We often admire boxers for the amazing things that they have accomplished. A lot of these achievements relate to the boxer’s age. A few, well-known examples come to mind. Mike Tyson stormed through the heavyweight division in the 1980s. He subsequently became the youngest ever heavyweight champion at a mere 20 years old. On the opposite end of the spectrum is big old George Foreman. Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion at an astonishing 46 years old!
However, not all of the boxers made the wisest decisions. It often happens that some fighters are too connected to the sport and refuse to retire. When these out-of-prime fighters have to face younger fighters, the result often isn’t pretty. There are boxers in the history of boxing who should have hung up their gloves earlier than they did.
Marco Antonio Barrera
Who can forget the fearless Mexican Barrera? He boasts an incredible record of 75 fights and 67 wins. These fights include an unforgettable trilogy with the great Erik Morales and two fights with Manny Pacquiao. Barerra was a blessing to the world of boxing.
He had one of the most memorable careers of all time. The baby-faced assassin shook the boxing world on many occasions. None of them were quite as memorable as his shock victory over Prince Naseem Hamed.
Barrera had fought a staggering 75 times. This is impressive when compared to how early fighters retire today. However, one may feel that he asked his body to endure too much. Nevertheless, Barrera retired whilst everything was good and he was healthy.
The problem is that Barrera intends to come out of retirement. There is a modern-day culture where retired boxers step into the ring one final time. We saw Tyson v Jones and Anderson Silva v Chavez Jnr. Barerra has indicated that he is preparing for a comeback fight. This fight is set to take place on the 2nd of July against former Welterweight champion, Ricky Hatton.
Boxing is an extremely physical and dangerous sport. It is certainly not healthy for both these fighters’ to take a beating when they are already deep into their 40s.
Sugar Shane Mosley was a welterweight champion with a stellar record. He had 61 fights in his career and suffered 10 losses. His career spanned three decades, from 1993 to 2016. Ten losses might seem like quite a few. That is until you read about everyone who he has fought against.
Mosley fought De la Hoya, Mayweather, Pacquiao, Alvarez and Mayorga all in their prime. He was fast and strong and won 41 fights by KO. However, Mosley was not the same fighter towards the end of his career. He retired deep into his 40s. Mosley wanted to continue fighting for even longer than he did. He had another few fights lined up.
The boxing hall of fame stated that his body was breaking down, before his retirement in 2017. It’s quite clear that after taking hits for three decades, his body should have shown it. Mosley also mentioned that he had had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow. He explained that the operation was a simple one. But, somehow things went wrong and his elbow was seriously damaged in the process. This was the final nail in the coffin and Mosley has never fought since.
Mosley came to light of fighting at such a late age. Some back pain or a stiff neck is not that big of a price to pay for years of fighting. One cannot help but wonder whether he would have been in even better physical health, had he retired earlier.
119 fights. 103 wins. 70 Kos. Need we say more? The hands stone stormed through the best of fighters to win titles in four different weight classes. His trilogy with Sugar Ray Leonard will always go down as one of the greatest fights in history. Duran was an excellent boxer with tremendous power. He shone in a time when the middleweight division was full of talent.
What is maybe the craziest part about this boxer, was that his career spanned over 5 decades. He fought as a professional from the age of 16 and finally retired aged 50. Duran had moved up all the way to the middleweight division when the 90s came. He was already past 40 years old but continued to impress.
Duran indicated on various instances that he was retiring. However, he always changed his mind. Duran reached the 2000s having lost the majority of his previous 5 fights. It was clear that he was way past his prime and that it was time for him to hang up the gloves for good.
Duran was involved in a dangerous car crash in October 2001. He was in a critical decision and there were doubts that he would survive. Duran did survive, like the true fighter he was. But during his recovery in 2002, he decided to finally retire for good.
Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. was one of the greatest boxers of all time. Today he is a popular face in the commentary box during important matchups. During his prime, RJJ was the only boxer to win a title at middleweight and at heavyweight. He turned professional after winning a silver medal at the Seoul Olympic Games.
