James Toney Seeks Heavyweight Title, History

By Francis Walker
Updated: April 29, 2005

James Toney

NEW YORK — James Toney is looking to become only the third middleweight in boxing history to win a world heavyweight title. Toney will have an opportunity to make history when he challenges two-time WBA heavyweight champ and the first Latino heavyweight champion, John Ruiz on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, New York City.

Toney is best recognized for his middleweight career. Toney earned the name “Light Out” for his dramatic come-from-behind, 11th round KO victory against Michael Nunn to capture the IBF middleweight title in May 1991.

Toney, who also won the IBF super middleweight title in 1993, defeated the very best from 160-168 pounds: Iran Barkley, Mike McCallum, Reggie Johnson, Tim Little, and Charles Williams. Toney looked spectacular and was recognized as the best fighter in the world “Pound-For-Pound.”

The biggest disappointment in Toney’s career came on Nov. 18, 1994 when he suffered the first professional loss of his career. Toney was outboxed, out hustled, and simply overmatched as he lost a lopsided decision and the super middleweight title to Roy Jones Jr.

Toney’s career would suffer into obscurity while fighters like Jones, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya would develop into mega-million dollar HBO fighters.

Toney was laughed at when he announced his desire to compete as a heavyweight, as boxing insiders would mock fun of the once glorious middleweight who was fighting at balloon weights of 185-220 pounds.

Toney was taken seriously again when he handed undefeated IBF cruiserweight champion, Vassily Jirov the first loss of his career. The fight was a slugfest, as Toney would score two knockdowns en route to winning his third world title in a third separate weight class.

Toney’s campaign as a heavyweight became more seriously noticed when he became one of two fighters to have ever knocked out Evander Holyfield (TKO 9) in Oct. 2003. The beating that Holyfield took prompted his corner to throw in the towel.

Toney seeks his fourth world title in his fourth separate weight class when he meets Ruiz.

Ruiz has fought plenty of good heavyweights: Holyfield (three times), Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo, Hasim Rahman, and Kirk Johnson, but the biggest knock on Ruiz is when Roy Jones became the second middleweight champion to win a piece of the world heavyweight championship (March 2003).

Ruiz has not looked good because of his rugged brawl and clinch style. Ruiz has only lost three fights in the last 9 years. Toney is a better fighter who can box and counterpunch with power form the inside.

Ruiz is also a strong inside fighter so it should be a very good fight. Although Ruiz has not looked pretty in a few years, he continues to find ways to win.

However, Ruiz is in a must-win fight because if he loses his WBA title to Toney, then Toney will become the third former middleweight champion to win a piece of the heavyweight championship.