James Toney has 20-plus years as a professional boxer and has fought in several weight divisions throughout. He began his career at Super Middleweight (where he became champion) and eventually moved all the way up the ladder to Heavyweight. While he’s always displayed a sharp skill set and potential for greatness, Toney hasn’t always showed the determination a great fighter should.
Numerous times throughout his career, the media has criticized his training ethics, due to the shape he’s been in for fights. This, coupled with recent less-than-spectacular performances and testing dirty for illegal drugs, has hindered Toney’s career. It’s never too late to turn things around, and even at 41, Toney agrees.
During his most recent bout against journeyman Matthew Greer earlier this month, Toney showed up a new man. Not only did he look sharp in the ring, but he weighed in at 211 pounds, a number he hasn’t seen in a very long time.
With his eye on heavyweight greatness and earning more gold to wrap around his waist, BallerStatus.com met up with met up with James Toney after a recent morning workout at the 360 Health Club, his gym in Reseda, California, where he talked about how he plans to turn his career around, who he has his sights set on, and what’s wrong with the heavyweight division today.
BallerStatus.com: I understand you’re back in the gym training hard on a daily basis. Where did that spark come from?
James Toney: My fight in September 2007, it was alright. I won the fight, but it wasn’t spectacular. Since then, I had to go back to the drawing board, get myself in great shape. It’s been nine months of straight up hell, I’m ready to go to work. Can’t wait, that weight division is missing me, the fans are missing me. It’s time for me to go out there and put that work in.
BallerStatus.com: Have you changed up anything or has something changed with you?
James Toney: I went back to old school James, who was a Super Middleweight. That’s who I went back to. Everybody fighting these big guys. These big guys can’t take pressure. You know how you put pressure on pipes? Pipes bust. That’s what I’mma do to this guy. I’m gonna put the pressure to him, and then, he gonna bust.
BallerStatus.com: Over the past few years, you’ve been through some controversy — the losses to Samuel Peters and the suspensions. Do those kinds of things discourage you at all? Does it change your outlook?
James Toney: The two fights with Samuel Peters were bullsh**. Everybody knew the first time I beat him. I destroyed him. Somehow, the judges were drunk. They gave him the decision. Second time, we fought again. I thought I beat him again, but hey … he ran, he ran, he ran, and he got the decision.
As far as the suspensions going down, that was some bogus stuff. I don’t take drugs. I don’t do that. I bought something over the counter, and I didn’t know what was in there. But that’s what happens. I never do things intentionally.
It only makes me hungrier, because it shows everybody that I’m the best fighter to ever put the gloves on. Nobody has ever done what I’ve done. I turned pro at 154 pounds. I’ve fought as high as 236, and beaten the best fighters out there. Nobody’s ever done that. I’ve never started something I couldn’t finish. I told everybody that I’mma retire as the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world, and I’mma do that … soon. It’s just a matter of time of me getting back in there, and getting sharp again.
BallerStatus.com: You’ve been fighting for a long time, so what keeps you motivated?
James Toney: What keeps me motivated is all these young punks out here that think they can whoop me. That’s what keeps me motivated. I ain’t gonna never let a young guy whoop me. That’s not gonna happen. These guys out there running they mouths, talking about they gonna do this, they gonna do that. But, if you can beat me like you say you can, sign the contract. I’m 41 years young, so I’m looking to whop someone’s ass.
BallerStatus.com: You’ve been taking shots at the Klitschko brothers recently, saying they’re dodging you…
James Toney: [The Klitschkos] have been [dodging me], for seven years. The problem is, they supposed to be the biggest and best fighters the American press claims to be, they should fight the best fighter period, which is me. If you look at my record, my record speaks for itself. Bar none, I’ve fought the best in every division I’ve been in and beat everybody. I’ve been unsuccessful while I’ve been unmotivated … Roy Jones and so forth. Ay, the Klitschko sisters have been protected as you guys know, and protected over and over, over the last couple of years. They’re far from great fighters. Anybody who thinks they are great fighters gotta be drunk or on drugs.
BallerStatus.com: In a story I read, you say they’re flawed. So, what are their weaknesses and how does James Toney exploit them?
