Knowing when to call time on a career cannot be an easy thing. Speaking from a personal perspective, the factors to consider in such a situation must feel like they are huge. “What about the money? What about the legacy? Do I still have one more fight left in me? If I don’t, what does that say about me that I am willing to admit that to myself? How much does it matter that I never got to fight THAT guy?” And so on and so forth. With all the self-imposed pressure, no wonder boxers choose to fight on or to make a come back. Some guys get it right; out of the recent batch, Floyd Mayweather and Joe Calzaghe retired undefeated with legacies pretty much cemented into the history books. Carl Froch, who couldn’t secure a lifelong dream of fighting in Las Vegas, chose instead to end his career at Wembley Stadium (after winning another dream fight), having retained both his IBF and WBA super-middleweight straps against George Groves.
But others aren’t so fortunate. We are all practically begging Roy Jones Jr. to hang them up for good. Michael Katsidis is also ignoring the advice of everyone and has chosen to continue fighting in underwhelming 6 rounders, fighters like Shane Mosley, Danny Williams and Michael Sprott are now only doing damage to their credentials, and there are rumors… heaven forbid… that guys like Frank Bruno and Nigel Benn are considering having one last throw of the boxing dice. As appalling as that sounds, the sport is littered with fighters like these, and it just goes to show how hard the final decision is to make… if indeed it stays final.
Yet, making that decision is something that might be facing one of our era’s greatest fighters. Juan Manuel Marquez is torn between quitting the sport, and negotiating terms for a swan song bout against former middleweight title challenger Miguel Cotto at welterweight. Now, in some ways I can see why the fight makes sense on paper; two guaranteed hall-of-famers facing off against one another, both fighters share a number of former opponents, and there is the not-so-small issue of the historical Mexico vs Puerto Rico rivalry bubbling away in the background. Sounds pretty good. However, look a little deeper, and to me it starts to look like the fight that could be the fight too far for Marquez. Here’s why…
The guy is 43 years old this August, fighting in an “age matters” division. He has been fighting for 23 years and has had a total of 64 pro bouts. He’s been in a few wars, most notably with long-standing rival Manny Pacquiao. A career like that will take its toll, both mentally and physically. In addition to that, the last fight in that career took place just under two years ago, a points victory against Mike Alvarado. There simply must be an element of ring rust to consider at this stage, and that will manifest itself very differently in a fighter about to enter his mid-40’s.
Interestingly, the victory against Alvarado, which won him the WBO International welterweight strap, is a small oasis of success in what has otherwise been a mixed run of form at 147 pounds. His record in the division stands at 2-3, his other win being THAT Manny Pacquiao knockout (in a fight that he was otherwise losing on all scorecards). Truth be told, he has never really been a full welterweight; the heaviest he has ever weighed is 144½lbs for his split decision loss to Tim Bradley in 2013, before dropping back down to 141½lbs to face Alvarado a year later.
That reason alone should cast doubt over his proposed match with Cotto, who would be coming down from a short stint at middleweight to meet him. Cotto, at 35, is no spring chicken either, and may struggle to make a weight class he hasn’t fought at since 2009. So… the fight would take place at a weight neither are totally comfortable with and it would not be for a title, unless someone else gets stripped or ordered to vacate for the sake of making the match up more interesting. So… practically speaking, just what is the long-term goal here? Assuming Marquez wins (which is open to debate)… what options would the win earn him? A shot at the winner of Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter? A rekindling of interest with a bout against Kell Brook? Fighting the winner of Pacquiao-Bradley could either see him needlessly meet the Filipino for a fifth time, or fight the American in a rematch that failed to ignite the public the first time around.
Realistically, I just don’t see the appeal, and I don’t see the incentive for Marquez. Surely in the twilight days of his competitive boxing life, there is nothing to achieve by taking this fight, because there is nothing left to prove. He has earned more than enough money from the sport and has given us some truly memorable nights in the process. It is not my place to advise any fighter on what to do with their career, but if it were, Marquez could end it now on a real high, on a win, safe in the knowledge that the good life and the Boxing Hall Of Fame await. It’s certainly how I would want to go.