Toney up for task at Sky Ute

James Toney, headliner of tonight's
James Toney, headliner of tonight's "Rumble in the Rockies II" card in Ignacio, is seen on a 1991 Kayo Round One trading card. He earned Fighter of the Year distinction from both Ring Magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America that year, and he'd repeat the dual honor in 2003 — in which he made his heavyweight-level debut with a win over Evander Holyfield.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Nearly 10 years have passed since he began his quest to become heavyweight champion — he’d fittingly portrayed legend Joe Frazier against Will Smith’s “Ali” two years earlier — of the world.

Conquering former champ Evander Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KO; last fought May 2011) was indeed quite a debut in the division, and it appeared James Toney had reached his ultimate goal in ’05 after winning a 12-round unanimous decision over John Ruiz for the World Boxing Association’s belt.

But a post-fight drug test indicated the presence of the anabolic steroid stanozolol — which Toney claimed was administered by a doctor to treat an injury sustained in his previous fight — and the New York Athletic Commission changed the bout’s official outcome to “no contest,” returning the title to Ruiz.

Temporarily banned from a title fight by the WBA, Toney recovered to position himself for a shot at Hasim Rahman for the WBC’s crown in 2006. But their clash ended in a 12-round majority draw, again denying Toney — who’d already been world champ as a middleweight (IBF), super middle (IBF), and cruiserweight (IBF/IBO) during his career’s ascent — one of the sport’s defining distinctions.

Back to the present: Despite his 45th birthday (Aug. 24) approaching, and not even two months after a loss on the far side of the globe seeking the WBF’s belt, the man known as “Lights Out” will step inside Sky Ute Casino Resort Events Center’s ring tonight, continuing his climb back into contention.

Standing 74-8-3 (45 KO) with two NCs — the other his ’08 rematch with Rahman (now 50-8-2, 41 KO) — in his Hall of Fame-worthy career, Toney will headline Rumble in the Rockies II against Denver’s Kenny “Sagrado” Lemos (12-7, 8 KO), a former two-time Colorado Golden Gloves champ as an amateur.

“We realize that there is a huge and passionate fight fan base there, and therefore James is going to be in excellent shape and plans on putting on a heck of a show,” said manager John Arthur in a Sky Ute press release. “James is out to regain the heavyweight championship and this fight is … a must win.”

After an unsuccessful one-off mixed-martial arts loss in the UFC, Toney has gone two up, two down — including the aforementioned loss April 28 in Australia by unanimous decision (111-117, 109-119, 108-120) to up-and-comer Lucas Browne (16-0-0, 14 KO) — since resuming his quest to be the best.

“Sky Ute Casino is very excited to have someone of James Toney’s caliber fight at our venue,” Marketing Coordinator Tracy Leppert said. “We have been doing professional boxing for nearly 15 years, and he is definitely one of the biggest names to step into our ring.”

“I am very excited to have this opportunity with a legend. This isn’t about money or bad blood; it is about me being fortunate enough to get this chance in my life,” Lemos said in the release. “I am in great shape and coming out of the ring with the biggest win in my career.”

Expect one of this generation’s best pound-for-pound punchers to wholly disagree.

Regional fighters Chavira Jack, Chris Leyva, Zamir Young, Steve Victor, brothers Suanita and Jazzma Hogue and Denver’s Brittany Cruz were all slated to scrap on the event’s undercard as of Monday, June 24.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the first bell targeted for 7. Ticket prices are $25, $35 and $45 and can be purchased at the Sky Ute box office (888-842-4180) or online at

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