Toney will hide `teddy bear' side

He'll have tough face on for Rahman fight

March 16, 2006|By LEM SATTERFIELD | LEM SATTERFIELD,SUN REPORTER

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Five days before he faces World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in perhaps the most important fight of his career, James Toney was in the lobby of the Bally's Hotel & Casino being the impish character only those close to him get to see.

Known as much for a surly image, menacing stare-downs and obscenity-laced tirades aimed at intimidating rivals, Toney had grabbed the purse of publicist Rachel Charles. He then playfully started distributing Charles' money to members of his small entourage.

"He can be a bit of a goofball, but don't let that side of him fool you," said Javier Mora, one of Toney's sparring partners.

"During our sparring workouts, he's real mean and real serious," said another fighter, Eric Smith.

Toney said: "When you catch me after the fight, if you ask anybody, they'll tell you, `James is a funny person.' I like people. I make people laugh.

"But you know what? You all don't want to see that side," said Toney, 37, of Los Angeles, a married father of four girls and a boy. "A lot of people don't want to take the time out to do that. You go on assumption."

His wife, Angie Toney, said: "James is the tough guy when he's doing his work, and they understand that. But we get the big teddy bear at home. ... But boxing, that's his other side."

It is a side Toney showed in Mexico in December, when he and Rahman nearly came to blows during a WBC gathering. The ceremony officially named Rahman as champion and Toney as his mandatory challenger.

Rahman said Toney pushed him first; Toney said it was the other way around. No more incidents have occurred. In fact, Toney was the first to extend a hand to Rahman during a New York news conference last month.

"The only reason I won't go after him [physically] is that I made a promise to my promoters," Toney said. "I know Rahman just wants to do something -- anything -- to get out of this fight. But I'm not going to let him ruin my chance to take care of things in the ring, when it's just me and him."

Since the incident, however, the fighters have ripped each other verbally at every opportunity.

"Everybody says Rahman is bigger than me, but he's lacking in the one area that really counts, and that's the heart. I know how to fight. Look at my record," Toney said.

Toney, who had a grandfather who lived in Baltimore, also has belittled Rahman's Baltimore-based, six-fight comeback winning streak with: "Rahman ain't no monster just because he fought in all those Glen Burnie shows down there."

Toney has victories over current and former world champions John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield, joining Riddick Bowe as the only men to knock out Holyfield. Ruiz and Holyfield have beaten Rahman.

After facing Ruiz, Toney tested positive for a steroid, which he said was medication prescribed by a doctor for biceps and triceps injuries.

As a result, Toney was suspended for 90 days and fined $100,000, and his win, for the World Boxing Association title, was ruled a "no contest" and Ruiz was restored as champion. Still, Toney takes credit for handling Ruiz.

"I destroyed Evander Holyfield a year after he had beaten Rahman, and then, all of a sudden, Holyfield's old and shot. My next fight, I beat Rydell Booker with one arm over 12 rounds. My arm [injury] hadn't healed yet. Then I come back and beat John Ruiz, again, with one arm," Toney said.

Toney spent the early portion of his career as a champion in the middleweight (160 pounds), super middleweight (168) and cruiserweight (190) divisions.

"I had trouble my whole career maintaining an unnatural weight," Toney said. "When I was middleweight champ of the world, I would go the last week before a fight on just water and lettuce."

As a heavyweight, however, the 5-foot-9 Toney gained weight with every fight. He weighed 217 for his October 2003 ninth-round stoppage of Holyfield, 227 for the September 2004 decision over Booker, 233 for his April 2005 win over Ruiz and 235 for his October 2005 decision over Dominick Guinn.

"Weight isn't an issue," Toney said. "It's all about knowing how to fight, how to create openings, which I know how to do against all of these big boys.

"I love beating up on heavyweights. I feel like I'm going to a buffet. I'm fighting Hasim Rahman, who is the best out there. I'm going to destroy him, and after that, I want every boxing writer on his hands and knees and kiss my feet."

lem.satterfield@baltsun.com

Fight facts

Who: Hasim Rahman vs. James Toney, for Rahman's World Boxing Council heavyweight title

When: Saturday

Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.

TV: HBO, 10 p.m.

Records: Rahman 41-5-1, 33 KOs; Toney 69-4-2, 43 KOs

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