Los Angeles, CA — On the 28th of this month, the now 41-year old James “Lights Out” Toney – a sure-fire Hall of Fame boxer who has spent the last 22 years pounding his opponents inside the ropes of professional boxing rings – will step inside the Octagon at the TD Garden in Boston, MA making his mixed martial arts debut against another legend of a different sport, 47-year old former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture.
Many people have wondered why James Toney (72-6-3, 44 KOs) – a man who has captured multiple world titles in multiple weight classes in his sport – would make his MMA debut against someone of the caliber of Randy Couture.
Some would say James chased the fight. Others say James took up the challenge when Dana White stated that MMA fighters were better than boxers.
The truth is, James fighting in the UFC dates back to 2003. Serious discussions were held between Lorenzo Fertitta (Chairman of UFC’s parent company) and me exploring a matchup between James and Tito Ortiz, who at that time was their UFC star. And as we see today, even then, James was more then willing to take the challenge, even though his boxing career was bringing him millions of dollars.
James first bout with Goossen Tutor Promotions, a classic highlight reel KO of Jason Robinson in August 2002 through victories over the undefeated Vasily Jirov and heavyweight legend Evander Holyfield, proved there was no challenge James Toney would turn down.
Being the fighter he was and a fan favorite, he generated millions of dollars against the likes of Holyfield, John Ruiz, Hasim Rahman and Samuel Peter – each of whom had worn world heavyweight crowns.
More astonishing, the Klitschko Brothers – Vitali and Wladimir – still deemed James too dangerous of a challenge to risk their world heavyweight title belts, despite his age.
Since 1997, covering 23 bouts, James has had only two losses, one of them being the highly criticized and controversial decision to Sam Peter in their first bout.
So with the Klitschko’s out, James revisited the opportunity he was willing to do years before in taking on one of the UFC heavyweight legends.
In doing so, I told James six months of training for a completely different sport would not provide him the experience to prevent being at a severe disadvantage. But being the fighter he is, he was willing to transition to a sport that was COMPLETELY foreign to him, and take on one of its all-time legends.
The significant differences James will be facing entering the Octagon include the use of 4 oz. gloves, no footwear, and 5-minute rounds. In addition to the use of hands, his legs and feet are also weapons. These are daunting challenges that very few would ever consider doing at this level, especially never having done it before.
As I told James years before, the UFC would try to use his name to make a fight with him as an MMA vs. Boxer promotion. As we now know, next weeks fight is being billed as UFC vs. Boxing.
So why would a Hall of Fame boxer want to take on one of the greats in a completely different, dangerous sport in which he only had a handful of months to prepare?
Because James Toney is a TRUE WARRIOR and the epitome of a REAL CHAMPION.
It’s only one of the reasons why I have the utmost respect for my friend James Toney as a fighter and, more importantly, as a man.
Admittedly, the odds are greatly against James in this battle of legends from different sports; such as they would be if football’s Tom Brady took his Super Bowl arm and tried to step-in and pitch for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
And while UFC in this instance is trying to show that their athletes are superior to those in boxing, I believe both sports, different as they are, exhibit real fighters.
Even if Randy Couture defeats James Toney – which is not a foregone conclusion by any means – the UFC would not have bragging rights just yet. For that to happen, Couture would have to defeat James Toney in a boxing match.
To that end, Goossen Tutor Promotions is prepared to offer to Randy Couture, win, lose or draw, the same guaranteed payday he will be receiving for his UFC bout with James Toney if he would accept a challenge to meet James in a 12-round BOXING match immediately after this bout with James. This, indeed, would demonstrate the TRUE WARRIOR SPIRIT that James Toney is exhibiting by taking on the challenge of Couture in his sport.
If Randy Couture believes he would be at a severe disadvantage going against James in a boxing match and not accept this challenge, then all we have next week is a boxing legend taking up another challenge, in another sport, that few, if any, would be willing to do.
UNTIL THAT CHALLENGE IS TAKEN, James Toney will stand alone as one of the most gifted, true warriors of all time.