Top 10 over 40

By Jarrett Zook on January 22, 2015
Top 10 over 40
As the Old Mongoose himself once said, “Nothing ever came easy to me, except ulcers.”

I have compiled a list of ten of the craftiest veterans the sport of boxing has known, those who have found success at the age of forty and beyond…

Bernard Hopkins just turned fifty and may still have a fight or two left in him. If not, he can rest assured that he went out on his shield against the best fighter in his division, Sergey Kovalev. By the time the vast majority of boxers turn even forty, they have been long retired. If a fighter is still entering the ring at forty and able to find success, it is a testament to his unique skill and self-discipline. Some of these elder statesmen even reached career peaks in their forties. Middle-aged pugilists who are able to compete with fighters in the primes of their lives are truly noteworthy. Thus, I have compiled a list of ten of the craftiest veterans the sport of boxing has known, those who have found success at the age of forty and beyond.

10. Jack Britton

When considering the top ten welterweights of all time, Jack Britton’s name is often brought up. This old-schooler fought in thirty-seven world title bouts (due to the time period in which he fought eighteen of these bouts were no-decisions). Britton held the title on and off from 1915 until 1922, when he lost to the great Mickey Walker. He was thirty-seven when he surrendered the title and thus it seemed like a good time to hang the gloves up. Unfortunately, Britton had lost most of his money in failed investments and was forced to continue making a living the best way he knew how. Post-forty Britton continued to win the vast majority of his bouts and beat fringe contenders such as Arthur Schaekels, Meyer Cohen, Harry Felix, and Tony Vaccarelli. He also lost a ten-round decision to contender Hilario Martinez, in which the New York Times reported that the fight set the attendance record at the Broadway Arena in Brooklyn. Alas, starting in April of 1929, Britton was losing more than he was winning; he had his last fight on July 29, 1930. Britton may have started to lose more at the tail end of his career, but he still managed to exit every fight on his feet and never lost by knockout over the course of his entire fistic journey.

9. Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage

I know I’m getting some odd looks right now, but he deserves to be on this list. Let’s show some love for the only current titleholder to be represented in this article. Bundrage is a tenacious, somewhat heavy fisted, two-time junior middleweight titleholder and will turn forty-two in just three months. K-9 has only had two bouts since turning forty, but he has easily won both of them. He beat the somewhat talented Joey Hernandez about a year ago, by an extremely wide decision. Additionally, he managed to put a beatdown on the squirrely Carlos Molina, en route to a wide decision win. Molina held the IBF junior middleweight title and has never been stopped in his career. Furthermore, Molina had given such fighters as James Kirkland and Erislandy Lara fits. However, K-9 looked best in show and came as close as anyone to stopping Molina, as he knocked Carlos down twice in the bout. Bundrage appears to be in top form and depending on what he does, he could move farther up the list.

8. Roberto Duran

I’m assuming everyone reading this is well-acquainted with “Hands of Stone” Duran. He was a terror of the lightweight and welterweight divisions in the 1970s through the early ‘80s. Throughout the rest of the ‘80s he remained viable and captured titles in both the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions. Duran started to show some of his age in the ‘80s and by the end of the decade it was clear he was no longer the fighter he once was. It seemed his career might have come to an end at the age of thirty-nine, when in March of 1991 he lost to Pat Lawlor by sixth round TKO. Duran had no plans of retirement though and following the Lawlor fight he reeled off seven straight wins against nondescript opposition. In June of 1994 at the age of forty-three, he faced off against top ten contender Vinny Pazienza. Paz was ten years younger than Duran, but did not necessarily look more youthful the night they squared off. Duran fought hard and knocked Pazienza down in the fifth round. However, the judges controversially rewarded Paz with the decision. At the end of the fight Duran exclaimed, “If this kid’s so tough, look at his face and look at me…I didn’t lose the fight.” The two fought again six months later and this time Pazienza was more dominant. However, Duran had one more significant highlight in his post-forty career, as he managed to split two ten-round decisions with Jorge Fernando Castro. Castro was a top ten contender only two fights removed from a title reign and Duran’s victory is all the more impressive considering that he was forty-five years old. Duran would go on to fight on for seven more years and came up short whenever he attempted to step up his competition. However, he proved to be more than any journeyman could handle and even managed to acquit himself well against some contenders long after most would have left the sport.

