James Toney No Phony Baloney

By Robert Ecksel on June 24, 2011
James Toney No Phony Baloney
If Toney broke the rules, he deserved to be punished, or so the saying goes (Robert Ecksel)


It’s not clear when former middleweight, super middleweight, and cruiserweight champion James Toney lost it. But lost it he has. It might have been the night of April 30, 2005, when he won the WBA heavyweight title by outpointing John Ruiz at Madison Square Garden. That should have been a night to remember, but Toney’s jubilation was short-lived.

The results of the post-fight drug test were released on May 18 and indicated traces of the anabolic steroid stanozolol in his blood. The fight was declared a No Contest. Toney was stripped of the title.

Many felt at the time that the NYSAC was grandstanding, overstepping its bounds, sacrificing a great fighter on the petard of its own ambition. But rules are rules, and if Toney broke the rules, he deserved to be punished, or so the saying goes.

Many were shocked that Toney failed the test. It wasn’t inconceivable that he was juicing. What was startling was the lack of visible evidence. There was no body beautiful. There was plenty of body, but it was not beautiful. Toney’s fights with his appetite were legendary, and although there were more decisions than knockouts, his appetite usually won.

After the Ruiz fiasco, Toney continued to fight, but one could see that his heart wasn’t in it. He won six of his next eight bouts, but they were sluggish affairs where Toney looked like he was just going through the motions.

In March 2010, Toney took the plunge and signed a multi-fight contract with Dana White and the UFC. Among the dissenters at the time, Toney’s trainer Freddie Roach voiced the loudest objection.

“I think they’re using James as a way to say that MMA fighters are better than boxers,” he said. “If he fights a quality ground guy he’s gonna get killed.”

Toney’s first fight was against a “quality ground guy,” MMA legend Randy Couture on August 28, and it was a disaster. Toney was dropped to the mat within 15 seconds, without having thrown a punch, and Couture forced him into submission at 3:19. The 42-year-old Toney’s contract with the UFC was suddenly null and void.

That should have been the end of the Toney/MMA story, but it’s not. On September 23 in El Paso he’s going to give MMA another go, this time against UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock. The 47-year-old Shamrock hasn’t fought an MMA match since November 2010. Not that it matters. Whatever transpires when the two men meet, it’s a doggone shame what has happened to James Toney.

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  1. JP 11:49am, 06/27/2011

    Looks like it’s “Lights Out” for Toney. I never understood why James never challenged an MMA fighter to the boxing ring? One isn’t better than the other… They’re just different.

  2. Bill De Stefano 11:16am, 06/27/2011

    Toney lost it when he fired his old manager Jackie. Down hill from that point on…He got cocky & greedy. Now he’s barely remembered as a champion.

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