James Toney, Roy Jones, and the Dismembering of a Legend
After James Toney's embarrassingly one-sided decision loss to Russian cruiserweight, Denis Lebedev on Friday, the 43-year old three-division former world champion boldly proclaimed that the world had not seen the last of "Lights Out:"
"I had a bad night, but I'll come back," Toney said during his post-fight interview. "I'm definitely not retiring…I'll see Lebedev again."
Toney's delusional self-deception is reminiscent of another 90's great who just won't live within the bounds of normal, reasonable sanity— Roy Jones Jr.
While Toney, up until the Lebedev fight, could at least say that he had never really been beaten up in the ring, Jones has been battered, bloodied, and outclassed by every world class fighter he has met since 2003. The once-untouchable pound-for-pound king has also suffered some of the scariest knockouts in recent memory— getting knocked cold by Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, Danny Green and Toney conqueror, Denis Lebedev.
Now, despite a chilling tenth-round knockout at the hands of Lebedev in May, Jones, 42, has already booked another bout. This time, the former four-division world champ is set to face Camden, New Jersey journeyman cruiserweight, Max Alexander on December 10th.
The good news for Jones' well-wishers is that Alexander is 0-5-1 in his last six and sports a feeble 14-5-2 overall record. The bad news is that Jones obviously has no intention of retiring and will likely be stopped someday soon by a fighter far removed from world class status.
Unlike other sports that honor their heroes and have the good sense to say "enough's enough," the lack of a true boxing authority allows for boxing's heroes to be offered up for sacrifice and mass embarrassment. You'd never see 69-year-old Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus allowed to humiliate himself, flopping on the field in a demeaning, vain effort to stop running back, Adrian Peterson. Of course, this is the case because the NFL has a real commission and isn't run by shifty, shady confidence men, like boxing.
As the Red Light District of the sports world, there will always be someone, somewhere willing to write a check for a fighter who just should not be fighting anymore. For self-deceiving fighters like Toney, Jones, or Evander Holyfield, there will always be some sleazy carpetbagger eager to give these faded legends one more night under the lights, one more faint chance at a return to greatness.
A look at James Toney's feeble, cringe-worthy effort against Lebedev shows what these legends give in exchange for this "one last shot" at greatness. Fighters who used to dominate and execute at the highest level are brought in as cannon fodder for any promoter looking to hype his own guy. And if no state will sanction a seemingly one-sided farce of a bout, there are plenty of foreign countries willing to receive the freak show.
Maybe it'll take the in-ring death of a legend to wake the sport up—-but it probably wouldn't even matter. Boxing is just incapable of governing itself and nobody is moving to make things any better.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. He is the editor in chief of The Boxing Tribune, the only major boxing news site that refuses to accept promoter or network advertising. He is also a contributor to Fox Sports. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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