7. Sugar Ray Robinson

What top ten list would not the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all-time make? The man could hit, move, and was as tough as they come. Like many fighters, Sugar Ray made bad financial decisions that caused him to stay in the ring for too long. In March of 1961, one month shy of his fortieth birthday, Robinson lost to Gene Fullmer. This was to be his last shot at the middleweight title. Everyone watching Robinson knew that he was far removed from the great that he once was which in no way means that he was no longer competent in the ring. In his very first fight as a forty-year-old, Robinson managed to take a decision, albeit a somewhat controversial one, from ranking contender Denny Moyer. Also, at the age of forty-two Robinson managed to beat Ralph Dupas by split decision. This was quite an impressive feat, as Dupas would go on to win the junior middleweight title in his very next bout. Usually, the post-forty Robinson lost against viable contenders though and Joey Giardello, Terry Downes, and Stan Harrington all defeated him. Robinson’s skills began to rapidly deteriorate around the time he turned forty-four. On November 10, 1965 Sugar Ray hung the gloves up after losing by wide decision, in which he was knocked down by the light-hitting master boxer Joey Archer.

6. Larry Holmes

Holmes is best known as the heavyweight champion who reigned from 1980 to 1985 and made twenty title defenses. After losing to Michael Spinks by a razor thin decision in April of 1986 he retired. However, a little less than two years later Holmes was offered the “opportunity” to face Mike Tyson. Young Iron Mike destroyed the thirty-eight-year-old Holmes and it seemed like Larry’s 2.8 million dollar purse would be a more than adequate retirement package. For over three years Holmes stayed out of the sport, until the fighting bug bit once again a little over three years later. Holmes beat tomato cans his first five fights on the comeback trail. However, the forty-two-year-old Holmes dramatically stepped up his level of opposition for his sixth fight. He took on the undefeated 1988 Olympic gold medal winner, Ray Mercer. Holmes outfoxed his “merciless” opponent and managed to pull out a deserved unanimous decision win. The Easton Assassin then managed to parlay the victory over Mercer into a title shot against Evander Holyfield. Holmes fought gamely and won a few rounds, but ultimately youth prevailed and Holyfield won by a reasonably wide decision. Holmes then reeled off six more victories before beating the often tricky Boogieman Ferguson. Following the Ferguson bout, Holmes got a shot against Oliver McCall for the WBC championship. Larry lost a razor close decision, which was pretty remarkable considering he was forty-five years old. Following the McCall fight Holmes’ notable fights were a controversial decision loss to Brian Nielsen and a win over an almost equally ancient Mike Weaver. Holmes last bout was a unanimous decision win over the well-known sideshow, Butterbean Esch, at the age of fifty-two.

5. Bob Fitzsimmons

Fitzsimmons may be the sickliest looking heavyweight champion of all time, but despite his appearance he packed a lot of power. He may have never weighed more than one hundred seventy-five pounds, but that never stopped him from winning the heavyweight title. Fitzsimmons had a good run amongst the heavies and seemed to be able to beat about anyone except the exponentially larger James J. Jeffries. After losing to Jeffries for the second time, at the age of thirty-nine, Fitzsimmons decided to try his luck in the newly minted light heavyweight division. His very first bout in the young division was for the title and he became champion after taking a twenty-round decision over George Gardner. At the time of this bout, Fitzsimmons was a spry forty and in his next contest he would take on the great Philadelphia Jack O’Brien. When they first met in 1904, Fitzsimmons was forty-one and managed to win by sixth round knockout. The bout is sometimes recorded as a no-decision contest and was scheduled for only six rounds. However, upon further analysis Fitzsimmons’ win proves to be decisive. Despite being outboxed early, Ruby Robert caught his opponent with a hard straight left, knocked down O’Brien, and the bout was stopped with one minute thirty-eight seconds left. In their rematch O’Brien managed to outlast his senior foe and won by thirteenth round knockout. After losing his title, Fitzsimmons fought only a handful of bouts, including a second round knockout loss to Jack Johnson in 1907.

4. Vitali Klitschko

No one else on this list has exited the sport while still a champion crushing all opposition. Okay, maybe not all opposition, but you can hardly expect him to fight his younger brother. Vitali had three fights after he turned forty and won all with ease. Furthermore, all three were defending the WBC title that he had held since 2004, and kept until he stepped down in 2012. His first fight at age forty came against top contender Tomasz Adamek. In this fight Klitschko thoroughly and methodically broke down his opponent, until the fight was stopped in the tenth round. His next bout came against the tough Derek Chisora. Gameness was not enough to overcome Dr. Ironfist and even though Chisora never stopped coming forward, he lost by a wide decision to Vitali. The final fight of Klitschko’s career came against the undefeated and untested Manuel Charr. As expected, Charr was cannon fodder and he only lasted four rounds before being stopped. Klitschko was then expected to face mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne for a unification fight in 2013. Unfortunately, Klitschko was forced to pull out of the fight due to an injury in his right hand. Stiverne would have proved as tough a test as anyone for Vitali, but Dr. Ironfist would have been the heavy favorite. Regardless, a few months after he pulled out of the fight, Vitali Klitschko announced his retirement and chose to focus his energy on Ukrainian politics.

