By Thomas Gerbasi
He’s one of the premier boxers of the last 25 years, a future Hall of Famer who has won world titles in three weight classes while taking on a Who’s Who of the sport, including fellow champions Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz, Hasim Rahman, Vassiliy Jirov, Roy Jones Jr., Mike McCallum, Iran Barkley, and Michael Nunn. But there is one more mountain left to climb for James “Lights Out” Toney, and that’s to show if he can defeat the mixed martial arts warriors of the UFC.
So later this year, UFC President Dana White is prepared to give Toney his shot, signing the boxing superstar to a multi-fight contract this week to compete in the UFC.
“A lot of pro boxers have made a lot of noise about how they would do in mixed martial arts, but nobody on the level of a James Toney has been willing to back up his talk,” said White. “He’s a legend whose boxing record speaks for itself, and he’s a guy who I’ve got a lot of respect for. Now he’s got every intention of matching that success in MMA, and I think he’s got the right attitude – let’s see if he can do it.”
Owner of an amazing 72-6-3 (2 no contests) record that includes 44 wins by knockout, 41-year old James Toney is respected throughout the boxing world for his old-school approach to the fight game. For him, that means fighting anyone at anytime, and doing so by emphasizing all aspects of the sweet science.
31-2 as an amateur, Toney soon turned his sights to the pro game in 1988, and in 1991 he won his first world title at middleweight by knocking out unbeaten champion Michael Nunn in the 11th round. After six successful defenses, he moved up to 168 pounds and defeated Iran Barkley for the super middleweight championship in 1993, but he wasn’t done yet. After a stay at light heavyweight, Toney won the cruiserweight world title by defeating Vassiliy Jirov in 2003’s Fight of The Year, and his success continued at heavyweight, where he defeated Evander Holyfield, Dominick Guinn, and Fres Oquendo. In his most recent bout, on September 12, 2009, Toney – a two-time winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Year award - halted Matthew Greer in two rounds.
Current UFC fighters Marcus Davis, Chris Lytle and Alessio Sakara have competed as professional boxers in the past, but with today’s announcement, Toney becomes the most accomplished boxing veteran to ever compete in the Octagon.
An opponent and date for Toney’s UFC debut has not been determined, and will be announced at a later date.