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When Does a Fighter Retire?

Posted on 04/20/2008

By Tom Donelson

When does or should a boxer decide to say, “adios?” As for athletes in other sports, it depends upon the fighter. Take the case of Billy Soose. Soose never fought after his 26th birthday. World War II first shortened his career as he fought for his country. After the war, Soose was offered $100,000 to fight Billy Conn but he turned it down. Soose’s wife did not want him to fight anymore and he jointly owned property in the Pocono. He was financially secure, so he did not need to fight. He simply went on with the rest of his life.

Now turned to the present day and let’s look at three fighters: Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones and Oscar De La Hoya. All three fighters are coming off brutal losses and all of these fighters have large sum of money to fall back on. Both Jones and De La Hoya have other business enterprises that are doing quite well so they have money coming in. As for Holyfield, he has kept enough of his winnings to live comfortably for the rest of his life. So for t
hese fighters, financial security has already been accomplished.

Holyfield has been an old fighter for several years and rapidly becoming a trial horse. His upcoming fight with Larry Donald was taken simply because there were no other fights out there. Holyfield is no longer a headliner and his skills have eroded substantially. So if I was a Holyfield advisor, I will tell him the following, “Evander, you had a great career and nothing left to prove. You are not a heavyweight championship contender. It is time to say good-bye for all you are doing is increasing the chances of permanent injuries.” This should be a no-brainer. At this stage in Holyfield career, he is no longer an elite fighter. It is time for him to go. He has given us thrills but his time has long since past.

Roy Jones is another fighter, who had suffered two devastating knockouts. After his victory over John Ruiz, Jones’ stock grew and even his close escape after the first Tarver’s fight did little to deflate the glory that was Jones. In the second round of his rematch with Tarver began a re-evaluation of Jones as he hit the canvas. After the second Tarver fight, Jones decided to fight Glen Johnson for Johnson’s portion of the light heavyweight title. What ensued was a shock for the eyes to behold.

Jones showed no movement and just lay on the rope. Throughout the fight, he would unleash several salvos but nothing happened. Johnson shook off Jones’ counterattack and kept coming. Lack of foot movement and the considerable slowing of Jones’ reflexes showed a fighter on the down side of his career. If this fight was held three years earlier, Jones wins easily. On this night, Jones fought like he was 45, not 35.

Jones has been one of the best pound for pound fighters over the past three decades but now he is no longer feared nor the best in the light heavyweight division. Jones is a proud fighter and I suspect that he would not want to retire after his recent loss but what will Jones accomplish if he continues? Should Jones fight? No one knows what Jones truly have left other than Jones and his training staff. Based on his last two fights, I did not see the fire in Jones’ belly needed to be an elite fighter. Does he have the skills
? Yes but the real issue is does he have desire to train and or can he change tactics to make up his loss of speed? If not, it is time to say good-bye and begin working as a boxing promoter and television broadcaster. Jones has his millions and he will be immortalized in boxing Hall of Fame. Boxing is a tough sport and if you don’t’ have your heart in it, you can get hurt.

Then there is Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya is the most intriguing case since he is not as far along the downside as the other two fighters. His loss to Hopkins was no disgrace but at 31, De La Hoya has been in enough wars. De La Hoya has taken on the best and many of those fights were nothing but wars. A boxer can only take so many punches and De La Hoya is close to that point. The one major difference between De La Hoya and the other two fighters already mentioned is that De La Hoya can still command the big money.

De La Hoya is used to being the major headliner and De La Hoya has made it clear in the past that he thrives on the big fights. Right now many fighters such as Trinidad are looking elsewhere for their big bucks. De La Hoya is starting to lose his leverage as a main draw and the question that De La Hoya must ask himself, when do I say it is over? If there is no more major challenge left, do you continue to risk health for minimal glory? De La Hoya has nothing left to prove as far as his boxing skills so there is only one reason left to fight. De La Hoya is looking for one big payday and one chance to avenge losses to his main rivals, Trinidad or Mosley. If this is not available, then what does De La Hoya do? De La Hoya does not impress me as a man who would be satisfied with fighting for six figure purses when he is used to seven and eight figures take. And De La Hoya is now becoming a major boxing promoter so it is not that he needs the money or doesn’t have options. De La Hoya still is one of the best fighter in the junior middleweights so he is still have championship options that may be closed to the other two on this list. De La Hoya must now ask himself, are the returns worth the risk? If not, do you continue to fight? De La Hoya’s story in the ring like Jones and Holyfield has mostly been written and there are not many chapters left.

For all three fighters, they are closer to the end of their career and for Holyfield, he is no longer an elite fighters. At least the other two are close to the top of the boxing game so they can leave the sport close to the top of their game. It is decision time for all three fighters.

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