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Denis Lebedev vs James Toney: Apparently, This Is Actually Happening (Knock on Wood)

James Toney is back in the combat sport where he belongs, and says he'll fight Denis Lebedev on November 5. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
James Toney is back in the combat sport where he belongs, and says he'll fight Denis Lebedev on November 5. (Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

You must take this with roughly two gallons of salt. For some of you that's probably a no-brainer, since we're talking about James Toney here, but just in case you still think he's reliable and lives in the same world the rest of us do, trust me, don't bet a penny or a nickel on this fight actually happening.

But James Toney says it's going to happen. He'll be going to Moscow on November 5 to fight Denis Lebedev at the cruiserweight limit.

"November 5, I’m going to invade Russia and show this punk what happens when he messes with the USA," said the always quotable Toney. "I’m calling it ‘Lights Out in Russia’ because he’s just the first one I’m going to whip. After I beat up this Ledbedev, I’m going back to Heavyweight after the one too afraid to fight the Klitchko sisters. Povetkin, I’m kicking his ass too!"

... "If they think the Roy Jones fight was big over there, wait till I get there and tell them all what I think about European fighters bringing great American fighters over there once they’re showing signs of age and acting like beating them means anything."

I will give you a moment to process that last bit as perhaps the least self-aware quote in the history of boxing.

Toney is 43 years old and hasn't won a significant fight since about 2004. But I can say this: Last I saw an updated photo of James, he was in good shape, and if he's maintained that and keeps on it, yes he can make the cruiserweight limit, because he was never really a heavyweight in the first place. He just bulked up. But in Toney's last fight, he was a grotesque, career-high 257 pounds on the scales for a lousy performance again Damon Reed in February. Toney won, but nobody cared, because Toney hasn't been a relevant fighter save for his UFC debacle in about half a decade.

I'm pretty sure that I've made very clear over the years that I'm not James Toney's biggest fan. In his prime the man was an in-ring genius, a great tactical fighter who knew every trick of the trade. I also do think James Toney is funny. I don't hate Toney or anything. I just think he's done as a fighter and has been for a long time.

But could he beat Lebedev? I wouldn't count him out. He's talented, deep down, and if he's really back to where he can make 200 pounds without killing himself to do it, he could be dangerous. Lebedev is good, and he's tough, and he's strong, but he's really basic, and even Roy Jones Jr had a little success with him this year. Not a ton (and I didn't think as much as some thought he had), but a little bit.

The real trouble for Toney here is not weight or even age, though, it's the fact that his skills have sharply declined no matter what he says. The last time I saw him in even a semi-useful fight, I thought Fres Oquendo outboxed him and got robbed of a win. James Toney is not the James Toney that existed 15 or 20 years ago. He's not the James Toney of the Jirov fight in 2003, either. Unless he does something kind of miraculous, I don't think he can win this fight.

Of course, I don't think the fight will actually happen anyway. But he says it will, so let's go along with it.

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