Should professional boxers be allowed back into the sport after being retired?
Perhaps it’s a question most people haven’t really contemplated—but with the way things have been going in the sport of boxing, maybe it is time we start to look at such a question with more attention.
Unfortunately, boxing fans and enthusiasts have missed out on potentially great fights throughout the sports history. For one reason or another, fights have failed to be made and have failed to entertain due to fixed events, leaving a bitter taste in peoples mouth, forcing them to seek out entertainment elsewhere and turn their backs on a beautiful sport–and with good reason.
Boxing is a tough and challenging sport, it’s not a game. There is always the great risk of getting seriously injured or developing great health consequences from constant punishment throughout a professional boxing career. Every man that signs a fighting contract knows this truth very well, from the very beginning.
With this in mind, the professional fighting contract should include the “rule of retirement.”
The retirement rule should be a fortified rule that cannot be overruled for any reason whatsoever, or at any cost. As we have seen through the decades in the sport, there have been certain fighters who have avoided fighting their mandatory challengers. There’s no shame in that as we are all human at the end of the day, but the point of boxing is the best fights the best; regardless of the outcome of the fight.
People want to see fighters fight their heart out and leave everything in the ring (regardless of how brutal that sounds), it’s the reason why fans give money to see the fights. We assume the money paid is incentive enough for the fighters to give a good show.
Sadly enough, paying customers get the shortest end of the stick when mega fights fail to be made.
Using the example of Floyd Mayweather, he has cheated the fans out of many great fights. After becoming champion, Mayweather turned his back on his fans and began fighting for himself.
He paved the way for a generation of young fighters to take a page out of his book and begin dodging fighters when competition is at its best, choosing to retire when the going gets tough, allowing the competition to settle down, only to come back from retirement and pick back up from where he left off.
This is an insult to the sport. It shouldn’t be allowed and it’s not fair to the true warriors out there fighting for less than what they deserve.
Another great example was Sugar Ray Leonard retiring when he didn’t want to fight Marvin Hagler. Leonard avoided Hagler and strategically “retired” (waited), came back after father time had slowed and weakened Hagler, only for Leonard to have a chance at beating him… like he did.
While many people can say it was a smart and tactical strategy, there’s no merit in that kind of win. It’s simply an unfair advantage because he didn’t beat the man in his prime.
If a fighter retires, we expect to see a retired boxer. For instance, Ricky Hatton retired, blew up in weight and had to train extensively for his comeback, due to his lack of shape. Erik Morales is another example of what a retired boxer looks like. When Morales returned from retirement to face Marcos Maidana, Larry Merchant said, “Morales looks like a stuffed turkey.”
That’s what a comeback from retirement is, not saying you retire and yet still continue to train and workout like Mayweather has done.
What retirement looks like today is taking a break to focus all the time in training without having to worry about the public’s opinion on whether a fighter is dodging competition or not. Now, the real important issue arises when we come across a peculiar example like the one we saw this last November when Andre Ward contemplated retirement after having won a “gift” victory against the Light Heavyweight champion of the world, Sergey Kovalev.
Fortunately, Ward met his end of the deal and has signed the rematch clause.
In the case that Ward would’ve stayed retired, it would’ve been extremely upsetting to have allowed that. One, because what’s the point of having signed a rematch contract if it wasn’t going to be honored. And second, in the case that Ward would’ve retired until the competition had subsided and come back as an emeritus challenger, it would’ve been disgraceful and would have set a trend to follow.
Boxing desperately lacks true warriors. Despite what people may think about Kovalev, Kovalev is a good example of a true fighter, always wanting to prove himself as the best, fighting the best. Not afraid to call out the top dogs and fight them.
In the example of Brandon Rios or Manny Pacquiao, after having made the statement of retiring after fighting Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao’s retirement didn’t last long as he returned within a year. In retrospect, the fact that Pacquiao stated retirement only to come back and fight Jessie Vargas, felt like a distraction to the fans from facing top caliber competition like Terence Crawford.
This type of behavior seems to be more common as these men seem to justify avoiding tough challenging fights. By claiming retirement the fans seem to forget, as they get excited to see a boxer return, all about their mandatory challengers. Allowing great matches to be lost forever.
Last but not least, comebacks aren’t always a bad thing when true fighters are starving for one last fight or believe they can still prove themselves against top level competition. But in the example of the recently rumored fourth fight between two former champions, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, one can’t help but wonder if the only reason these two boxing legends are matching up against each other is for the sole purpose of a big purse.
There’s no bigger incentive than money to get back in the ring and risk getting hurt, but that’s not the case. As fans, how do we know they will truly make it a good, competitive fight?
The retirement rule is one that should really be looked into. It should be known from the very beginning that once retirement is announced, one can’t go back on their word. It would also give time to set up a farewell celebration to really commemorate the career of any fighter brave enough to set foot in the ring.
It will get rid of impulsive and emotional spontaneity and it will serve as a better way to manage and plan a career from the very beginning, ridding the sport of unwanted performances and questionable outcomes.
Header photo by Hogan Photos