In the last week or two, three fighters — Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley — have all retired from boxing. Heavyweight champion Tyson Fury even hinted that he wouldn’t be making a return to the sport either, following several setbacks and extracurricular issues. In many ways it’s a solemn time for boxing fans, with at least three worthwhile fighters exiting boxing. But it also calls for remembrance.
Retirement is a wonky subject in boxing, because nobody ever seems to know when the right time to retire is. The truth is time is kinder to some fighters than it is others, but all in all it’s never truly kind. Nobody knows whether or not these fighters wind up coming back, but they have all paid their debts in blood — and then some.
In 1981, Ferdie Pacheco said in the New York Times, “Fame and the spotlight are habit forming. Once seduced by the roar of the crowd, the old champions have to try it again, and in the meantime, Mother Nature is taking her toll and accelerating the pace of the fighter’s downfall. It’s a no win situation. It’s a bad business proposition; there is no gain, only loss in the offing.”
In this case, history has a lot to say.
Many fighters in history have gone out in their own unique ways, if they went out at all. “Sugar” Ray Leonard’s various retirements, for instance, became punchlines in the boxing community before he was unceremoniously sent packing by Hector Camacho. Another Leonard, lightweight legend Benny, was similarly smashed from the sport by a younger gun in Jimmy McLarnin over 60 years earlier. The examples are endless.
This week on Knuckles and Gloves Boxing Radio, Knuckles and Gloves’ official podcast, Compubox operator Aris Pina and site founder/boxing historian Patrick Connor present a look a the careers of Klitschko, Marquez and Bradley. But what boxing history podcast would be complete without the dissection of various retirements, non-retirements and retirement-related spectacles from the sport’s past? None would.