Unlike other sports, in boxing once you’re old and no longer capable of competing at the highest level, you have the option to continue fighting basically as long as you want. Fighters don’t have to fear being cut from a team or never making it back into a league. In boxing, as long as you can put on two pairs of gloves you are most likely going to be allowed to face another human being who’s trying to take your head off with punishment.
There is a screening process by which licenses are given to fighters seen fit to compete in such a brutal sport, but those are so easily given that many consider it automatic approval regardless of someones physical conditions. This past few days we saw two well past their prime fighters entering a ring while everyone except themselves acknowledged that they shouldn’t be doing so.
In Mashantucket, Connecticut, 46-year-old Roy Jones Jr defeated Eric Watkins by sixth round KO and is already scheduled to fight twice again in the next month. A fighter who should have quit the sport in 2011 when he lost three fights in a row, he is still fighting today and no one understands why. With a great gig at HBO Boxing as a commentator, Roy Jones still fights, well, because he can. Jones has won his eight last fight but mostly against very weak opposition. It’s simply sad that a fighter who is regarded as probably the greatest physical pugilist anyone ever saw, continues to fight trying to prove a point that is unprovable; father time can’t be beaten.
Eight days earlier in Saint Louis, Missouri, one of Jones’s most famous opponents, James Toney, regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters of all time, fought an 9-3 by the name of Charles Ellis and lost. Unlike Jones, Toney doesn’t have a broadcast gig, with clear damage from his longevity in the sports, his speech has been badly effected and its hard to even understand when you talk to him in person. Toney is a sad example of a legendary fighters continuing to fight well past his prime. He’s now being thrown against up coming fighters just for the name, and for him, just the paycheck. Some say Toney in his prime could have been the best to ever do it, and they’re right, he was beautiful to watch. Now, not at all, still a commission granted him a permit to fight which is the most shameful part of it all.
As long as fighters with a name, specially of the stature of Jones and Toney want to continue fighting, whether for self fulfillment or financial problems, you can bet everything you own that there will be a commission somewhere in the world willing to grant them a license and promoters along with up and coming fighters willing to face them for their name alone in order to build their own. It’s sad and unfortunate, but the the reality of it is that sometimes you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.
Just like they were the ones who ultimately made the brave decision to enter a professional ring for the first time, it’s up to them to step out it for the last.