3. George Foreman

It can be safely stated that no one on this list endeared himself to the public in the same way that “Big” George Foreman did. Robinson was beloved because he was great, old George because he was affable, relatable, and an underdog. As a young fighter, Foreman was a destructive force. He won the 1968 Olympic gold medal in the super heavyweight division and captured the heavyweight crown in 1973. After losing the title in 1974 Foreman remained a viable contender, but after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 he retired at the age of twenty-eight. Ten years after he “retired,” Foreman decided to make a comeback to the shock of the boxing community. However, “Big” George proved that he was for real and with each fight he came in better and better shape. George reeled off twenty-four straight victories against mostly tomato cans, but three of those wins were knockouts over Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Bert Cooper, and Gerry Cooney. Thus, at the age of forty-two, he received a title shot against Evander Holyfield. The “Real Deal” proved to be a stiff test and Foreman was thoroughly outboxed, despite a constant forward charge that inflicted some damage on the champion. Holyfield was rightly awarded the decision and it was back to the drawing board for the former champ.

After three victories, including a victory over Alex Stewart in which he struggled mightily, Foreman faced Tommy Morrison for the vacant WBO title. Morrison was a power puncher and the fight seemed like it might be a good one. Tommy had no intention of trading blows with Foreman though and won by boxing cautiously in a snoozer. Somehow “Big” George managed to receive another title shot, but was an extreme longshot to win against the undefeated Michael Moorer. From the opening bell, Foreman was outboxed and by the tenth round he was trailing by a wide margin on two scorecards. All you need in boxing is one good punch and in the tenth round Foreman landed a short right on Moorer’s chin. Moorer immediately collapsed and just like that a new champion was crowned. This bout was contested in 1994 and Foreman became the oldest person to win the heavyweight crown at forty-five years of age. At the age of forty-six he made his first defense against the German contender Axel Schulz. George emerged with an extremely controversial decision and was stripped of his title for refusing to give Schulz a rematch. After two fights victories against decent, but unspectacular opposition, Foreman faced young contender Shannon Briggs. In one of the worst decisions in the history of the sport, the forty-eight-year-old Foreman was robbed of victory. Following the Briggs debacle, Foreman retired and continued to be a marketing guru.

2. Bernard Hopkins

Hopkins could debatably be number one on this list, due to his impressive run as an elder statesman. Despite the enormous success Hopkins has found in boxing, his career started rather inauspiciously. During a prison sentence that lasted almost five years, the young Hopkins learned to box. After being released in 1988, he lost his first fight to one Clinton Mitchell. After a little over a year off, Hopkins was back in the ring and this time he was winning and he wouldn’t lose for twenty-two straight fights. In his first title bout Hopkins lost to Roy Jones Jr. by a wide decision. However, following the Jones fight, B-Hop wouldn’t lose another fight for twelve years, until July of 2005 when he was forty years old. Jermain Taylor ended Hopkins streak and handed him yet another defeat in December of 2005. Consequently, it seemed as if Hopkins career may be coming to an end. What no one knew is that Hopkins would emerge from the ashes like a phoenix. After the second Taylor defeat, Hopkins moved up two divisions, from middleweight to light heavyweight, and faced Antonio Tarver. Hopkins was forty-one and facing the man named by Ring Magazine as the light heavyweight champion. The Alien proved to be far too much for Tarver to handle and won by a very wide decision.

Hopkins then beat master boxer Winky Wright by unanimous decision and received the wrong end of the nod, in a razor close fight with Joe Calzaghe. After losing the title to Calzaghe, Hopkins schooled the man who conquered Jermain Taylor, Kelly Pavlik. Furthermore, in 2011 at the age of forty-six Hopkins became the oldest man to win a title, when he beat Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight crown. Hopkins surrendered the crown to Chad Dawson only one year later and it seemed like he might be done. But The Alien wished to prove just how unnatural he was and won the IBF title after outboxing Tavoris Cloud. Two fights later Hopkins added the WBA title to his résumé. In this match, he set the record for becoming the oldest fighter to unify titles, when he defeated Beibut Shumenov at the age of forty-nine. Following the Shumenov fight, Hopkins agreed to fight the Russian destroyer, Sergey Kovalev. Sadly, Kovalev was too much of a match for B-Hop and the old champion did all he could, but nevertheless lost a wide decision. Hopkins will certainly wind up in the Hall of Fame and there’s little out there left for him to accomplish. Yet, he is reportedly entertaining the idea of having one more fight.

