Shane Mosley and the Top 10 Fighters Who Fought Too Long
Shane Mosley’s upcoming bout with Manny Pacquiao seems beyond his deteriorating talents. His decline evident in bouts with Floyd Mayweather and then Sergio Mora; Mosley is not the force he once was.
Although one cannot doubt his inclination, one remains skeptical of his execution.
His breathing has become heavy, his punch output is in decline and he seems one nudge away from being pushed off the glass cliff and into retirement.
Yet, this is no rare occurrence. The oft-told tale of the boxer who winds up punch-drunk, penniless or both unfortunately tends to be the rule rather then the exception.
Riding off into the sunset on the back of success is rare, because successful men, never mind boxers, do not quit when they are ahead, thinking the good times will never end.
Only prizefighters, as these 10 will tell you, unlike ordinary men, pay a more exacting toll for such insouciance.
10) Sugar Ray Leonard
Initially, Sugar Ray retired at 26 when diagnosed with a detached retina, Leonard himself once prophesied “I always said I would receive a message when to leave the ring. This is that message.”
The message was either lacking in clarity, or Sugar was indulging in lip service, because Leonard did return, and aside from his virtuoso display against Marvin Hagler, he was never quite the same.
Alcohol and cocaine abuse during his two-year sabbatical proved to have obvious detrimental effect. He was lethargic and negative against a bloated Duran in their third fight and under whelming against an inspired Tommy Hearns.
Leonard retired soon after only to return, retire and return again. During this period, he suffered two of the three defeats on his career ledger—both times humiliated and receiving the only stoppage in his career at the age of 40 against Hector Camacho.
A sorry unnecessary affair in which one scribe described Leonard’s advisers condoning his presence as unconscionable, "had he been a horse, he would have never been allowed past the starting gate."
Sugar Ray in His Prime and on the Decline
9) Julio Cesar Chavez
Some point to his bout with Pernell Whitaker as being first evidence of J.C’s decline. What they fail to consider is Whitaker’s negative and awkward style had the potential to make even the greatest of boxers seem like mere club fighters.
The two bouts with Frankie Randall, the initial bout in which Chavez experienced his first career knockdown were true harbingers of his future decline. He struggled to capitalise on openings and didn’t possess the velocity or variety of punches he once had in his arsenal.
Arguably, neither of the fights with De La Hoya should have occurred, but it is hard to reason against it when J.C was receiving career-best paydays.
In the rematch, we witnessed the gutsy, heart-before-head Chavez quit on his stool in ignominy.
In a strange foreshadowing of what would later occur to De La Hoya himself, he retired under the seeming relentless pressure of the younger man.
Chavez continued until 2005, suffering losses to Willy Wise, Grover Wiley and the despicably sanctioned world title fight against future pound-for-pound great Kostya Tszyu.
Chavez in His Prime and on the Decline
In his prime: Chavez's inspirational KO over the talented Meldrick Taylor:
On the decline: Chavez worn and depleted vs. De La Hoya I (I tried in vain to find their rematch because it better illustrates Chavez's decline, but this will suffice) :
8) Roy Jones Jr.
Jones Jr hit his plateau of greatness when he became the first middleweight in 106 years to capture a heavyweight crown.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Last that was heard of Jones, his fight with Danny Santiago had been postponed, and in last week's edition of Ringside (On UK Television), it was announced he had put his name forward for the knockdown-drag out glorified barroom brawl that is Prizefighter.
One remains concerned for Jones’ career. The nature of his defeats since capturing the Heavyweight title have been dramatic and brutal. He has suffered KO’s at the hands of Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson and Danny Green.
Jones was 48-1 after the Ruiz bout, he is 6-6 since.
Was his career worth prolonging for a hotly contested decision victory over Antonio Tarver or a win over a blown-up, stale Felix Trinidad?