James Toney: Their flaws are very eminent. They fight straight up. They can’t fight going backwards. When they jab, they stick their chin straight out in the air. I got the plan to beat them. I’m the only one who can do it, so I’mma show you as soon as they get in the ring and sign that contract.
BallerStatus.com: Over the past five, six years people have said the heavyweight division has gone downhill…
James Toney: It’s gone downhill because look at the fighters we got. Everybody is scared to fight each other. That’s the main reason why people are going from boxing to MMA, because MMA is putting on the fights that everybody wanna see. My job, my goal is to bring the heavyweight division back to its marquee place, by me fighting the top fighters out there — whether it be the Klitschkos, Valuev (that seven foot meatball), or the top contenders in the division. My job is to bring it back to what it once was. With the Klitschkos being in the game, and being in the positions that they in, it’s not gonna happen.
Why? Because if I was to walk on Madison Avenue right now, everybody would know who I am. If the Klitschkos did, they’d think they were basketball players, or something like that. Ay, it is what it is. The only way that it’s gonna happen if the fans start clamoring for it.
BallerStatus.com: You mentioned MMA. What is your take on the sport and how they are competing with boxing?
James Toney: My daddy was one of them MMA guys. I love it. I like watching it. They putting on the best shows. That’s why the boxing people get mad because they getting all the fans. They’re giving the fans all the good matches, which should be done in boxing. I watch it, but they can’t mess with me.
I like Rampage [Jackson]. I like watching … not Brock Lesnar. He’s phony. Fedor Emelianenko, he aight. George St. Pierre.
BallerStatus.com: Throughout your career, you’ve risen up the weight classes all the way to heavyweight. I know in the past you said you wanted to become the heavyweight champion. Why was that your goal, instead of dominating the lower weight classes?
James Toney: Because everybody kept saying “You’re too small, you can’t do it, it’ll never happen.” When somebody tell me I can’t do it, I’mma do it anyway to prove to em I can … it can be done. I told everybody back in 1987 that I’mma be heavyweight champion, but everybody said “Nah, you’re too small. You should stay middleweight.” I said “Ok.” I listened to everybody for a little bit, but I became my own man. I got bigger and bigger and more mature, I saw heavyweight coming. Once I started knocking everybody out, everything started falling into place. I knew exactly where I was going. I had my mind already made up. I’m going straight to heavyweight.
BallerStatus.com: How did it feel to actually do it and accomplishing it?
James Toney: The first time … when I beat Rydell Booker for the first IBA Championship, it was great accomplish because it was a Heavyweight Championship. A championship is a championship. Then, when I beat John Ruiz to unify the IBA and WBA title, that was like … Damn. I did it in the Mecca of boxing in Madison Square Garden, I was so happy I was ecstatic. It was a great feeling.
Then when I won the title in December (2008) in a controversial decision over Fres Oquendo, it feels good again, because I’m the heavyweight champ again. I really won’t get that grateful feeling until I beat all the Klitschko sisters, and whoever has a belt. I want it, I’mma get it. I wanna be undisputed, I wanna be the man. The only one, then I’mma walk out and tell everybody to kiss my ass.
BallerStatus.com: What else are you working on outside the ring?
James Toney: We formed JT TV, Lights Out Television. We gonna show all my fights. We gonna sell all my vitamins on the internet. You can buy the actual gloves I wore during my fights, or the video … on the site live. It’s live! Everything comes in very clearly. You can even hear the sound of people in the background popping off, smacking on some gum if you want to. It’s a great new method we came up with.
We got supplements coming up, reality show, movies… I hate to sleep ’cause I’m afraid I’ll miss something.
BallerStatus.com: You mentioned a reality show. For the fans, what should they expect from a peak inside your life?
James Toney: They gonna love it. We gonna have a lot of fun. Let me put it like this: T.O. ain’t got nothing on me, and “Flavor of Love” ain’t got nothing on me. The show’s gonna be off the chain, and it’s gonna be on the best for a long time.
You gonna see the good and the bad side of James Toney, my little boys — James Jr. and the Prince himself. You gonna see my girls — boys stay away. We gonna have fun. You gonna see me, day in and day out. [You’ll see] the day in the life of a world championship fighter, and how we have fun.