Juan Manuel Marquez planned to retire once before. Then a landscape-altering knockout of Manny Pacquiao resuscitated Marquez's career, ballooned his popularity and set back his plans to ride off into the sunset by at least a year.
But following Saturday's controversial split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley, the 40-year-old boxer is again openly talking about calling it quits.
Pressed to take a more stringent stance—essentially asked whether this was mere post-fight frustration or a serious retirement bid—Marquez dejectedly asked a reporter what he thought of the fight. When the reporter complimented him on his toughness and claimed he'd have at least a couple more fights, Marquez didn't seem too sure.
“I don’t think so,” Marquez said.
When discussing the possible retirement of a boxer, it's probably best to take every quote with an entire shaker's worth of salt. Boxers retire, unretire, retire again, unretire again and then are finally forced out of the sport. They make Brett Favre look decisive by comparison.
And, forgive me for this #HOTTAKE, but perhaps it's not the best time to ask someone about their future endeavors after they've just gotten their face bashed in for the past 36 minutes.
To their credit, Marquez's camp was quick to quell the retirement talk.
Trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain told reporters after the fight that they "haven't discussed" walking away. Promoter and friend Fernando Beltran shooed away retirement discussions, instead saying he hoped that Marquez and Bradley could have a rematch in Mexico City.
Bradley's attorney said there was "no way" he would fight Marquez in Mexico City, mainly because it's become required at this point for every representative to go all Rocky after fights.
But the real question here is whether Marquez actually wants to fight anymore.
Erika Marquez, Juan Manuel's wife, wanted her husband to retire as planned in 2012 after defeating Pacquiao. Juan Manuel was much more boisterous back then, not committing one way or another. He obviously returned to the ring against Bradley after convincing his wife that he was good for a few more fights.
It's possible that a "few fights" has turned into one.
Selling your family on extending your physically harmful career is just a bit easier when possible mega-fights loom in the offing. A win versus Bradley could have turned Marquez into the hottest name in the sport at age 40, perhaps enough to convince Floyd Mayweather to break his decade-long string of not fighting the same person more than once.
Now, it's Bradley who is calling out Mayweather, as reported by USA Today's Leighton Ginn. Now, it's Marquez looking at an uncertain landscape well past the prime age for a boxer. Now, perhaps the only way to strike another fat payday is a fifth bout against Manny Pacquiao—something Marquez has already ruled out.
Perhaps a bout with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez could be put together, but again, Marquez has made it clear he has no interest. Alvarez had to go down to a catchweight to fight Mayweather, and I doubt he'd have much interest in doing that again for a lesser payday.
That leaves Marquez in an interesting spot. Without a perfect next opponent. Without a guaranteed eight-figure payday staring him in the face. Without a majority of the things it looked like he had regained when taking down Pacquiao.
It seems like the perfect time for retirement. And perhaps it is.
But in the world of boxing, the question of "Will he retire?" often comes down to two words: How much?
Health, family and other factors certainly come into play. Don't mistake this as a crass attempt to paint boxers as some money-grubbing lower life form whose only endeavor is the pursuit of money.
The fact is, for all athletes, earning power only comes for a finite period. They aren't placed in our traditional work structure, where you get incrementally paid more as you age and look for promotions that add salary and lessen work. Athletes earn far more than any of our wildest dreams, but they're also subject to spending their entire life living on money they made at age 28.
Boxers has it especially rough. There aren't hundreds of six-figure talking head jobs available the way there are in football, basketball and baseball. George Foreman, one of the most marketable boxers in modern history, made a comeback to avoid bankruptcy and made a boatload of his post-career cash off a grill.
And that, of course, is before we get into all the health complications that tend to come later in life for boxers.
I'm not privy to Marquez's bank account, nor do I care to be. What I can't do, however, is blame him if he wants to make seven figures one more time before walking out the door.
Some high-profile fighter's camp will come calling. Or maybe it will be some up-and-comer who wants to get recognition while giving Marquez the lion's share of the fight profits.
But there will be offers on the table for Marquez to stave off retirement for one more bout—if there aren't already a couple on the table.
Once someone—a promoter, agent, etc.—answers the "how much" question, then a second comes for Marquez: Is it worth it?
Is pouring months of his time and more of his brain cells worth the amount that folks are willing to pay to watch him fight?
If the answer is yes—and I think it will be—he'll be back in the ring sometime in 2014. If the answer is no, Marquez can walk away from boxing with the satisfaction of someone who arguably derailed Manny Pacquiao's legacy in one punch.
In the sport of boxing, the answer to that question begins with the offer.
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