Boxer James “Lights Out” Toney isn’t shy when it comes to sharing his opinions — and he has a strong one on just about everything related to his sport.
But after a wide-ranging press conference in which the seven-time world champion casually referred to current heavyweight contenders Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko as “the Klitschko sisters” and said “I have a skill advantage over everybody in boxing, period,” Toney showed uncharacteristic (relative) restraint when discussing his next bout. Toney (69-6-3, 43 KOs) is now training for a 10-round heavyweight fight May 24 against Danny “Danny Boy” Batchelder at HP Pavilion in San Jose and met with the press at Kings Gym on Wednesday to promote the event.
“Just come out the 24th and you’ll see there’s a new sheriff in town,” Toney said. “I can show you better than I can tell you.”
The flamboyant fighter — dressed nattily in a window-pane-patterned zoot suit, alligator shoes, diamond earrings and Joe Louis cuff links — answered questions on a variety of subjects while occasionally feigning punching sequences. He seemed relatively unconcerned with Batchelder (25-4-1, 12 KOs), admitting he had yet to see him fight.
Toney’s main focus is his own health, which he said was the best it has been in 2½ years. The 5-foot-10 Toney said he currently weighs 232 pounds, but is hoping to get down to 216 or 217 for the fight, which would be the lightest he has been in the ring since he knocked out Evander Holyfield on Oct. 4, 2004.
“The gut is gone,” said Toney, who has lost his last two fights. “I love doing what I’m doing — kicking people’s [butts] and not going to jail for it.”
Toney has never fought in the Bay Area during his nearly 20-year career. Toney, who said he’s 37 but whose press release lists him at 38, said he would like to fight five more times, but he’s already started branching out into other interests. He played Joe Frazier in the film “Ali” and is developing a reality show, “Lights Out with James Toney,” that he hopes will appear on Bravo. He has also started his own promotion company, Lights Out Boxing.
It’s a sport he originally saw as a second option behind a promising football career. Toney was recruited to play defensive back at Michigan, but after a scuffle with Deion Sanders at a high school camp, he turned his attention to boxing. Shortly thereafter, he earned his trademark nickname from Detroit trainer Bill Miller.
“I hated it at first … I wanted ‘Ice-T’ or ‘Too Smooth’ or something,” Toney said. “But then I started knocking guys out and the fans starting saying it.”
And now, of course, it is something worth fighting over. Wednesday, Toney called out San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has been borrowing the moniker and doing a “Lights Out” dance after a sack.
“If he wants to use my nickname, he has to stand in the ring with me for one round,” Toney said with a laugh. “And he won’t make it. I’m a Raiders fan anyway.”
Fight Night at the Tank
WHEN: May 24; doors open at 6:30 p.m., first bout at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: HP Pavilion, San Jose
FEATURED FIGHT: James “Lights Out” Toney (69-6-3, 43 KOs) vs. Danny “Danny Boy” Batchelder (25-4-1, 12 KOs)
OTHER BOXERS SCHEDULED: Ricardo Cortez (19-1-1, 14 KOs), middleweight, 10 rounds; Karim Mayfield (2-0, 2 KOs), welterweight, four rounds; Eloy Perez (7-0-1, 1 KO), lightweight, four to six rounds; Jason Gavern (11-2-2, 5 KOs), heavyweight, six rounds
TICKETS: $25-$75; to purchase, visit www.ticketmaster.com or call (415) 421-8497, (408) 998-421-8497 or (510) 625-421-8497