10 Fighters Who Didn't Know When to Quit

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

10 Fighters Who Didn't Know When to Quit

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    Boxing is a sport in which a fighter can rise to the top in meteoric fashion and then crash just as quickly. 

    The nature of the game is such that few fighters are ever able to attain and maintain a level of success that keeps them at the top of the sport.

    Those who do are deserving of the term legends.

    But far too often these same men are the last to realize that their time has passed. 

    The jab isn't as quick anymore. The reflexes are a half-step slower. The right hook that used to end fights just can't get there anymore.

    And sometimes due to self-delusion, or unfortunately in some cases due to financial problems, these fighters continue to plod on and do unnecessary damage to their health and legacy.

    These men fit that bill perfectly as we examine the 10 fighters who didn't know when to quit.

Mike Tyson

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    Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion in history, the most feared fighter in history, the former baddest man on the planet. 

    And also the man who was beaten by Kevin McBride and Danny Williams. That's not even mentioning the shell of a Mike Tyson who was dominated by Lennox Lewis.

    It was less than a fitting end for a man who spent near a decade dominating the heavyweight division through a combination of lethal punching power and sheer terror. 

    For most opponents, the fight was over before they even stepped into the ring. Tyson's reputation was such that some fighters lost the bout during the walk to the ring. 

    Financial troubles, and some mental ones as well, kept "Iron" Mike in the ring well past his best. 

    It's hard to imagine Kevin McBride or Danny Williams surviving the first 90 seconds against Tyson in his prime.

Roy Jones Jr.

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    There was a time when Roy Jones Jr. was so good that it was impossible to find him a competitive—much less compelling—fight.

    Jones dominated the light-heavyweight division and was light-years better than virtually every fighter who stepped into the ring against him. 

    A controversial disqualification loss to Montell Griffin notwithstanding, nobody even came close to challenging Jones. Beating him seemed impossible. 

    That is until he decided to move up to heavyweight and then back down to light heavyweight to face top contender Antonio Tarver.

    Tarver gave Jones hell in their first bout, losing a close decision, and then came back to knock Jones out in brutal fashion in the second round of a rematch. 

    Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the only spectacular knockout loss for Jones, who was also stopped in scary fashion by Glen Johnson, Danny Green and Denis Lebedev. 

Julio Cesar Chavez

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    Julio Cesar Chavez is one of boxing's all-time greats. He won six world titles in three weight divisions and started his career with 90 fights without a defeat.

    He was best known for being relentless in the ring with a fierce body attack and a stalking, pressure style that forced most of his opponents to wilt. 

    By the time he faced Oscar De La Hoya in 1996, it was clear that the younger fighter's time had come and Chavez's time had passed. "The Golden Boy" stopped Chavez in the fourth round after reopening a brutal cut suffered in training camp.

    Chavez would put up a spirited battle in the rematch and should have called it a career there. But instead he fought on and was sadly beaten by such ordinary fighters as Willy Wise and Grover Wiley.

    The saddest moment came when he was absolutely dominated by a young, prime Kostya Tszyu in a fight he had no business being in.

Evander Holyfield

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    The saddest testament to Evander Holyfield's unwillingness to face reality is the damage done to his legacy. 

    Holyfield is considered one of boxing's biggest overachievers, a man who dominated both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions and possibly the best fighter of his era.

    His grit and determination are legendary and propelled him to wins over many more talented fighters.

    But his constant ability to overcome the odds deluded him into many poor decisions late in his career. If he had retired after his rematch with Lennox Lewis in 1999, a close fight that many saw a draw or even a win for Evander, his legacy would be secure.

    But he trudged on, splitting a terrible three-fight series with the woeful John Ruiz and later being dominated by Chris Byrd, James Toney and, worst of all, Larry Donald. 

    Sadly, most people will remember "The Real Deal" for his end-of-career delusions rather than his in-ring brilliance.

Al Cole

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    This one may be a bit of a reach for some, but Al "Ice" Cole was a dominant cruiserweight champion in the early to mid-1990s. 

