As James “Lights Out” Toney continues to prepare for his March 18th challenge in Atlantic City for Hasim Rahman’s WBC heavyweight title belt, a win would not only propel the career of “Boxing’s Shortest Big Man” to new heights but would arguably establish him as the sport’s Most Valuable Player, according to his longtime promoter, Dan Goossen. “Boxing’s yearly MVP Award is called “Boxer of the Year” – an award that James Toney has twice received,” Goossen offered.
“The concept of an MVP award was designed for the athlete who is deemed most dominant in his sport. Professional boxing with it’s champions competing in various weight categories has mostly been dominated by Heavyweight MVP’s. Champions such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis have all been the driving force in boxing during their championship reigns. There is no more prestigious title in sports than the “Heavyweight Champion of the World.” The holder of that title is customarily recognized as boxing’s MVP,” Goossen emphasized.
Should the five-feet-nine inch Toney dethrone Rahman, he would become the shortest world heavyweight champion of the modern boxing era (only Tommy Burns, champion from 1906-08, at 5’7” was shorter).
Toney would join a list of other shortest MVPs in their respective sports:
In the National Hockey League season of 1928-29, Goaltender Roy Worters, of the New York Americans was the shortest MVP of all time at 5’3” when he won the award. Montreal Canadians’ left-winger Aurel Joliat (5’7”) was the league’s shortest skater to win the MVP in the 1933-34 season. In the modern era, Chicago Blackhawks center Stan Mikita (twice, 1966-67 and 1967-68) and Tampa Bay Lightning right-winger Martin St. Louis (2003-04) were MVPs at Toney’s 5’9” stature.
In Major League Baseball, New York Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto (1950) and Philadelphia A’s pitcher Bobby Shantz (1952) were the shortest American league MVPs at 5’6”. Two-time National League MVP (1975 and 1976) Joe Morgan, second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, was the shortest MVP in that league at 5’7”.
In the National Football League, Barry Sanders, the great running back for Toney’s hometown Detroit Lions, won or shared MVP honors twice (1991 and 1997), and was the league’s shortest at 5’8”.
In Major League Soccer, the league’s shortest MVP was 5’8” midfielder Alex Pineda Chacon of the Miami Fusion.
In the National Basketball Association, Philadelphia Sixers guard Allen Iverson, at 6’0” is the league’s shortest MVP to date, winning the award for the 2000-01 season.