By Mike Coppinger
Future hall of famer James Toney is seeking to write another chapter in his storied career, as he looks to do what Roy Jones couldn't earlier this year -- defeat cruiserweight Denis Lebedev in his native Russia.
The 43-year-old Toney, notorious for weight problems throughout his career, will be making his return to cruiserweight, after more than eight years competing in boxing's former glamour division. Toney's last fight at cruiserweight was an enthralling battle with Vassiliy Jirov, a bout named the 2003 Fight of the Year by the BWAA."Lights Out" is happy to be back at cruiser and is chomping at the bit to prove he's no past-his-prime.
"Training is going good, we're 100 percent on schedule. I can't wait, I'm excited," Toney told BoxingScene.com. "We're ready to roll. It feels great to be back [at cruiserweight]. I'm only here for the time being, because none of the fags in the heavyweight division want to fight me, the Bitchko sisters and David Gaye. Everybody has excuses. Everybody wants to worry about me being old and saying I'm too old and too fat so they don't want to fight me. So I'm going down to cruiser and going to fight some real competition."
Toney insists that his performance against Lebedev will have no bearing on his long-running feud with Jones.
"I'm not worried about Roy," said Toney. "Everybody knows Roy Jones isn't even in the same league as James Toney. Roy Jones is a good fighter, don't get me wrong. But if you look at my record, I've beaten everybody in every division I've been in for 25 years."
Toney is also disgusted with the the result of this past weekend's contest between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson, insisting Hopkins was looking for a way out.
"I'm the real old school fighter, not Bernard Hopkins, not "Bitch Hop"," said Toney. "If Bernard Hopkins was an old school fighter, you don't run in with your head down and when you get thrown start crying foul. You never hear of an old school fighter doing that. You saw it, he got his way out [of the fight]. It wasn't no damn foul. He's running in with his head like a little pitbull anyway."
Looking ahead to next year, Toney would love to fight a fellow 40-something cruiser, Antonio Tarver, coming off his big win against Danny Green.
"If Tarver wants to step up to the plate, his people got my people's number," said Toney. "It's put up or shut up. He wanted to fight last year but then when I tried to get a hold of him, he was a little bitch and didn't return my calls and then he changed his number."
"He's a good fighter, I respect him, but when that bell rings, all respect is gone," said Toney. "He's going to be in the ring with the best fighter he's ever seen in his life. Period. And I am in shape.
"For my whole career, it's always been about my weight. It's never been about my skill. I have the best skill set in boxing, period."
He is more hungry than ever and is ready to show the public who doubts his physical shape the difference.
"I'm more motivated than anything," said Toney. "I'm more motivated than I've been in seven, eight years. I'm highly motivated and everyone is going to see a big change in me."
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing freelancer for USA TODAY and Ring Magazine. He’s a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, the Ring Ratings Advisory Panel and the Yahoo! Sports Boxing Panel. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger