James Toney once threw a chair at me. Naturally, I did not retaliate in kind since I do no lifting, heavy or otherwise, but now, Mr. Chairman, it is time for payback. James, you’re going to lose to John Ruiz.
Don’t blame me. It’s your own fault, the same way you were no match for Roy Jones Jr. (when you threw the chair at me during the final press conference). You were out of shape, you now say. Blame me for that? And have you learned your lesson? I think not.
Even I thought it near impossible for a boxer as slick as you to lose to someone as crude as Ruiz. But the last time I saw you, slouching in a chair on that insult to Western civilization known as "Best Damn Sports Show etc.," you looked about as fit as Butterbean. Maybe we should call you Butterball.
A reader messaged me saying he saw a picture of you taken on April 15, just 15 days before your appointment in Madison Square Garden with Ruiz. He guessed you weighed 255, maybe even 260 pounds, at least 30 over what you should be. And if you show up next Saturday on HBO looking okay, maybe from losing a lot of weight quickly, it would be more cosmetic than healthy.
You’re giving Ruiz too much of a target to grab. You never were a dancer, of course, but your subtle little movements unsettled opponents. They looked left, but suddenly you were attacking from the right. Against someone as slow as Ruiz, you should have had no trouble. But, then, isn’t that what we said when you fought David Tiberi years ago?
What is with you? Don’t you want to win? Don’t you want to do something nice for the game, like sending Ruiz and his boorish manager, Norman Stone, off into the sunset? You’ve been moving your mouth a lot, and apparently for more than talking, telling us all how they’re all bums in the heavyweight division and you’re here to clean them up.
You’ve done nothing so far as a heavyweight. Knocking out Evander Holyfield (thank you, my wallet needed that) at that stage of his career, struggling with something named Rydell Booker, hardly qualifies you as a savior.
Even your exciting victory over Vasilliy Jirov became tainted when Joe Mesi, before he ran out of gas, handled the big guy a lot easier than you did. That should have been the tip off. Plodders like Jirov never bothered you. The clever and speedy guys gave you trouble. Like Michael Nunn, before you unloaded that left hook that first made you a champion at 160 pounds.
Losing to Roy Jones Jr. we can excuse. He was on top of his considerable game then. But you always blamed the fact you were way overweight and had to lose a ton at the last minute. Well, whose fault was that, big guy? Sometimes I think you’re afraid of winning. Like now.
Okay, you’re a real heavyweight, but you should be a small heavyweight, somewhere around the size of Chris Byrd (205-210 pounds). Yeah, I know, I should talk. But I don’t do anything more physical than opening a jar of spaghetti sauce. I know you grew up in a bakery. Me too. Food odors excite you. Eating is fun.
But it’s not very healthy. You’re finding out. Parts break down and there are just so many times an athlete can go to the body shop for repairs. Now I’m afraid John Ruiz, the ugliest stylist in recent ring history, may be able to put some dents in you. And don’t kid yourself. He may be ugly, but he’s tough and he’s dirty (well, okay, he hasn’t a tenth of your tricks). But most of all, he’s willing. He has a way of reducing opponents to his level.
You should have been above all that. You should have been able to tease him silly, frustrate him, get him off balance, drop him, eventually take his heart.
But where is your willpower, your desire? It doesn’t look good that you apparently can’t get in shape for what could be not the crowning glory of your oft brilliant career (the first fight with Mike McCallum, the one they robbed you by giving you a draw, that was a magnificent performance against a bona fide Hall of Famer) but the key to even greater conquests.
Your assessment of the heavyweight division, alas, is all too true. You should have been able to go through it like a knife through butter. But I guess that vision just made you hungry.
For ring smarts and boxing skills, you should be way more than a 2-1 favorite against Ruiz. But if you’re not in shape, you can’t win.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe you’re really a svelte 220 pounds and in joyous good health. If so, all bets are off, but for now, while I probably can’t bet on Ruiz against a James Toney, I certainly can’t bet on someone who throws chairs instead of pushing them away from the table.