    He won the IBF title in 1992 and held onto it for three years before vacating it to move up to the heavyweight division.

    That was his first mistake. Cole was woefully over his head at heavyweight and dropped a shutout decision to Tim Witherspoon in his first bout.

    Sadly, it would only get worse.

    Cole would also taste defeat to such heavyweight luminaries as Michael Grant, Kirk Johnson—and here come the real heavy hitters—Terrence Lewis, David Bostice, Sherman Williams and Sedreck Fields.

    Cole not only continued fighting well outside his weight but for way too long, winning just eight of his final 26 fights.

Shane Mosley

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    "Sugar" Shane Mosley was an elite fighter at lightweight and welterweight who amassed several world titles and notable victories in his career. 

    But the end of his career was ugly and hard to watch.

    For a fighter who in his prime had amazing reflexes and stunning speed, it was difficult seeing him in the ring unable to get his shots where they needed to be. 

    Watching him get picked apart by Floyd Mayweather was bad enough. But to see him struggle to a draw with Sergio Mora and then get decimated by Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez, in fights he had no business taking, was too much.

    Mosley is sadly in the process of making a comeback. With a fight against WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi discussed for later this year, he could even further damage his legacy.

Muhammad Ali

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    Say what you will about Muhammad Ali, and it's all been said before. He's one of the best, if not the absolute best, heavyweight of all time. He is a cultural icon whom most people think of when they think of boxing.

    But he fought on too long. Luckily, not far too long, but too long nonetheless.

    Ali is remembered for beating Foreman, Liston and Frazier. And that's his legacy as it should be.

    Late in his career after an ill-conceived comeback, he dropped fights to Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. You can excuse the Holmes defeat but certainly not the other two. 

    Neither of those guys would have lasted long with "The Greatest" in his prime.

Fernando Vargas

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    You wanna talk about a fighter who rose to the top of the sport like a shot and then fell like a stone?

    Look no further than Fernando Vargas, who was considered at one point boxing's most elite prospect and ended his career as a sort of sideshow.

    Vargas won his first 20 fights, most in dominant fashion, to capture the IBF junior middleweight title. In that span he defeated many notable fighters including Yori Boy Campas, Raul Marquez, Winky Wright and Ike Quartey. 

    After being beaten and badly battered by Felix Trinidad, it was downhill for "El Feroz." 

    He would still be competitive against lower-level opposition but was dominated by Oscar De La Hoya in a grudge match. He closed his career with three ill-conceived losses—two against Shane Mosley and one against Ricardo Mayorga.

Felix Trinidad

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    Felix "Tito" Trinidad was one of the sport's most exciting fighters in his prime. He was fast, had heavy hands and was susceptible to getting knocked down.

    That made nearly all of his fights compelling to watch. His first 40 fights, all wins, included Oscar De La Hoya, David Reid, Fernando Vargas, Yori Boy Campas and what used to resemble Pernell Whitaker.

    And then he ran into a middleweight champion whom you may have heard about, Bernard Hopkins, and got absolutely and thoroughly outclassed.  

    He would only fight four times after that night, defeating Hacine Cherifi and Ricardo Mayorga but getting dominated by Winky Wright.

    His last bout was a ludicrous showcase far above his natural weight against an equally faded Roy Jones Jr.

    That fight wouldn't have even made sense when both were in their prime.

Sugar Ray Leonard

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    Here's a good rule of thumb: If you retire, then stay retired.

    Unfortunately, Sugar Ray Leonard made the mistake of returning on more than one occasion.

    With his legacy more than secure, Leonard made an ill-conceived return to the ring after more than year layoff and was dominated by "Terrible" Terry Norris in a bout for the WBC junior middleweight title.

    The tragedy could have ended there. But Leonard once again returned to the ring—this time after more than six years away—to face the late Hector "Macho" Camacho.

    No disrespect to Camacho, but this fight was a farce. Leonard was so far past his best that it didn't even matter that Camacho was no longer near his prime either. 

    It was hard watching a great like Leonard get battered and beaten around the ring by a man whom he would have easily defeated when he was at his peak.