He won titles in astonishing four different weight classes. He dominated the pound-for-pound rankings for years. His incredible speed and unconventional style made him one of the most dominating fighters of all time. RJJ fought until the age of 49 before he finally retired after 75 professional fights. The last few years of his career saw various controversies.
Some are of the opinion that he should have retired after his devastating KO loss to Glen Johnson in 2004. But he continued to fight in spite of the results not being in his favor. There were concerns about his health, as he continued to fight late into his 40s. RJJ suffered another KO loss in 2015 to Enzo Maccarinelli.
It is never to see those we once admired get beaten so badly. RJJ came out of retirement for an exhibition fight against Mike Tyson. RJJ was chased around the ring for a few rounds, but luckily neither one of them took too much punishment. In the end, it is good to see that the champ is still healthy.
Evander “the real deal” Holyfield was an incredible boxer once upon a time. His career is often tainted by the controversial incident with Mike Tyson. But the champ was one of the best cruiserweights to ever set foot in the ring. He even went up to heavyweight later on in his career. He boasts a record of 57 fights and 44 wins in a career that lasted 27 years.
Holyfield had his last official fight in 2011. The champ had a difficult run of fights ever since 2004. After his loss against Larry Donald, the New York Athletic Commission even suspended his license. This prevented him from fighting for two years.
He returned to the ring with a few insignificant wins and losing any fight mildly important. The champ continued to talk the talk and was ready to ‘unify’ titles late on in his career. It became clear that he was past walking the walk, as the time went by. Holyfield finally confirmed his retirement in 2014.
The previous champ just did not want to hang up the gloves. In 2021, Holyfield stepped into the ring to face Vitor Belfort. The former UFC champion made light work of Holyfield and stopped him under 2 minutes into the first round. Holyfield turned 59 a few weeks later.
Ali is rightly referred to as “the greatest”. There is likely not someone who has had such an incredible impact on the sport as Ali. Ali was a heavyweight with insane fast hands. He had incredible reflexes. He rose to popularity due to his entertaining personality, but also because of his activism against the racist America of the time.
He retired with a record of 56 wins and 5 losses. The champ sadly passed away in 2016 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. People tend to speculate about when would have been the best for fighters to retire. There are differing opinions, but nobody liked watching the last few fights of Ali. Parkinson’s had already developed at that stage.
The champ was a fraction of the fighter that he once was. Years of getting hit and fighting had taken their toll. Ali was still fighting in 1978 after a long, legendary career. He won the title for the long-time third time against Spinks. Most people would agree that this Ali was way past his prime.
1980 and 1981 saw the final nail in the coffin for Ali’s boxing career. He lost to his long-time training partner, Larry Holmes. Holmes held back against a very emotional Ali, who never should have stepped into the ring. In 1981, the champ lost a decision against Trevor Berbick. Both these fighters would have never beaten Ali in his prime. It was sad to see the champ take a beating after such an incredible career.
James Toney’s story is an incredible one. He was a star quarterback who got lost along the way through High School. He ended up in a boxing ring, where he had success. He ranked up with 77 wins in his 92 fights across various weight classes. Toney was a stunning counter puncher and was deadly on the inside.
Toney was set for his first title fight at 160 pounds against the respected Michael Nunn. Legendary trainer Angelo Dundee threw in the towel in the 11th round as Toney won his first title. This was the first of many titles for Toney.
He moved up to cruiserweight after a two-year break away from the sport. He defeated his first ten opponents, before winning the title against Vassiliy Jirov. Toney continues to impress as a heavyweight. He fought Hasim Rahman to a draw. He also beat a past-his-prime Holyfield and dominated John Ruiz.
A rematch with Rahman ended in a no-contest due to a clash of heads. Toney was then in his 40s and continued to fight until 2017 when retired at the age of 49. It was clear that he no longer was the fighter he once was. Toney ended his last decade of fighting with 7 victories and 4 losses.
