A number of retired British boxers have been rumoured with potential returns to the sport in recent days, but how old, is too old?
Nothing quite captures the imagination of the boxing public like the allure of a former champion returning to the ring for one last hurrah, it is the stuff Rocky Balboa’s dreams are made of.
The list of potential bouts seems endless: A third fight between Chris Eubank, 49, and Nigel Benn, 51, Tyson Fury, 27, calling out Lennox Lewis, 50, and Frank Bruno, 54, “considering” a fight with David Haye, 35.
Social media is awash with criticism of almost all of these inactive fighters, with claims they are “too old”.
You had the likes of Mike Tyson, Nigel Benn, Lennon Lewis, Chris Eubank now you got Tyson Fury and a old washed up David Haye
— George Montella (@georgemontella) December 3, 2015
Why are Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank talking about fighting again? They’re, like, as old as I am. Let it go, lads. It’s over.
— Kelvin Barker (@ChelseaKelv) December 2, 2015
But look no further than those who have become world champions in their later years: George Foreman at 45 and Bernard Hopkins at 46. It is possible that their British counterparts could do the same.
These British legends are running the risk of ruining both their health and legacy. For some, it is about ego; they miss being centre stage, with the eyes of the world on them and the rush of thousands of adoring fans. For others, it is about money; prizefighting is a ruthless game. There are no pension funds for boxers, they have to live with what they earn from a very short career and far too often we see fighters who have gone bankrupt for one reason or another.
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Then there is the fact that some boxers are institutionalised by the sport, in the sense that boxing is all they know. They miss the discipline, the training, the fighting and are at a loss without it. It is their vocation, of course they would want to continue their career for as long as possible.
Fans must err on the side of caution though. There are fewer sights more depressing than seeing a man who was once a powerful physical specimen reduced to a bumbling shot fighter, slurring his speech, punch drunk from a career that was a few fights too many; James Toney, 47, springs to mind.
There seems to be a perpetual cycle of young, active, fighters calling out retired, older, stars. Whilst Carl Froch, 38, flirts with the idea of coming back to fight Gennady Golovkin, 33, British rival James DeGale, 29, continues to goad The Cobra.
It is reminiscent of what Froch done in his prime to the then retired Joe Calzaghe, now 43.
That is boxing. Lesser known fighters call out bigger names to increase their own profile and have an apparent easy pay day with a fighter who is past their best. It is a wonder little known middleweight Dan Breeze, 19, has not yet called out Britain’s oldest surviving former world champion Terry Downes, 79.
However, there should be no age limit on who can box. Each fighter should be judged on their own merit by the British Boxing Board of Control but fighters will only look for a license if there is a demand for the fight. Fans should move with the times to protect their heroes from themselves. Chris Eubank Jr, 26, and Conor Benn,18, can be in big fights of their own rather than in their fathers names.
Anthony “the next Frank Bruno” Joshua, 26, will fight Fury soon enough. And DeGale, who already has Froch’s former IBF World Super Middleweight title, can build his own legacy with rival Callum Smith, 25.
Let’s look instead to fighters who could be legends in the future, than dwelling on legends of the past.