Wednesday, March 28, 2007


In boxing, as in Hollywood, age 40 is the new age 20.

Have a look at some of the aging Hollywood actresses parading around these days and many of them look younger now than they did 20 years ago. All thanks, no doubt, to the surgeon's scalpel, clean living and the best spa treatments that money can buy.

Now, nobody is accusing Bernard Hopkins, Evander Holyfield or the rest of these geriatric pugilists extending their careers as prizefighters of cosmetic surgery or days spent lounging in the spa. But, if Hollywood beauties can prolong their run at the top of the marquee then why can't the crooked nose crew do the same?

You probably read the story that recently made the rounds. It was the tale of 91 year-old Roland Fortin from Lewiston, Maine who challenged 92-years young fitness guru Jack LaLanne to a boxing match. Apparently the hot Florida sun and the boredom of a retired life got to Mr. Fortin and he decided he wanted to liven things up a little. Fortin, a former boxing cut-man and widower who has wintered in Florida since retiring from the funeral business decades ago, didn't think either man would get hurt in a brief square-off. "He'd knock me down, I'd knock him down," he said.

LaLanne, using the wisdom that he has gained in nearly 100 years on the planet turned the "fight" down.

Then there is Sylvester Stallone, otherwise known as Rocky Balboa, who celebrated his 60th birthday by making the sixth film in the "Rocky" series. Stallone still has a body that would make any grandfather proud and when he was getting in shape for the film, the Italian Stallion had this to say, "I know a lot of actors say they train for 12 hours a day for parts like this, but the truth is I did about three-and-a-half to four because that's all the body can take. Anything more than that and you start to break down and actually end up performing worse. Things just wear out. All those years of heavy leg lifting and running up steps now mean when I try to run, everything hurts - my knees, hips and even my neck. There's nothing plastic in there yet, but we are getting close to it."

Don't forget about Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns whose best fights were in the decade of the 80's against names like Leonard, Duran and Hagler. Hearns is also back and he fought (and won) as recently as last year at age 47. You should also know that Hearns has a son, Ronald, who is currently a 28 year-old professional fighter with an undefeated record in thirteen fights.

Why are all of these older fighters and even actors still skulking around boxing rings and challenging for titles?

Well, it's because they can.

Know this people: Of the 68 alphabet boxing titles made available by the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF in 17 different weight divisions, only four of the men that hold all of those titles are under the age of 25. All of the rest, every single one of them, are 25 years-old or older.

The oldest title claimant is WBA "regular" Cruiserweight holder Virgil Hill, the elder statesman of the game at age 43 - who won a Silver Medal 23 years ago at the Olympics in Los Angeles. Hill is facing former foe Henry Maske in Germany this weekend in a bout that is receiving widespread press and will be televised around the globe on pay-per view. Maske is also 43 and he has not fought since losing to Hill in 1996. Their collective age is 86.

While it was a remarkable feat when George Foreman separated Michael Moorer from his senses and the heavyweight championship on that November night in 1994, it has seemingly opened the flood gates of boxing senior citizen homes everywhere. Old fighters are casting away their walkers, placing their canes in the corner and tearing up their AARP memberships.

At age 45, Foreman became the oldest man to ever win a boxing title. However, in so doing, he dangerously convinced the generation of fighters that have come behind him, that "age is just a number" and that it should never be a barrier to achieving one's dreams - or winning a boxing championship.

Whatever the case, boxing was once known as a young man's game. Most lighter weight fighters were thought to be in their prime years during their early to mid-twenties. The rule used to be that the heavier the fighter the later he would reach his best and for a heavyweight that age used to be about 28 or 29.

Now, in this time of the aged, 28 or 29 is an age of youth and some are just getting started.

Consider that Bernard Hopkins, at age 42, is The Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Champion. It was a title he won from Antonio Tarver last June in Atlantic City after twelve rounds of turning back the hands of father time. For his part, Tarver was 36 years old, having not even turned pro until he was 28.

