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Modern boxers are older

An interesting trend has emerged in professional boxing. Some of today’s top fighters are, on average, markedly older than those of 40 years ago.

Here in South Africa Baby Jake Matlala was 40 years old in his last fight and Mzonke Fana, who will be 44 in October this year, challenged for the South Africa lightweight title in June 2017.

Ali Funeka, 39, is scheduled to fight in the USA in August this year and former South African lightweight champion Patrick Malinga is still active at the age of 39.

Other South African fighters who fought on after they were 35 years old were world champions Thulani “Sugarboy” Malinga and Dingan Thobela.

In years gone by a fighter was considered past his best, even approaching the end of his career at the age of thirty.

There were exceptions, however, such as Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson and Willie Pep.

It recent years fighters have continued to campaign successfully and even won titles beyond the age of 30.

The most famous is George Foreman who, at the age of 46, knocked out Michael Moorer in November 1994 to win the WBA and IBF heavyweight belts.

Current world champions like Andre Ward (33), Genady Golovkin (35) and Guillermo Rigondeaux (36) are well over the age of 30 and Manny Pacquiao (38) has just lost his WBO belt.

Multiple world champion Roy Jones was still active at 48 having his last fight in February, 2017.

In the middleweight division Marvin Hagler, who was champion in 1980, was only 28, but his counterpart in recent years, Bernard Hopkins, was still a world champion at 49 and had his last fight in December 2016 when he was nearly 52.

Kostya Tszyu still held the WBC, WBA and IBF junior welterweight belts at the age of 33.

The most outstanding fighter for longevity in the modern age is Mexican junior-flyweight Ricardo Lopez, who was 35 when he had his last fight.

As a strawweight he won the WBC, WBA and WBO belts.

He defended the WBC belt 19 times before going on to win the IBF junior flyweight belt.

In a 16-year professional career he remained unbeaten in 51 fights (37 knockouts).

The only blemish on his record is a technical draw against Rosendo Alvarez in March 1998 when he sustained a bad cut over the eye.

One must wonder about the trend. How can modern fighters continue well into their thirties when in earlier years a fighter was considered at the end of his career when he approached his 30th birthday?

Is it the modern training methods and diet or are the standards lower and slipping? Certainly times were harder, fighters had to box more often and conditions were tougher back in the 1930s or 40s.

So one has to ask whether some top fighters in 2022 will be older than 40; even 50. And will it be in the interest of the boxers to continue fighting for more than 20 years?

Looking at the damage some fighters suffer in only ten years in the ring, one does not want to see some of them after 20 years of pro boxing.

So the next question must be whether boxing authorities will, at some stage, have to introduce a compulsory retirement age for professional boxers, to save the fighters from themselves and from some promoters.

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