bell.

    In the other co-main event Shannon Courtenay (7-1) lost the WBA bantamweight world title on the scale after weighing more than two and half pounds above the limit. Only California’s Jamie Mitchell (6-0-2) can win the title set for 10 rounds on Saturday.

    Courtenay, 28, was making the first defense of the title she won earlier this year in a bruising battle with Australia’s Ebanie Bridges. The fight will proceed but only Mitchell can win the title.

    Fights to Watch

    Sat. DAZN 11 a.m. Liam Smith (29-3-1) vs Anthony Fowler (15-1); Shannon Courtenay (7-1) vs Jamie Mitchell (6-0-2).

    Sat. ESPN2 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (17-0) vs Marcelo Coceres (30-2-1).

    Sat. FOX pay-per-view 6 p.m. Tyson Fury (30-0-1) vs Deontay Wilder (42-1-1); Robert Helenius (30-3) vs Adam Kownacki (20-1); Efe Ajagba (15-0) vs Frank Sanchez (18-0).

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel