They say boxing is a young man’s game, and that Father Time is the only truly undefeated in the sport. And while there may be some merit to that sentiment, it’s not always the case. As boxers get older, they lose certain physical advantages like speed, power, and reflexes. The very best of them find ways to cope.
The best boxers in the history of the sport age like fine wine. They make the right adjustments to their styles based on how their bodies change throughout the years. As a result, they are able to maintain their physicality, but make up for it with their experience.
It’s amazing to witness how these seemingly past prime fighters are able to put together such spectacular performances. It goes against all logic, but they are able to pull off the impossible. To go up against young and hungry contenders, boxing’s best over 40 have produced some memorable ring wars and have come out on top.
While most sports certainly favor the young, in boxing, age is nothing but a number, as these legendary fighters have proven time and again. Let’s examine what made these old-timers so great.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five of boxing’s best past-forty performers.
1) “Big” George Foreman
Long before he was the lean mean grilling machine and America’s king of indoor electric barbecue, George Foreman was a two-time heavyweight world champion and an Olympic gold medalist. He was also one of the most feared punchers in the sport of boxing.
Foreman was active as a professional between 1969 and 1997, mixing it up with fellow legends Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. But to everyone’s surprise, he took a decade off after losing to Jimmy Young in 1977. Foreman spent 10 years in retirement, working as a Christian minister before he decided to put the gloves back on and fight again in 1987.
At the age of 45, Foreman regained the heavyweight title by knocking out then 26-year-old champion Michael Moorer. It was one of the most terrific performances of Foreman’s career. He retired permanently three years later, at the age of 48.
Today, he holds the record of being the oldest heavyweight champion in history.
2) Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins
Former multiple division boxing world champion Bernard “The Executioner/The Alien” Hopkins is one of the most successful prizefighters in history. Throughout his career, which spanned from 1988 to 2016, Hopkins won world titles at both middleweight and light heavyweight.
His style was unique, and one of the most technical. Hopkins prioritized strategy and tactics over physical traits like speed and power. He had the skills to maneuver opponents and frustrate them by laying traps. He often toyed with guys, and his fight IQ was certainly off the charts.
Even when he got older, Hopkins got smarter and was able to school a lot of the younger fighters.
Hopkins earned the distinction of having set records for being the oldest fighter to win a world title on three different occasions. At the age of 46, 48 (he beat his own record), and 49. In 2014, Hopkins defeated Beibut Shumenov to unify the WBA, IBA, and IBF world light heavyweight titles.
3) Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, the legendary boxer from the Philippines, is a once in a lifetime talent. His rags to riches tale of success has been covered by literally all forms of media, and his story is truly inspiring.
The way Pacquiao has been able to rise through the ranks, beginning his career as a flyweight and winning titles across eight weight divisions all the way up to super welterweight has been absolutely extraordinary.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that, for the most part, Pacquiao has not only been able to maintain his signature speed and power as he went up in weight, but also as he got older.
In 2019, Pacquiao defeated previously unbeaten Keith Thurman to capture the WBA Super World Welterweight Title at the age of 40.
Pacquiao still actively competes to this day, and just turned 41 last December. He’s expected to step back in the ring in 2020. Possible opponents include Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Mikey Garcia, and Amir Khan.
4) Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran
They call this man “Manos de Piedra” (Hands of Stone) because of his incredible knockout power. Legendary Panamanian fighter Roberto Duran’s glorious boxing career spans five decades. He’s only the second boxer in history to accomplish this feat, next to heavyweight icon Jack Johnson (also on this list).
Duran was active from 1968 to 2001, when he last competed at the age of 50. His professional career ended with a record of 103 victories, including 70 by knockout.
But Duran’s longevity in the sport isn’t the only thing impressive about his time in the ring. Duran won world titles across four different weight classes including lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight, and middleweight. He was the undisputed and lineal (the man who beat the man) lightweight and welterweight world champion.
Most fans and observers, however, consider Duran to be the greatest lightweight in the history of the sport and for good reason. He was the ultimate combination of power, toughness, and mental fortitude.
5) Jack Johnson
Legendary American heavyweight world champion Jack Johnson’s name will forever echo throughout boxing history as the man who paved the way for all the incredible African American fighters in years following his career.
Johnson became a professional boxer in a time when racism was rampant in the United States, and racial segregation was legal. Johnson powered his way to become the first African American to win a heavyweight title in boxing.
Amazingly enough, Johnson continued his legendary career until 1938, when he was 60 years of age.
Nicknamed the Galveston Giant, Johnson won world titles from 1908 to 1915, in a period of complete dominance. His bout against James J. Jeffries in 1910 was even hailed as the original “Fight of the Century.”
According to renowned director Ken Burns, Johnson was the most famous and most notorious African American on Earth during his time.
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