Jones Jr. in His Prime and on the Decline
In his prime: Jones Jr. dominating and embarrassing James Toney:
On the decline: Jones lethargic performance and brutal KO at the hands of Glen Johnson:
7) Mike Tyson
Tyson rose from the projects in Brooklyn to become a multi-million dollar sporting icon as he swept aside all heavyweights who dared to share a ring. In the unlovely purlieus of Brooklyn, NY, that is what passes as a fairytale.
Only the fairytale turned into a horror show and then ultimately, tragedy.
His stint in prison for the rape of Desiree Washington denied him four years in his boxing career and perhaps the chance to retire more wealthy and less ignominiously than he did in the end.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once prognosticated, "There are no second acts in American Lives."
In Tyson’s return to the pro ring, he was never able to replicate the brilliance of his youth. More pertinently, he was neither able to unsettle the psyche of his opponent nor restore his own to its once impudent best.
Tyson came back to win the world title but lost it against Evander Holyfield. Tyson showed nothing in the first fight to suggest the rematch should have been staged.
His already tarnished reputation suffered a concussive blow in the rematch.The "bite-fight" reduced Iron Mike—or Iron Bite—to the bottom of the totem pole of dark notoriety.
He went on to suffer unnecessary and humiliating defeats to Lennox Lewis, Kevin McBride and Danny Williams, long after the cache created in his youth had expired.
Tyson in His Prime and on the Decline
6) Tommy "Hitman" Hearns
In 2001, Tommy Hearns was in London with old foe Marvin Hagler helping with the unveiling of the new Kronk Gym. Hagler asked Hearns what he had been up to, 43-year-old Hearns responded "I want to fight." Hagler told him, "you’re crazy…You need to get on with your life."
That is precisely what Hearns has not been able to do. He fought twice since ’01 and was last seen calling out Antonio Tarver last spring.
At his peak, Hearns annihilated the great Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez.
Yet, he became enthralled with the idea of accumulation of titles in different weights at the expense of establishing dominance in a single division.
Would we downgrade Hearns standing in on the all-time greatest list had he not defeated Michael Olajide for the WBC Super Middleweight title?
Would we think any less of him had he not fought Lenny Lapaglia and clinched the WBU Cruiserweight title?
They say the ring is the loneliest place in sport.
For Tommy Hearns it seems the only place where he is content.
Hearns in His Prime and on the Decline
In his prime: Hearns' demolition on the granite chinned Roberto Duran:
On the decline: vs. Iran Barkley:
5) Jack Johnson
Had Johnson not fought in such times of uptight racial segregation, it's quite possible he may have been one of the exceptions who rode off into the sunset on the back of success.
Johnson’s victory over James Jeffries—his fifth defense of the World title—sparked race riots. A rabid white world was only incensed further by Johnson’s brazen disregard for what they thought of him.
The establishment wanted him silenced and order restored at the top of the heavyweight boxing tree.
They therefore arrested Johnson in 1912 under the auspices of the Mann Act. This was in spite of the fact the law was being applied retrospectively, and it had been established with slaves in mind.
Nevertheless Johnson fled the country, fought meaningless exhibition fights abroad – with varied success—until his suspicious defeat to Jess Willard in 1912 and never again fought for the world title.
His return to the US in 1920 was swiftly followed by his arrest and a one-year prison sentence.
Upon his release, Johnson was dead broke.
He continued fighting until he was 50, and the once invincible monster was reduced to record of 6-7 in his final act.
Johnson in His Prime and on the Decline
In his prime: One-sided beatdown on James J. Jeffries:
On the decline—Ok, this was much harder to source.
So just imagine a much more portly, slower, aged, white boxer-short clad version of the Johnson in the above video struggling to pull the trigger.
4) Evander Holyfield
Holyfield at the ripe old age of 48 continues to float around the globe on an evangelically guided carpet of self-delusion.
The once conqueror of Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Larry Holmes is reduced to fighting journeymen such as Sherman Williams and Lou Savarese or living corpses, a la Francois Botha, Bryan Nielson.
Like the stubborn poker player who keeps coming up with no cards to play but refuses to leave the table, "The Real Deal" shows no signs of abandoning his ill-begotten dream of a fourth world heavyweight title.
