At least...that's how it should be.
But usually the fighter thinks that he has something left and tries to come back and remind anyone who didn't know before how great they were, despite the protests of fans, commentaters and medical experts only to take a beating that they don't deserve. And yet they refuse to go away. Let's take a look at the ones who really need to pack it in.
1) Evander Holyfield - I remember having just turned 11 and everyone was talking about Evander Holyfield. Well...that's half-true. Everyone was really talking about how Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield in thier heavyweight title rematch. That was my first real exposure to mainstream boxing and naturally, I was disgusted by it and thought boxing a vile sport only to come to my senses in high school...but that's another story for another time.
You had to admire the guts on Evander. Despite calls for his retirement back in 1995, Holyfield defied to odds when he knocked out Mike Tyson a year later. But after the farce of a draw with Lewis followed by his loss in the rematch, you could tell that Holyfield's days as a heavyweight elite were finished. And while he may have made history by winning the title for a fourth time in 2000, that should have been the time for Holyfield to step down. What a better time to do it than after accomplishing something the great Ali couldn't do?
However from 2000 - 2009 Evander only went 6-6-1 with his most notable fights being his TKO loss to James Toney in 2003 and his 2008 loss to then titleholder Nicolai Valuev in a fight which many thought Holyfield had won. Now with a record of 43-10-2, Evander continues to fight into this decade with a recent and meaningless knockout of Francois Botha. But as always, Holyfield will continue on, not stopping until he becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion. But the days of Holyfield surprising us are long gone.
2) Bernard Hopkins - To me, Hopkins is like the Rodney Dangerfield of boxing; always going around saying how he gets no respect. And I'll be honest, there was a time when I was among that crowd not giving it to him. It was hard to, in my opinion, to a man who barely fought in his fight with Joe Calzaghe and instead decided to box via clinching. I was really annoyed by that because it was the first fight my father watched with me in an attempt to understand why I loved this sport.
That and his damned insistance that once again, he had been a victim of bad judging made me shake my head but also rubbing my hands with glee when I heard that he was going to challenge hard hitting middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik to a catchweight bout at 170. I knew that Hopkins would tire quickly, Pavlik would be too much and execute the "Executioner" in six.
Boy, do I look stupid now.
From rounds two until twelve, I watched my screen with my jaw dropped, amazed that this aging legend was schooling and humiliating the younger, stronger and heavily favoured champion. If Bernard Hopkins didn't have my respect before, he earned it when he beat Pavlik. For a guy like Bernard Hopkins, that would be the point to announce retirement, when everyone who doubted him stood up for him and cheered while eating their words.
But there's a reason why he's on this list, don't forget.
It was nearly a year before Hopkins fought again in a tune-up bout against Enrique Ornelas. Who? Oh well, it doesn't matter, it was a fight that no one really cared about, no one watched and no one remembers. But in his last outting against Roy Jones, after admitting to seeing spots and blacking out in his locker room after the fight (Be that what really happened or acting on Bernard's part is up to you), it's clear that the now 45 year old should call it a career and focus on doing promotional work for Golden Boy Promotions.
I hope no one entertains his notion of moving up to middeweight to fight David Haye though. We don't need to add Hopkins to the list of reasons why Haye won't fight either Klitschko brother.
But of course now he's getting ready to fight Jean Pascal. Is it wrong for me to say that for the good of the sport, I hope he loses?
3) Roy Jones Jr. - Ten years ago, did anyone really believe that Roy Jones could be knocked out, let alone lose a fight? He was Superman, landing three punches before his opponent could think about throwing one and dodging anything from trains to a right cross.
But then he gave Antonio Tarver a rematch to their 2003 fight. And from there it's been mostly downhill. Like I said, no one had ever really beaten Roy Jones Jr. before so you can imagine the shock when "Superman" was dropped and knocked out by the Kryptonite in Tarver's gloves. Jones would not be rapping about this fight in any future rap singles.
Following the knockout to Tarver came an even more devastating KO loss to Glen Johnson which was quickly followed up by a decision loss to Tarver in the rubbermatch. He was able to make a bounce back against unknowns when he finally made it back to HBO in 2008 with a fight against the equally faded Felix Trinidad.
For some reason, the good showing against Trindad deluded fans (and Jones) into believing that Superman could be reborn in a fight against Joe Calzaghe and for two round it looked like it might happen.