During the pandemic, heavyweight boxing legends wanting to fight at forty years of age and above became a regular feature.
World Boxing News asked in 2011, ‘Will it soon be normal to see boxers fighting in their 50s‘.
The article has since taken a sinister tone of realism.
Evander Holyfield, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., and James Toney were plying their trade well into their late thirties and early forties.
Despite some holding less than impressive records later in their respective careers, nothing transpired to intervene against any of those legendary boxers.
I guess it came with the territory of past accomplishments. It led to an “if you’re old enough, you’re good enough” mentality.
Tell that to Ernie Shavers, though. The former world heavyweight challenger severed an eight-year retirement in 1995 to give it one more shot at 51.
A majority decision victory over 20-loss no-hoper Brian Morgan over eight rounds may have given the big-punching ‘Black Destroyer’ a false sense of security.
It all unraveled two months later against Brian Yates, a journeyman with five wins and sixteen defeats.
Yates recorded just the second stoppage of his career. But it was certainly nothing to celebrate. The whole promotion was in poor taste, using Shavers for his name only.
Thankfully, Shavers retired immediately, never to return.
There are arguments about some past champions returning and doing okay. You might use Oliver McCall in this bracket.
But after five losses in eight bouts approaching his ‘first retirement’ while approaching 50, McCall had no business coming back four years later.
At 53, McCall – as with most who make a comeback – was capitalizing on his name. However, two wins over shockingly mediocre opposition led McCall to Jamal Woods in 2018.
Amazingly, ‘The Atomic Bull’ – looking considerably like a grandpa who should be at home with his pipe and slippers – went through all the pre-fight formalities before ducking out of the fight after the weigh-in.
His opponent then spoke exclusively to WBN to reveal what he saw happening.
“Oliver McCall didn’t show to the fight. He was scared at the weigh-in,” Woods exclusively told World Boxing News. “Oliver McCall is a has-been.
“He didn’t pay me for making a twelve-hour trip to the fight.”
With 42 losses on his C.V. and seventeen triumphs, Woods must have been a scary man at that weigh-in for McCall to exit stage left as he did.
Tyson vs Jones
We now had Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr., and Evander Holyfield competing in their first bouts at fifty-plus to contrasting fortunes.
While Tyson and Jones broke the exhibition Pay Per View record, Holyfield was humbled in one round by MMA star Vitor Belfort.
Even the great Jack Johnson could have told a tale or two, maybe fired a warning to the trio about the perils of potentially ruining a legacy.
Johnson suffered three of his eleven losses into his 50s and could have left boxing with single-digit defeats had he not been enticed back.
So, heavyweight greats Tyson, Jones, and Holyfield may have a tale to tell? – But was it really worth it?
If other legends return, it will be like a multi-car pile-up on the highway. You won’t be able to help but look.