Friday, February 9, 2007


Freddie Roach, Massachusetts native and trainer of numerous boxing world champions, was close to home in Connecticut last night. Roach was at Foxwoods Resort and Casino to assist one of his latest proteges, Peter Manfredo of "The Contender" fame, who will be facing Scott Pemberton on Sunday night in Rhode Island.

Roach sat ringside with broadcasters Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore during the ESPN2 Friday Night Fights boxing telecast. Among other topics, Roach spoke about working with James Toney as he prepares for a March 18th bout with Hasim Rahman for the WBC heavyweight title in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Roach was asked how much James Toney, who began his career fighting as a middleweight, currently weighs and Roach replied, "He's about 250 right now". Roach said that Toney's weight is, "...too high right now, so we're going to drop about another 20 pounds before the fight, I feel. He's starting to spar everyday, he sparred nine rounds yesterday."

At nearly one hundred pounds above his original fighting weight of 160, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the mercurial Toney will register come March 18th. In January, at a New York City press conference to announce the bout with Rahman, Toney promised he would be fighting at a trim 217 pounds when the bout takes place. During the course of his eighteen-year professional boxing career the 37 year-old Toney has won recognized titles at 160, 168 and 190 pounds against world-class opposition. Toney’s most notable win came in October 2003 when he faced faded, but well-known former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and won by way of a ninth-round technical knockout.

In April 2005, amidst some fanfare, Toney faced WBA heavyweight titlist John Ruiz at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In a lackluster and forgettable bout that went the twelve round distance, Toney was proclaimed the winner by a twelve-round unanimous decision. However, only 11 days after the fight the official result was changed to a "no contest" by the New York State Athletic Commission and Toney was stripped of the WBA title, fined ten thousand dollars, and suspended for 90 days when he tested positive for the banned steroid Nandrolone.

The boxing community was shocked with Toney’s positive steroid test result. Toney weighed in at what was then a career high 233 pounds for the Ruiz bout. His body was flabby and devoid of muscle tone causing the surprise among many. Typical steroid users have a lean and muscular appearance. Toney’s co-promoter, Dan Goossen remarked, "Anybody who saw the fight could see that James Toney would not be the poster boy for any steroids use just by the way his body looks." Goossen continued his defense, "His doctor has stated that the combination of medications used to control the inflammation and tissue growth caused the positive test result. This is further supported since the body, in combination with the medications, naturally create the form of substance reflected in the test results."

Toney claimed he was administered a legal, therapeutic, natural substance by his physician, Dr. Mark Gordon, as an aid to recovery from a biceps and triceps tear suffered in his previous bout with Rydell Booker. Toney claimed that somehow, and beyond his explanation that the legal substance resulted in the positive steroid test.

Dr. Gordon was contacted for this story, but he refused to comment unless a signed waiver was presented from Toney allowing him to discuss the matter. Toney’s representatives at Goossen-Tutor Promotions were also contacted for this story in an effort to obtain the waiver, but they did not reply.

Since the Holyfield bout, in which he scaled 217 pounds, Toney’s weight has continued to escalate upward. In his most recent bout, an October 2005 match against Dominick Guinn, he scaled a career high 235 pounds. The issue of Toney’s girth has continued to be somewhat of a contentious issue between Toney, his trainer Freddie Roach, and members of the boxing media. No matter the subject, the discussion always seems to come back to what James Toney weighs. In a recent workout before assembled media, Toney had to be prodded into removing his shirt for photographers and he seemed embarassed at his own physical condition.

The March 18th Atlantic City bout with Rahman is less than five weeks away. At his current weight of 250 pounds it’s unlikely that Toney will achieve his promised weight of 217 pounds by fight night. To hit that number, Toney would have to lose approximately one pound of body weight per day each and every day.

As for Trainer Freddie Roach, who was a very disciplined professional fighter, his weight rarely varied more than several pounds over the course of his eight-year professional career. The soft-spoken Roach who owns the Wild Card Gym in West Hollywood, California is at a loss to explain the outspoken Toney and his poundage.

Despite his own personal feelings that James weighs too much, Roach seems resigned to the fact that Toney will weigh what he weighs and accepts him for who he is no matter what the scales say. Roach has grown weary of the constant questions surrounding Toney’s weight and he throws up his hands now in a gesture of mild frustration and says, "As long as James is in shape I'll be happy and we'll win this fight".

February 2006

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