By Johnny Walker
While his career as a heavyweight has been a colossal flop and most serious followers of heavyweight boxing long ago stopped taking him seriously, 45-year-old James “Lights Out” Toney of California (via Michigan) is determined to fight on.
As it’s become harder and harder for Toney to find a fight in North America, he’s now been forced to go far afield, to Russia (where he was blanked by Denis Lebedev) and Australia (where he was totally shut down by Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne) and now the UK, to find somewhere to ply his very faded skill set.
Toney–who last time out fought a totally obscure opponent in Colorado and was heavily booed when he won on points (http://www.daily-times.com/ci_23566292/james-toney-takes-controversial-decision-over-kenny-lemos) — has now enlisted in the upcoming Heavyweight Prizefighter tournament in York Hall, Bethnal Green in London on November 14. The card’s big draw is up and comer Anthony Joshua, the British heavyweight who took the gold medal in boxing in the 2012 summer Olympics.
The news of Toney’s participation in Prizefighter set many boxing web sites on fire yesterday, for reasons which seem both funny and sad at the same time.
Part of the James Toney phenomenon in boxing seems to be that no matter how far he falls, no matter what evidence is put on offer that Toney should never again enter a boxing ring, many boxing writers and fans still believe that Toney can somehow magically recapture the increasingly distant past (when he fought at a high level in the lighter weight divisions) — this idea being based on zero evidence. Even ESPN’s conservative lead boxing scribe Dan Rafael has called Toney “brain damaged,” based on the boxer’s deteriorating speech patterns and reflexes, and has expressed horror at the fact that Toney is still allowed to box.
Never mind that Toney can barely beat 12-8-2, 36-year-old Kenny Lemos. Soon he’ll be back in form and whupping the “Bitchko brothers” and “David Gaye,” as Toney has repeatedly slurred in reference to his superiors in the heavyweight division.
Yeah, sure he will.
What will really happen here in Prizefighter is far more sobering: Toney will be taking more hard shots on a noggin that has taken far too many of them already.
Also accompanying Toney on the Prizefighter bill will be none other than the infamous Larry Olubamiwo, who had been banned from boxing for four years in 2012 for abusing the following drugs: EPO, Anastrozole, Boldenone, Exemestane, Fluoxymesterone, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, Letrozole, Methandienone, Metribolone (Methyltrienolone), Oxymetholone, Tamoxifen, Testosterone and Trenbolone.
And he still wasn’t any good!
Amusingly, perhaps, Olubamiwo then “assisted” the British Boxing Board of Control in another doping case (in other words, he ratted another boxer out) and had his sentence vastly reduced.
Toney himself, of course, has been busted twice for using PEDs, so he and Olubamiwo make a notorious pair. And Olubamiwo has actually ripped Toney (http://boxingnewsonline.net/latest/feature/larry-olubamiwo-it-s-a-massive-relief-to-be-back-in-boxing) for not paying the price for his drug cheating, while he himself has taken a ton of Internet abuse:
“James Toney tested positive twice,” said the British heavyweight.
“The first time he tested positive he got 90 days, which is nothing. The second time he got caught he received a nine-month ban.”
I guess Olubamiwo, unlike Toney, lacks the resume that makes boxing fans want to overlook his indiscretions. Presumably he will be looking to make Toney pay if they meet up in Prizefighter.
One has to wonder just why Olympic hero Joshua is choosing take part in such a circus, with such ethically compromised athletes, when he is just starting his professional career.
Victory in the Prizefighter tournament usually gets the winner some much-needed media ink, but doesn’t necessarily portend anything positive in the future. After all, perennial British heavyweight laughingstock Audley Harrison has won the tournament twice. At this point in time, Joshua is hardly in the position of some of the desperate types who take part in Prizefighter.
Still, promoter Eddie Hearn is pumped up about this edition of his gimmicky tournament, which features three-round bouts that encourage the participants to go all out from start to finish.
“Word got out this morning that James Toney was in the line-up and it’s already caused some reaction,” said Hearn. “Heavyweight Prizefighter is always the most exciting edition of the tournament and we are looking forward to selecting the final four participants. It’s also great to have Anthony back in the capital as he continues his journey in the division and we expect a quick sell out for the November 14 event.”
Ahhhh boxing. You gotta love it — don’t you?