Today marks the 55th birthday of the legendary American boxer, 12-time world champion in three weight classes, James Toney. The American, like many others, started out as an amateur boxer, but later turned professional and fought more than a hundred fights, most of which he won. James jumped divisions due to weight issues, weighing 26 kg for the fight with Denis Lebedev, boxing with Roy Jones and Evander Holyfield and surprising everyone with his knockout power, for which he was nicknamed Turn Out the Light.
James grew up in an incomplete family, Tony’s father left the family when the future world champion was only three years old. As a teenager, James got into bad company, dealing drugs, while claiming he didn’t use drugs himself. Tony was a promising athlete, both in football and boxing. But still, the violent nature and constant fights made James stop in battles.
In his amateur career, Tony had 33 fights, 31 of which he won. Even then, James justified his nickname: 29 wins were won by knockout, Tony really went out and put out the light on his opponents.
At the end of the 80s, the American turned professional and in three years he managed to achieve the world middleweight title. In 1991, Tony won the IBF belt by knocking out Mike Nunn as the underdog. Then there were two close fights with Mike McCallum, one of which ended in a draw, and the second ended in Tony’s victory by a majority of the judges’ votes. It was getting harder and harder for James to get to middleweight, and after several mandatory defenses, Tony moved up to super middleweight.
After spending a fight in a new category, Tony went to the IBF title fight and knocked down the current champion, Airen Barkley. At the same time, James was already fighting his way up to second middleweight, so he alternated defending the title with fighting in the light heavyweight class.
Spectacular knockout victories and successful belt defenses led Tony to fight the legendary Roy Jones. The fight took place at the end of 1994, but James could not oppose Roy: Jones dominated throughout the fight, taking the championship belt from Tony and inflicting the first loss of his career.
On Tony’s loss to Jones:
I wanted to imitate Jones, and I received it in the forehead! The best fight of the legendary Russian.
James changed coaches, changed coaches, but the second half of the ’90s was not the most successful for Tony. In addition to alternate wins and losses, his fights often failed, he divorced his first wife and sued his mother for money. All of this resulted in a two-year layoff and no one expected Tony to be able to return to boxing. Weight problems only worsened, at that time his weight reached 125 kg, and this with a height less than 180 cm.
But James surprised many. In the early 2000s, the American went on a winning streak, got in shape and reached the title fight in the third category, in the first heavyweight category. In April 2003, he defeated Vasily Zhirov to claim his IBF world title.
True, after that, Tony moved up to heavyweight, where he made his debut not against anyone, but against the legendary Evander Holyfield, and even scored an early victory over the veteran. James, by the way, won the world heavyweight title, defeating John Ruiz in a WBA fight, but Tony later failed a doping test and the fight was declared invalid. After that, there was a WBC title fight with Hasim Rahman, but it ended in a draw.
Let’s remember the fight between James Toney and Evander Holyfield:
The former middleweight dismantled Holyfield. No one made fun of the legendary weight like that.
Then the losses rained down again and James’ career began to end quickly. Tony managed to hang on to a lucrative offer and act according to the rules of MMA. James signed a contract with the UFC and in his debut fight against Randy Couture he lost by chokehold in three minutes, without inflicting a single blow on his opponent. After that, the UFC unilaterally terminated Tony’s contract.
Towards the end of his career, James experienced financial difficulties. Information appeared in the press about tax debts of almost half a million dollars, he owed his ex-wife more than 100 thousand dollars for alimony, so James had to take advantage of all incoming offers. One of those proposals was a fight against Denis Lebedev, in which he lost by unanimous decision. For this fight, James dropped 26kg to move up to the top heavyweight division.
James Toney officially ended his career in 2017 by defeating Mike Sheppard. Tony’s career turned out to be oversaturated. There were scandals, there were problems, but at the same time there were victories and fantastic performances. 12 times he won the world title in three weight classes, he won the title of “Boxer of the Year” in 1991 and 12 years later – in 2003. The list of his opponents includes Roy Jones, Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and many other boxers. legendary. And, of course, speaking of Tony, one cannot fail to mention his knockout power. James struck with both hands so that even the strongest fell. And with it, he entered his name in world boxing history.