1. Archie Moore

Some sources list Archie’s Moore’s birthday as December 13, 1913 and others as December 13, 1916. If Archie was born in 1916, he debatably may have still been number one of this list. Wikipedia and BoxRec list him as being born in 1916. The International Boxing Hall of Fame, Encyclopedia Britannica, IMBD, and his own mother claim 1913. For the purpose of this article and because I’ll take the word of the person that pushed him out, Archie Moore was born in 1913. While there is also evidence to support the position that Moore was born in 1916, I personally don’t know because I wasn’t around then. Now with that behind us, the exact date Moore’s career started is also of dispute. We do know that he started punching for pay in the mid-1930s and that he learned to box while spending almost two years in reform school. In the early 1940s Archie Moore was a ranking middleweight contender and for the rest of the decade he was a top light heavyweight contender. Despite this, he suffered from “Charley Burley syndrome” and was ducked by all titleholders because he was too talented and too black. As Moore himself said, “Nothing ever came easy to me, except ulcers.” The Old Mongoose was doggedly persistent though and in 1952 he finally received his shot at the light heavyweight title. Four days after his thirty-ninth birthday, Moore schooled Joey Maxim and began a title run that would last until 1959 or 1961 depending on who you ask.

Archie fought Maxim again in 1953 and it was much more competitive than the first go-round. Therefore, Moore’s first fight as a forty-year-old would be his third against Maxim. The third time was not a charm for Maxim and he was convincingly outboxed. Later in 1954 Moore knocked out heavyweight contender Bob Baker and defended his title against future Hall of Famer Harold Johnson. Moore’s first fight of 1955 was against heavyweight contender Nino Valdes. Moore outpointed his opponent and was now also the number one ranked heavyweight contender. After quickly dispatching Carl “Bobo” Olsen in a title defense, Moore was ready to prepare for a title shot against one of history’s top heavyweights, Rocky Marciano. Moore knocked down the Brockton Blockbuster in the second round. However, Marciano rose quickly and knocked Moore down four times. The final knockdown came in the ninth round and Moore would not beat the count. Despite this setback, Moore would continue to perform at a high level as a heavyweight throughout much of the rest of his career. He was a ranking contender at numerous points from 1956 through 1958 and would once again challenge for the title in 1956. In his latter heavyweight title challenge, Moore would lose to Floyd Patterson by fifth round knockout.

Archie never could reach the top of the heavyweight ranks, but he kept rolling along as king of the light heavies. From 1956 to 1959, Moore defended his titles successfully against top ten contenders Yolande Pompey, Tony Anthony, and Yvon Durelle (twice). All four of these wins came by way of knockout. In his first match with Durelle, Moore rallied from behind, after being knocked down three times in the first. In October of 1960, the NBA stripped Moore of the title due to lack of title defenses. It had been fourteen months since his last defense, but the New York State Athletic Commission still recognized him as champion. Additionally, in October of 1960 Moore lost to contender Giulio Rinaldi in a non-title bout. Thus, to many it may have appeared that the Old Mongoose was about to be put out to pasture. However, the crafty veteran wasn’t done yet and in June of 1961 he beat Rinaldi in a title defense of the NYSAC light heavyweight title. This was to be Moore’s last title defense, as he never again campaigned in the division. However, he would have an eventful 1962 campaigning in the heavies. Moore knocked out heavyweight contender Alejandro Lavorante and battled to a draw against Willie Pastrano. His last bout of 1962 was against a certain brash young heavyweight named Cassius Clay and this time youth prevailed as Moore lost by fourth round knockout. Following the loss to Clay, Moore had just one more fight and this was against a former professional wrestler making his ring debut. Archie holds the record for most knockout victories in a career and fittingly he beat Mike DiBiase by knockout in his final bout, on March 15,1963.

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  1. Jarrett 09:46pm, 01/25/2015

    Haha it’s all good, no worries. Willie Pep did make a comeback when he was over forty, but the opposition he faced was woeful. Only two fighters he beat during that stretch had records over .500. One was 13-11 and the other was 10-6-1.

  2. The Pinoy Pikey 08:44pm, 01/25/2015

    Sorry.  That was kind of dickhead-ish of me: that is a good list and Archie Moore is definately the only choice for number 1!

  3. The Pinoy Pikey 08:33pm, 01/25/2015

    Great stuff: where’s Willie Pep?

  4. Clarence George 07:55pm, 01/22/2015

    Bert Whitehurst.

  5. peter 06:40pm, 01/22/2015

    Excellent idea for an article! Who is that in the ring with Archie Moore? It looks like Sam McVey, but McVey would’ve been 100 years old by then.

  6. Eric 08:21am, 01/22/2015

    No question that Ancient Archie takes it, but Bernard and Big George give him a run for his money. And Archie probably wasn’t using PEDs, which were around back then, but not many athletes were taking them, probably no one in the boxing world. I “suspect” that the Klits, Hopkins, and maybe even Big George MIGHT have experimented with these vitamins. Who knows?

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