By: Sean Crose
“So we beat on,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Those fourteen words are as true today as they were when first published in The Great Gatsby ninety five years ago. Perhaps this is why old fighters have a tendency to come back to boxing, even though it’s probably in their own best interest to remain retired. The past, after all, must be a truly glistening thing for an aging great. We all get to a point in life when we look back and sigh fondly at what was. One can only imagine what the experience must be like for someone who was once wealthy, in the spotlight, and spectacularly successful.
While there are boxing legends, like Brockton’s fight duo Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler, who famously left and then stayed out of the ring, the list of great fighters who tried and failed to make glorious returns is plentiful and perhaps growing. Jim Jeffries, Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello and Muhammad Ali all crashed and burned when they figuratively tried fighting their way back into the past. And, while names such as George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard famously succeeded in their comebacks, ring returns often present themselves as sad affairs.
That’s why so many of us are wary when we learn that highly regarded fighters like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Oscar de la Hoya and Sergio Martinez are interested in slipping on the gloves once more. Boxing is nothing if not a dangerous game. People literally die due to what goes down in the ring – and the human body ain’t what it was after forty or fifty. Even exhibition bouts present their own brand of danger. So while Tyson-Holyfield III might seem fun on the surface of things – it can also have serious consequences.
It’s good to keep in mind that boxing isn’t like other sports in that there’s no team or league to say no to a fighter who wants to return. Great as he was, John Elway would most certainly not be welcome to play once more in the NFL. The powers that be simply wouldn’t allow him to. Boxing doesn’t have that kind of power structure, and so it’s easy for an aging lion to once again get involved in the fight game. Plus, big names mean big money, which is something that’s hard for promoters to refuse, no matter how outrageous the scenario might be.
In the end, boxers are adults and are free to make their own decisions. Lets just hope that those who do try to attain past glory go the route of Foreman and Leonard and not the route of so many others who crashed and burned.