ABA Salute to an American Boxing Champion - James "Lights Out" Toney


James Nathaniel Toney is a multi-division world champion and future Hall of Famer. He is known for his legendary "old-school" style, consisting of his shoulder roll (used to avoid punches), his ability to fight off the ropes, his slick body movements, and his infighting.

Toney had his first professional fight in 1988, beating Stephen Leeby a technical knockout in the second round. His most noteworthy was Toney's split decision win over Dave Tiberi in a fight that many experts feel Toney lost. Toney won five fights throughout 1993, then defeated Tony "The Punching Postman" Thornton in his 1st title defense in October, via a landslide points victory. In his second defense, Toney beat the 24-0 Tim Littles by a 4th-round KO. During this bout, Toney suffered a bad cut which caused the referee and ringside doctor to intervene before round 4, allowing him one more round to try to end the fight.Jones used one of his "Cockfighting" feints to lure Toney in, and as Toney mocked Jones, Toney got caught with a leaping left hook.In August 2002, Toney beat Jason Robinson in an IBF Cruiserweight title elimination fight. Going into the 12th and final round, with the scores fairly even and the fight in the balance, Toney knocked the undefeated Jirov down in the 12th. The Kazakhrose from the canvas to go to the distance, but Toney got the judges verdict and was now a three-weight World Champion.

There was nobody better on the inside than prime James Toney? He will be remembered as one of the finest defensive boxers of his era, a great technician with excellent ring savvy, an incredible chin, and very good power at the lower weight divisions.He dispatched fighters like Iran Barkley, Vassily Jirov and Prince Charles Williams on the inside. Toney had an uncanny ability to duck, slip and roll with punches .Also, he was a master technically on the inside and threw nice short punches. On top of that, he had a granite chin.

Career Highlights

Amateur Career

  • Record: 35 fights, 33 wins (32 KO's), 2 losses

  • Lost his first amateur bout

  • Won the 1983 and 1984 West Michigan Junior Division Championship (156 lbs)

  • Won the 1987 Novice Golden Gloves Championship (156 lbs)

  • Won the 1987 Michigan Silver Gloves Championship (156 lbs)

  • Lost in the first round of the 1988 Detroit Golden Gloves Tournament (156 lbs)

  • Won 1988 Ohio State Fair Championship (156 lbs)

Professional Career

  • Has a record of 10-1-2 1NC (5 KOs) in World Title fights.

  • Has a record of 11-7-2 2NC (6 KOs) against former world titleists.

  • Won against Michael Nunn, Reggie Johnson, Mike McCallum (twice), Doug DeWitt, Iran Barkley, Charles Williams, Steve Little, Adolpho Washington, Vassiliy Jirov, Evander Holyfield.

  • Lost against Roy Jones Jr.. Montell Griffin (twice), Samuel Peter (twice), Denis Lebedev,Lucas Browne.

  • Drew with Mike McCallum, Hasim Rahman.

  • No Contest against John Ruiz, Hasim Rahman.

  • After his seventh professional fight, Toney's manager, Johnny "Ace" Smith, who was a drug dealer, was shot and killed. Toney then hired Jackie Kallen, a former publicist for the Kronk Gym, as his manager.

  • Knocked out Michael Nunn in eleven rounds to win the IBF Middleweight Championship on May 10, 1991. Toney, a 20 to 1 underdog, was behind on all three official scorecards.

  • In his first defense of the IBF Middleweight Championship, Toney defeated Reggie Johnson by a split decision on June 29, 1991.

  • Retained the IBF Middleweight Championship with a draw against former WBA champion Mike McCallum on December 13, 1991. The fight was going to be a unification match, but the WBA stripped McCallum on December 4. They demanded he defend against Steve Collins, whom he decisively defeated the previous year.

  • Retained the IBF Middleweight Championship with a controversial split decision against Dave Tiberi on February 8, 1992. Many people thought Tiberi was robbed, and the controversy led to an investigation by the United States Senate into corruption in boxing.

  • In his last fight as a middleweight, Toney retained the IBF Middleweight Championship with a majority decision against Mike McCallum on August 29, 1992.

  • Stopped Iran Barkley in nine rounds to win the IBF Super Middleweight Championship on February 13, 1992.

  • Suffered his first defeat and lost the IBF Super Middleweight Championship to Roy Jones Jr. by a lopsided decision on November 18, 1994.

  • Defeated Vassiliy Jirov by a unanimous decision to win the IBF Cruiserweight Championship on April 26, 2003. The bout was named Fight of the Year. by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

  • Stopped Evander Holyfield in nine rounds on October 4, 2003.

  • Defeated John Ruiz by a unanimous decision to win the WBA Heavyweight Championship on April 30, 2005. Toney became the third former World Middleweight Champion to capture a version of the World Heavyweight Championship, along with Roy Jones Jr. and Bob Fitzsimmons. However, on May 11, 2005, it was announced that Toney tested positive for the steroid Nandrolone, and his victory over Ruiz was changed to a no decision. He was also suspended for 90 days and fined $10,000. On May 17, 2005, Toney was stripped of the WBA title for his positive test, and the title was restored to Ruiz.

  • Fought a draw with WBC Heavyweight Champion Hasim Rahman on March 18, 2006.

  • Lost to Samuel Peter in back-to-back WBC heavyweight title eliminators. Toney lost by a split decision on September 2, 2006 and then lost by a lopsided decision on January 6, 2007.

  • Defeated Danny Batchelder by a split decision on May 24, 2007. After the fight, Toney tested positive for boldenone and stanazolol, and Batchelder tested positive for stanazolol and oxandolone. Both were suspended for a year.

  • Lost to interim WBA Crusierweight Champion Denis Lebedev by a lopsided decision on November 4, 2011. Toney lost every round on all three official scorecards.

  • Toney's fighting weight has been as low as 157 lbs and as high as 257 lbs.

Awards & Recognition

  • Named The Ring Fighter of the Year for 1991 and 2003.

  • Named the Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year for 1991 and 2003.

  • Named The Ring Comeback of the Year fighter for 2003

Minor & Regional Titles

  • Michigan State Middleweight Championship (1990)

  • IBC Middleweight Championship (1990)

  • USBA Light Heavyweight Championship (1995)

  • WBU Light Heavyweight Championship (1995)

  • WBU Continental Cruiserweight Championship (1995)

  • WBU Cruiserweight Championship (1997)

  • IBO Cruiserweight Championship (1997)

  • IBA Super Cruiserweight Championship (2001)

  • WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Championship (2004)

  • IBA Heavyweight Championship (2004)

  • WBO NABO Heavyweight Championship (2008)

  • IBU Heavyweight Championship (2012)


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