A Cigar for the New Champ

After 12 rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, new heavyweight champion James "Lights Out" Toney wasn't nearly as beat up as his victory cigar.

Toney won a unanimous decision over John Ruiz to take the WBA crown. As the judges' verdict was announced, the new champ dropped to his knees. Seconds later, he was chomping on a cigar, the foot of which had begun to unravel. The smoke (it looked like a Cuban Romeo y Julieta) presumably took a beating in someone's pocket.

The cigar must have felt a little like Ruiz, who was bloodied by Toney's unforgiving right hand, which he slipped over Ruiz's slower jab repeatedly. Although Toney was fighting at a very heavy 233 pounds, his faster hands and superior ring skills baffled Ruiz, who announced his retirement soon after the fight.

Toney, who previously held titles in the middleweight and cruiserweight divisions, became the third middleweight champ to move up in weight and win a heavyweight crown. The 36-year-old improved his long record to 69 wins (43 by knockout), four losses and two draws.

Cigars are nothing new to Toney, a passionate cigar smoker who puffs right up to his fight dates, with a particular fondness for Montecristo No. 2. Practically fearless, Toney told Cigar Aficionado last year that he wanted to fight WBC champ Vitali Klitschko, a giant of a man nine inches taller than him. "I don't turn down nothing but my collar," he said.

But there are limits to Toney's bravery. His cigar remained unlit, in deference to New York City's draconian smoking laws.

Click here for the December 2004 Cigar Aficionado feature entitled, "Cigar All-Stars," featuring James Toney as well as a host of other Pro-puffers.

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