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My Night: James Toney reveals his finest ever performance

Holly Stein /Allsport
'I ruined Iran Barkley that night, no doubt,' snarls James Toney

MY greatest night, I had a whole lot of great nights; at middleweight all the way up to heavyweight. I have a few fights from my career I wanna list: my ass-whupping of Iran Barkley, the night I knocked out Evander Holyfield, when I beat up Tim Littles, and the beatdown I gave Vassiliy Jirov. No one has done what I’ve done in boxing; those wins were from super-middleweight on up, all the way to cruiserweight.

And I whupped some ass at heavyweight, too! But if you want one choice, I’ve got to say the beating I gave that trash-talking Iran Barkley. I was super-motivated. He talked so much s*** going into that fight. That was his downfall. He started the talking but I finished it with the fight. The fool really thought he’d be able to beat me! He’d gotten lucky when he beat my man, Tommy Hearns (in 1988) and I had to make sure I got him back for Tommy, my idol. I owed him and payback is a son of a bitch and he [Barkley] got it bad that night.

I beat him up something terrible. Barkley was a strong, tough guy, but he talked tougher [than he was]. He called himself “The Blade” and he even brought a big machete to the press conference before the fight. They said that was just part of the show, the promotion, but I wasn’t playing around at all. And there was no way he could ever intimidate me if that was what he was trying to do. As soon as he put his name on that contract, I knew he was mine.

I actually couldn’t wait for that fight; it hurt so bad waiting to get my hands on him. That was the single best training camp of my career. I worked so hard training for the fight and I couldn’t wait to punish him for making me work so hard.

I was vicious in that fight, he made me so mad. I had to make sure his damn lights went out!

I was so sharp that night. Matter of fact, I was perfect in that fight. Every single punch was on target. I hit him so much I made the entire fight look easy. I took him apart piece by piece by piece. His own mother couldn’t recognise him after I’d got through with him. I watched my usual fight tapes [before the fight], the old-school greats that I fight like – Ezzard Charles, Joe Louis, Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson. Barkley couldn’t hit me, I was super-slick. It was easy work. I give Barkley credit for being tough and staying in there and for having the guts to fight me, but he belonged to me.

Nobody could have touched me that night, nobody. I ruined Barkley that night, no doubt. He was finished after the fight with me. I ruined a few guys who were dumb enough to challenge me. I went to the body, the head – I hit him with every shot. I busted him up and he had no choice but to quit. I broke his bones. His trainer, Eddie Mustafa [Muhammad] did the right thing in waving the towel when he did. It would have been even worse for him if the fight had gone on a few more rounds.

I felt faster, stronger and a harder puncher up at super-middleweight. In fact, I was better and stronger in each weight-class I went up [to]. I should have been a heavyweight way sooner than when I finally moved up to heavyweight, but I listened to people who told me I was a middleweight.

But against Barkley, he never hurt me, not one time. He never hit me. I was way too good defensively. I never lost a single round. He was a good fighter, a decent fighter who had become world champion, but no way was he ever in my class. I took that fight ultra-serious, but I had fun that night. I blunted “The Blade”. That fight is one of my most enjoyable to look back on. That was me at my best, at my sharpest. In some other fights, I made the mistake of not preparing myself to be at my best mentally and physically. But I really wanted this guy. I wanted his blood and I made sure I got it. He didn’t talk no more s*** to me after taking that ass-kicking.

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  • I remember a revealing moment in the early ’90s, when Toney was on a live tv link from America to a studio in London where Benn and Eubank were sat spouting the usual. Toney straight out offered to come over and fight both of them – and Benn and Eubank suddenly went very, very quiet. Neither of them took up Toney’s offer. There’s a reason for that.

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