Tarver, of course, became the universally recognized Light Heavyweight Champ by beating Roy Jones, Jr. twice and Glen Johnson once. Jones and Johnson were both 36 years-old the last time Tarver beat them both.

In July, Hopkins will face-off against Winky Wright at a catch-weight of 170 pounds. Wright has been fighting as a professional since 1990 and by the time he and Hopkins come face-to-face in the ring he will be 35.

Hopkins recently told Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News that, "I'm ready, man. I have a new career. It started on June 10, 2006. If I don't get any cuts, any injuries and I can stay out of the real hard fights, I could go another 4 or 5 years on my defense alone. I'm still at or near the top of my game."

This "old man syndrome" is not exclusive to just the Light Heavyweights. Every division throughout boxing seems to be undergoing a phase where many of the titlists and contenders are well into their thirties.

Consider that of the four heavyweight titlists and top contenders many of them are getting well into old age, at least as far as the standards of measuring age in boxing used to be. WBC titlist Oleg Maskaev is 38, while newly minted WBO belt-holder Shannon Briggs is 35. Even WBA entrant Nikolai Valuev, a relative newcomer to the scene, is already 33. IBF belt-wearer Wladimir Klitschko is the youngster of the group at 31.

Remember that by the time he was 33 years old, Muhammad Ali had won the heavyweight championship a couple times, fought Sonny Liston twice, Ken Norton and Joe Frazier three times as well as George Foreman once.

The hall-of-famer that he is and for all of his ring accomplishments, "Smokin" Joe Frazier was blowing out the candle on his career and retired at age 32. Similarly, Rocky Marciano had his last fight and bowed out gracefully and on top at age 32 with his undefeated record of 49-0.

Many who follow boxing are asking, "What has happened to all of the youthful talent?" The answer is an elusive one.

You must understand, that for all of his greatness, the great Mexican featherweight Salvador Sanchez accomplished all that he did in life and in boxing before he was killed in a tragic car accident at the tender age of 23.

Ray Mancini retired for the first time at age 24, after he lost to Livingstone Bramble for the second time. But, before he retired, Mancini fought Alexis Arguello and Bobby Chacon, defended his WBA Lightweight title four times and was a Saturday afternoon media darling. Mancini would un-retire several years later and fight three ill-advised comeback fights, but he was still completely done fighting by the time he was just 31.

Mike Tyson, the youngest heavyweight champion in history won the title at age 20 and lost it all to Buster Douglas on that horrible night in Tokyo by age 23. Floyd Patterson won his title at a youthful 21, tossed the championship back and forth with Ingemar Johansson and then lost it to Sonny Liston all by the time he was 27.

"Ageless" Archie Moore, aka "The Old Mongoose" was the former Light Heavyweight champion of the world and was seen as a freak of nature when he fought into his forties. Moore's actual birthdate is the subject of some speculation and he was either 47 or 49 when he fought his last fight in 1963 against the young Cassius Clay, his former student in the sweet science.

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield is on the comeback trail yet again at age 44, and he could pose a threat to some of the weaker alphabet titlists. Holyfield is currently ranked as the #10 contender by the WBC. Not to be outdone is former heavyweight titlist Oliver McCall who is nearing 42 and is ranked #5 by the WBC. McCall is now preparing to face the #2 ranked contender in a June bout.

Italy's Silvio Branco is currently the WBA 175-pound titlist - at the tender age of 40.

The youngest titlist in all of boxing you ask?

Well, it's none other than 108-pound, WBA Jr. Flyweight titlist Koki Kameda from Japan. He is still a mere boy at 20 years-old and he is currently undefeated at 14-0 (10)KO. Many guys like Hill, Holyfield and Hopkins are old enough to be his father.

Meanwhile, pass the Grecian Formula and a Centrum Silver. It's fight time!

March 2007

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