James “Lights Out” Toney has been a professional boxer since 1988. That means he, my favorite fighter ever, has been a pro longer than I have ben alive. He has had a lot of ups. A comeback knockout win over 20 to 1 favorite Michael Nunn to win his first title the IBF middleweight title. His win over Mike McCallum, brutal stoppage of Iran Barkley, his IBF title run at super middleweight.
Then he added the IBF cruiserweight title to his trophy case nine years after holding his last title. His win over Vassily Jirov is one of the greatest cruiserweights fight ever. After that, he stopped the great Evander Holyfield. He is also one of the greatest defensive fighters to ever lace up the gloves. His Philly Shell is one of the slickest defenses to grace a ring.
Those are just some of his highs but there were also lows.
The End for Lights out?
His dreadful loss to Roy Jones Jr., a loss to the unheralded Drake Thadzi, and then losing the heavyweight title because he tested positive for steroids. His issues to keep his weight down plagued him throughout his entire career. It was a long and winding road but it all comes to an end this weekend.
Toney will face Mike Sheppard (24-20-2 10 KO) at the Eastern Michigan Convocation Center, Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 13. Toney and Sheppard will be fighting for the vacant World Boxing Foundation World heavyweight title. Sheppard has fought everyone under the sun and his best win is a knockout of China Smith.
Toney has been long due for retirement. His last meaningful win was over Fres Oquendo in 2008. His last two losses were to journeymen type fighters Charles Ellis and Jason Gavern. They were a combined 32-18-5 and Gavern had double-digit losses. Ellis has never fought again and Gavern has gone 2-6 since the win.
Sheppard has a golden opportunity to defeat a hall of fame fighter. Toney would like to go out on top but boxing rarely lets former greats go out on top. This may or may not be the final fight for Toney. If he wins he may convince himself that he can beat another guy. A loss may convince him to fight one more time to go out on top.
No matter how it plays out there is no doubting that James “Lights Out” Toney entertained for 91 soon to be 92 fights.