Exclusive Interview With James "Lights Out" Toney - "I'm The Peoples' Champion!"
31.10.08 / by James Slater - Yesterday evening (U.K time) this writer had the pleasure of speaking with all-time great and future Hall of Famer James Toney. Toney, now aged 40 and with a record of 70-6-3(43), is still convinced he can rule the world at heavyweight (in fact, as you'll see in the interview, James believes he already has). Providing the kind of no holds barred interview any writer worth his salt would thoroughly enjoy, "Lights Out" was as full of himself and fast-talking as I knew he would be.
Article posted on 02.11.2008
James, one of the sport's true throwbacks, had some very interesting things to say, and the interview is one I am most grateful for being given. Also, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, considering the bad press he gets in some quarters, James was as polite and friendly as could be imagined..
Here is what Toney had to say in answer to my questions.
James Slater: It's a pleasure to be able to speak with you, James. Firstly, is there any news on when you will fight again?
James Toney: Yes, sir, we signed the deal today. I'm fighting Tony Thompson for the IBA heavyweight title on December 13th.
J.S: Excellent. Where will the fight be?
J.T: Right here in L.A.
J.S: Thompson did okay for ten rounds against Wladimir Klitschko, before losing. What do you think your fight with him will be like?
J.T: Well, he's gonna do a whole lot worse against me. I'm gonna knock him out, trust me. He's a good guy, I've met him a couple of times and we don't have no bad history, but nobody's my friend come fight night, you know what I'm sayin'? Then, next year, if Vitali [Klitschko] or his younger sister Wladimir wanna fight me, I'll get rid of them. The only reason they're still on top is boxing politics, neither of them can fight. I'm old-school. I'm blood and guts. That's why the fans watch me. Some may not like me, and others do, but they all know they'll get action when they see me fight.
J.S: You looked sharp last time out against Hasim Rahman. Have you been training since that fight?
J.T: I've been in the gym every day since. I'll be even better for this next fight. I'm injury free and working hard. I feel real good, better than ever.
J.S: Did Rahman quit against you?
J.T: Oh, you saw it, he quit like a punk. But now he's gonna get a title shot against Wladmir Klitschko. How can you justify it? He quits against me and gets rewarded! What's up with that? That's what I mean when I say boxing's political. Klitschko don't wanna fight no real challengers, so he picks Rahman instead.
J.S: Aside from yourself, who do you think is the best heavyweight in the world right now?
J.T: There really ain't nobody else, they're all just pretenders. I'm the peoples' champion right now. I've already been the world heavyweight champion twice, I was IBA heavyweight champion and I was WBA champion when I beat [John] Ruiz. They took the WBA belt away from me because I fought with an injury (and was penalised for taking illegal substances in the Ruiz bout). I'll be IBA heavyweight champion again when I beat Tony Thompson. The belt don't make the fighter, the fighter makes the belt.
J.S: Were you impressed at all with Vitali Klitschko's comeback against Sam Peter?
J.T: I was not impressed at all. He [Vitali] had his mouth open by the third round. But Sam Peter had no idea how to take advantage. I was shocked by that, I thought my man Peter was gonna KO Klitschko. Sam's pretty good. I beat him twice. They robbed me in the first fight and he ran from me late in the second fight. Peter's okay, he's got my respect. I'll fight him again if the people want to see it. I'll be in much better shape this time though. Last time I wasn't in shape and he still couldn't do nothin' to me.
J.S: Let me ask you about David Haye. Did his team approach you about fighting him?
J.T: They did, last April. At the boxing awards dinner. I said, tell me where and when, but they didn't really wanna know. They said they were looking at fighting either Lamon Brewster or the guy I just beat, Hasim Rahman. But now he's fighting Monte [Barrett].
J.S: You know Barrett, don't you? Will Haye beat him in November?
J.T: Monte's a good guy, yeah. He's too tough for Haye. He's gonna beat him. He's not gonna just beat him, he's gonna knock him out. Trust me.
J.S: You have plans to come to the U.K on a speaking tour, don't you? Next February?
J.T: Yes, sir. I'm gonna come and see the great country of England. I'm gonna get me a custom-made suit in London and hang with the people over there. I'm looking forward to it.
J.S: We'll look forward to seeing you. Looking at your career as a heavyweight, I know you've turned 40 now - do you sometimes wish you'd moved up to heavyweight sooner than you did?
J.T: Yeah, I should've moved up two years sooner. But I listened to people around me, who said I was too small to be a heavyweight. I should've followed my own heart. I always wanted Tyson. That's the fight I really wanted. I'd beat Mike Tyson every day of the week. But it's all good, I should get Vitali or his sister Wladmir next year. After I win on December 13th, I have a big 2009 planned. It's all coming faster than I expected.
J.S: When you do finally retire, after all you've achieved, what will you do? I know you made an appearance in the "Ali" movie. You were great as Joe Frazier. Will you make any more movies?
J.T: Yeah, I've had more movie offers. I'm looking to make more. It was hard work playing Joe Frazier, but I enjoyed it. The camera loves me, so I'm a natural!
J.S: After all the great fights you've had, is there one fight that sticks in your mind more than any other? What is your best win?
J.T: Well, the one fight that bothers me more than any other is the one with Roy Jones. I should've come in in shape. I'd love to do it again, I'd be tough on him today. Yes, sir, I'd take a rematch. But he's scared of moving up in weight, after what happened last time.
J.S: Well, a rematch between you two at heavyweight would be a great fight to see. As you know, Jones is fighting Joe Calzaghe. Who wins that one?
J.T: Jones beats Calzaghe, no doubt. Roy will knock him out. It may take four or five rounds, but Calzaghe is definitely going to sleep.
J.S: You really think so? Wow, that's interesting.
J.T: Yes, sir. Joe's going to sleep. It's lights out!
J.S: And it will be lights out for Tony Thompson in December also?
J.T: Absolutely. As soon as I hit him it's gonna be lights out!
J.S: Thanks a lot, champ. I really appreciate your time.
(sincere thanks go to Rachel Charles and John Arthur for setting up this interview)
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