Sadly the sport of boxing is littered with fighters who did not know when it was time to hang up the gloves.
This year we all mourned the passing of “The Greatest,” Muhammed Ali. Another fighter who did not know when to quit, and whose entourage did not have the courage to stand up to him and tell him enough was enough. However there were a few who had the strength to stand up and say enough was enough. In 1977 after the fight with Earnie Shavers, in which Ali was battered, Madison Square Garden’s matchmaker Teddy Brenner refused to put on another fight at the venue involving Ali. Fight Doctor and long time cornerman for Ali, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco was another who had the strength of conviction to walk away after that fight as he could see the long term affects beginning to take their toll on Ali. He wrote to the boxer, his wife, and trainer explaining the risks. No one replied.
Sugar Ray Leonard, who probably retired more times than any other professional boxer, deals with this issue in detail in his book “The Big Fight,” how once the boxer hangs up his gloves all those in his entourage suddenly lose their income too. So if a comeback is mooted, very few are going to speak up against such a thing. As they see themselves back in employment and back on the gravy train. Leonard was far too gentlemanly to claim that all in his entourage were sycophants riding his coat tails.
Yet just as the fighters miss the limelight, so too do the trainers. Those who are part of the support staff, and not ringside, also miss the adrenalin rush and excitement as a big fight nears. So it would be fair to say that they too are addicted to the buzz of a big fight. So that is why so many stay quiet, they want one last fix as well.
So why do so many boxers go on when you think that they should be at home enjoying the spoils from their endeavours? Sadly many squander those spoils. Others are far too generous with the money that they earn, and so as they near the end, they find that they have not set aside as much for themselves as they should have.
Some of course simply continue on because they love the sport. Bernard Hopkins is the oldest world champion, when he won the IBF crown from Tavoris Cloud in March 2013 a couple months after his 48th birthday. George Foreman in his comeback won the IBF and WBA heavyweight world title from Michael Moorer at 45 years and 10 months in 1994. South African Sugar Boy Malinga was just eight days short of his 42nd birthday when he upset Robin Reid in December 1997 to claim the WBC super-middleweight crown for the second time.
These were old pros fighting for a World title. Albeit there are too many world titles these days and some hold little or no meaning other than to those who claim them. Long gone are the days when there were just eight world titles up for grabs. Now incredibly there are seventeen weight categories and five boxing organisations boasting their version of a Champion, so in total there are 85 boxers who can claim to be world champions!
When 42 year old Danny Green and 41 year old Anthony Mundine climb through the ropes for a second time, over ten years after their 2006 bout, there will be no world title on the line. Pride and bragging rights will be all that is at stake. Oh, and of course a big payday. Why else would Danny Green climb into the ring again?
Anthony Mundine’s reasons run a little deeper, although having won the previous meeting by out-boxing Green, he will no doubt feel he has the upper hand. Mundine will be fighting for pride, and also the financial rewards. Mundine may polarise people but he has been more than generous with his earnings donating vast sums to try and help other Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. He has been honest, he has stated this will be his last fight, his last big payday.
The fight has been claimed to be worth $30million. The money to be a straight 50/50 split between the two fighters.
There is no doubt that the Australian television stations will want a slice of the action, but will they shell out the money the promoters are talking about? There will also be some interest from fight fans to see two veterans going at it in the ring purely because of the animosity between the two?
To some fight fans there is a feeling of ‘who cares.’ Both of the boxers are well past their best. They were in their prime in 2006 and Mundine fought the smarter fight and out-boxed the fighter and won. Will defeat upset Mundine if he loses this bout?
It is clear that to Green victory is paramount. He has never been able to get over his defeat to Mundine, and that is why despite announcing his retirement he has continually pursued a re-match and bad-mouthed Mundine. There are many boxers who are stung by the memory of one bad night at the office, one night where they were out thought and out-fought. Some manage to put it behind them and move on, some don’t.
Marvin Hagler, and many of his fans, believe that he won his final fight with Sugar Ray Leonard back in 1987. Leonard had his famous flurry at the end of each round and managed to sway the judges in his favour. The decision has never sat easily with Hagler, but he walked away from the sport. He never made an announcement of retirement. He simply walked away with his dignity in tact.
Danny Green has never been able to let sleeping dogs lie.
Green has had three fights in the past five years, compared to Mundine’s ten fights in the same period. Mundine has lost three of those last six bouts and has looked a shadow of his former self. So both fighters will be a long way off from the two that climbed through the ropes in 2006.
It will be interesting to see if the fight does capture the imagination of the public. The media has certainly done its best to hype up the re-match since it was announced, but the punters are not mugs. The pricing if it goes to pay-per-view will have to be carefully worked out as will ticket prices when a venue is decided. This fight will have little interest outside of Australia, so the promoters need to make sure they they cover all bases in Australia to bring in as much money as possible.
The sad thing is there is likely to be even more abuse flying back and forth in the next few months to try and get bums on seats. Some of it will be hype, and some of it will be very real. Hopefully it does not sink into the gutter.
Whoever loses, the most likely outcome will be the loser blaming the gain or loss of weight for the result; they have agreed to fight at 83kg, Mundine, last fought at 69kg and will have to put on almost 10kg. Green will have to lose about four kilograms.
Lets not try and make this more than it is, a retirement bout. One thing is for sure the loser will have a long time to think about the defeat; hopefully Danny Green has thought of that, should he lose. Depending on the rhetoric that is going to be thrown up in the coming months they may also have a lifetime’s worth of ridicule for the statements made.
Two months ago Mundine said he wanted the fight to be held in the shadows of Uluru. That would have had huge appeal if both fighters could generate overseas interest, but both no longer have that appeal.
Rather than the question as to who will win this fight the big questions is do they still have the appeal here in Australia to generate $30million?