Boxing is the toughest of all sports, a gruelling physical and mental battle of courage, skill, athleticism and punch resistance. Training camps are long and arduous, and hard fights take their toll, so you would think that the average career expectancy is pretty short.
But some fighters seem to go on and on, some still achieving great success, while others find it difficult to step away from the ring, hooked on the thrill of combat, or lured in time and again by the promise of one last payday.
And while some boxers are renowned for their ability to hit and not get hit, such as the great Willie Pep or more recently, Floyd Mayweather Jr., others also box on, despite detrimental effects on their health.
But there are some who seem impervious to the passing of time, with successful careers spanning multiple decades. Here are some of the boxers who have enjoyed, or endured, epic campaigns in the square circle.
Nicknamed ‘Hands of Stone’, Panamanian Roberto Duran was one of the most feared boxers of his era. A fearsome puncher with a great chin, he, along with Marvellous Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard were one of four legendary fighters who faced each other in the 1980s.
He fought Leonard twice in 1980, winning a 15 round decision in their first meeting before losing via an 8th round TKO in the rematch, during which Sugar Ray danced and frustrated Duran into quitting. This became known, infamously, as the ‘no mas’ fight.
Despite these setbacks, Duran is highly rated by boxing historians and is a hero in his native Panama. His career spanned five decades, beginning in 1968 and ending in 2001, with a record of 119 bouts, with 103 victories.
An icon of modern boxing, ‘Pac Man’ is one of the most exciting fighters of recent times. Turning professional at the age of 16 in Manila, the Filipino sensation has fought and won world titles in eight weight classes.
He debuted as a Junior Flyweight in 1995, and with his heavily one-sided victory over Antonio Margarito in 2010 he won the WBC Light Middleweight belt.
Now at the age of 41, with 71 fights on his record (62 of them wins), and a blossoming political career in the Philippines, he still relies on blinding hand speed and imperious ring generalship to outbox, outfight and outland his opponents.
James ‘Lights Out’ Toney won multiple world titles in three weight classes during a career that stretched from 1988 all the way to 2017. Although rated as a gifted defensive boxer, he also possessed excellent counter-punching ability which thwarted opponents in each of the weight classes he competed in.
Less successful was his foray in the world of MMA, with a farcical performance against expert grappler Randy Couture at UFC 118 in 2010. He lost by submission in the first round, prompting several UFC insiders, including Dana White, to label the bout a money-spinning fiasco.
Still, that wouldn’t be the first, or last, unsuccessful crossover between the two sports, with Ricardo Mayorga failing to win a MMA bout in four attempts, and Conor Mcgregor being dismantled by Floyd Mayweather in a lucrative boxing sideshow.
The Executioner, Bernard Hopkins had a phenomenal 28-year career in the ring, finally hanging up the gloves at the ripe old age of 51.
Along the way he held multiple world titles at Middleweight and Light Heavyweight, and became the oldest world champion ever at the age of 49 (breaking his own record).
Hopkins pointed to his immaculate defensive style and tactical nous to explain his remarkable longevity in the sport, and his ability to perform at elite level, fight after fight, for decades.
Known as ‘the Mongoose’ and later ‘the Old Mongoose’, Moore is considered one of the greatest all-time pound-for-pound fighters. He began his professional career in 1935 at the age of 19, and racked up an astonishing 158 fights before he won a world title. In fact, at the age of 36 he was expected to lose to Joey Maxim and retire.
Instead, he took a 15 round unanimous decision in December 1952, and held on to the lineal light heavyweight belt for a further eight years, being stripped of it in 1960.
Heavyweight title challenges against Floyd Paterson and Rocky Marciano were unsuccessful, and in his penultimate bout, Moore lost to a young Cassius Clay. In a career that lasted 28 years, Moore fought 219 times, claiming victory in 186 of those. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
We have missed out some notable names, such as Roy Jones Jr and Evander Holyfield. But this list should be enough to show that there are some remarkable fighters out there who defy Father Time, becoming icons of the sport in the process.