Bernard Hopkins was an incredible fighter whose career lasted from 1988 to 2016. Hopkins retired with a total of 67 fights and 55 wins. Hopkins had an illustrious career. He dominated the middleweight division before jumping up in weight classes.
Hopkins‘ story about aging is different from other boxers. He broke George Foreman’s record to become the oldest world champion ever. He beat Jean Pascal in 2011 to win the WBC light heavyweight title. The best part is, that he was 46 years old at the time.
Few boxers can compare with what Hopkins has achieved. When I say this, I am talking about the achievements of his prime. It was an incredible, unheard-of feat, to win a title at 46 years of age. Hopkins, unfortunately, proved that in the end time catches up with all of us. A way past his prime Hopkins fought Sergey Kovalev in 2014. Kovalev is an incredible fighter and dropped Hopkins in the first round. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Hopkins was one of the few fighters who remained active long after his prime. He was also the exception considering that he did not get beaten as badly as the others on this list did. He retired very short to be at the top of the sport. There is no man on earth that cannot respect his professional achievements.
We mentioned Holmes earlier in this article. Strangely enough, it was because he was the youngster fighting a past-his-prime Ali. How the tables have turned because it became clear that Holmes was fighting long after he should have stopped.
Holmes had an incredible career as a heavyweight. He fought 75 fights and won 69 of them. He fought behind a lightning-fast jab. He had a boxer’s mind and could outsmart the severest of opponents. One cannot help but wonder how much of this he owes to sparring with the greatest, Muhammad Ali.
Holmes retired several times. He chose to do so publicly, just to change his mind later on. He hung up the gloves for good in 2002, putting stop to a 29-year-long career. January 1988 saw a retired Holmes come out of retirement to challenge the then Heavyweight champion of the world.
This was none other than Mike Tyson. Nobody in good shape stood a chance against prime Mike Tyson. Never mind an older, slower version of Larry Holmes. Holmes was beaten to a pulp and the fight ended in the fourth round.
Holmes continued to fight long after his loss against Tyson. He fought for the last time in a strange fight against Eric “Butterbean“ Esch. He finally retired after winning the fight via unanimous decision.
Tyson is arguably one of the greatest fighters to have ever stepped into the ring. He is by far one of the top 3 heavyweights, only being challenged by Ali. Tyson was the most dominant heavyweight while he was in his prime.
He had power that was unheard of. He fought as a heavyweight with the speed of a light-heavyweight, which made him the frighteningly perfect fighter he was. He fought 58 times and won on 50 occasions. His power is evident from the fact that 44 of these wins came by knockout.
Tyson’s career was filled with incredible controversy. Those who saw him fight during the 80s were incredibly privileged. But it was also sad to see an icon fight whilst being way past his prime. Tyson was declared bankrupt in 2003 and had to fight until 2005 in order to stay afloat. Tyson continued to fight until 2005, before finally retiring for good.
Tyson’s final few fights saw him taking a lot of punishment. He lost against fighters that never stood a chance against him in his prime. He was knocked out by Lewis in 2002 and by Danny Williams in 2004. Life became too much for the former champ and he quit in his fight against Kevin McBride in 2005. The champ no longer was his former self and it was heartbreaking to see.
I do not think that fans should concern themselves too much when professional boxers should resign. The amount of time and effort that these fighters have poured into the sport is incredible. It speaks to their passion for the sport and to their commitment. It seems unfair for the casual fan to bear a credible opinion about what such a dedicated boxer has to do.
That is why one should read this article with an open mind. Yes, it is often sad to see fighters getting a beating whilst being past their prime. But, we can choose to respect them for the love they have for the game. Miguel Cotto once sat with his wife after a fight. She said that the fact that he still boxes hurt her. He responded by saying, “it is all I know“.
That is the harsh reality. Often, all that the fighters know, is boxing. They have earned all our respect for that.