His speech has become increasingly slurred, and his reflexes have slowed to the point of rigor mortis, but the power of language continues to guide him in spite of the forces of logic bearing otherwise.
Like so many others on this list, Evander deserved to depart in dignity, perhaps after his pounding on Mike Tyson or even after passing the torch to the next great heavyweight, Lennox Lewis.
Yet, with speech-slurring surety, Evander will continue to campaign despite all of our protestations and with scant regard for his own personal safety.
Holyfield in His Prime and on the Decline
3) Hector Camacho
Once a marvellously elusive flamboyant presence in the ring, "Macho" began to deteriorate in the mid 90s.
His win over Sugar Ray Leonard—who was 40 at the time—unjustifiably gave Camacho the justification he needed to continue.
An immediate return to the ring against Oscar De La Hoya put paid to any credibility in Camacho’s argument.
In a pathetic sight "Macho" initially ran to escape De La Hoya’s onslaught. With his legs wearied and fatigue drowning any ambition he once had, Camacho held and grabbed, surviving a knockdown en route to a landslide loss.
Camacho claimed a moral victory in his survival, but his proclamations were in effect confessions of denial.
He fought on, going the distance multiple times with fighters he once would have blown away. Amazingly, Camacho at the age of 48 is still active today; his last bout a UD loss to Saul Duran.
It is Camacho’s decline in health and increasing mental frailty which underscore the grave need for someone to remove Camacho’s boxing licence.
In post-fight interviews, a once verbal dynamo he has been reduced to spouting gibberish. His life outside the ring is now fraught with personal issues, primarily financially, leading to a conviction of burglary and drug possession charges.
Camacho in His Prime and on the Decline
2) Muhammad Ali
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said "Wherever I climb, I am followed by dog called ego."
Ali’s whole career was spent with a pesky pack of such self-important canines on his back.
In his ill-feted comebacks against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick, he was reduced to a battered ghost, forcing his opponents to show mercy in what is often a merciless sport.
Yet, he was 40 years old, and critics told him it couldn't be done, and Ali not motivated by titles but by proving others wrong was defiant until the end. If he couldn't overcome the odds he would be damned if he would live on his knees.
He went out in both fights, under a torrent of punishment dead on his legs.
It easy to forget that Ali’s presence today is defined not by what he achieved, but the hardship and punishment he endured along the way.
Ali may be jocular when approached about how concussive blows affected his mental health—he once said in response to such a question that the "autographs" are to blame—but one can go right back to 1974 and Ali’s rope-a-dope for indisputable proof that this is the case.
The Greatest in His Prime and on the Decline
In his Prime: Ali displaying all of the skills that brought him to the dance. Foot-speed, hand-speed, timing and consummate technique - vs. Cleveland Williams:
On the decline - In the battle of "two sinking battleships" Ali's legs and reflexes diminished - vs. Joe Frazier III:
I) Sugar Ray Robinson
When he retired in 1952 at the age of 31, his record was 131-3-1. During his time away from the ring, he performed a song and dance act for clubs and TV, but he harboured aspirations to become a successful entrepreneur and nightclub owner.
Unfortunately, his performance fees dwindled, and his multitude of businesses collapsed from mismanagement.
Not unlike so many other boxers of the time, he returned to his calling card and the challenge the ring now presented, to a once great fighter no longer fortified by the elixir of youth.
Though still capable of brilliance, they were brief cameos in an undeserved role as a boxing circus attraction.
Robinson denied the truth advancing his desire to clinch a sixth Middleweight Championship as the reason for his continued presence in the ring. His detractors could easily point to the IRS presence at the end of fights for successful retort.
The original showman laboured in the ring until his mid 40s, and his second act yielded a return of 42-16-5. A record not befitting of his genius.
Robinson’s prolonged period in the ring doubtlessly contributed to his Alzheimer’s in later life. His affliction was so severe at the end of his days, he knew not where or who he was.
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