The Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow is the venue tonight when a slimmed down James Toney faces Denis Lebedev in a fight for the interim WBA Cruiserweight championship.
For Toney , this is his first venture back to the cruiserweight division in over eight years. In his last fight in that division in April, 2003 he defeated the previously unbeaten Vasiliy Jirov over 12 rounds to pick up the IBF version of the title.
Toney, a pro now for 13 years, has fought in all divisions from middleweight to heavyweight.
As a middleweight in the early 90's, he took on all comers. As an underdog in May 1991, he rallied to knockout the previously unbeaten Michael Nunn in 11 rounds to take the IBF title. In the short space of two years, he would defeat the likes of Reggie Johnson and Mike McCallum before capturing Super Middleweight honours with a nine round masterclass against Iran Barkley in February, 1993,
His first defeat as a pro would come in November the following year when a peak Roy Jones Jnr would win a wide points decision. Toney then suffered a further setback when Montell Griffin decisioned him over 12 rounds in February,1995.
For the next nine years, Toney would campaign at light heavyweight, cruiserweight and even heavyweight. Although he would ultimately win more times than losing and would pick up the lightly regarded WBU light heavyweight and cruiserweight championships, it never looked like he'd get a shot at one of the four major world title belts.
2003 would begin the ascendancy of Toney back into the big time. Following his title victory over Jirov, Lights Out would pick up the big name scalps of Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo, although the Ruiz win would later to be changed to a no contest.
Following a brief flirtation with MMA, Toney resurfaced as a boxer weighing a whopping 257 pounds when decisioning former WBO heavyweight title challenger Damon Reed.
His opponent this Friday, the Russian Denis Lebedev, could be dubbed the career killer. British fans will know him from his destruction of Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli in 2009.
In his one world title fight he lost a close decision to Marco Huck in December 2010, although many felt the Russian had done enough to earn the decision. His last fight was in May when KO'd the badly faded Roy Jones Jnr in the 10th round.
Although Toney is also past his best, he is still skillful enough to school Lebedev in the early rounds. Don’t forget Lebedev was behind on points before he caught up with Jones Jnr.
However, I feel stamina will be the telling factor and I think that Toney will fade down the stretch, ultimately losing a 12 round decision.