One of the saddest aspects of boxing is that way, way too many fighters drag their careers on far longer than they should. Whether they're driven by need or ambition, these individuals end up littering the landscape with tales of warning which all too few heed. There are exceptions, however. The following four men knew when it was time to pack it in - and for that, they deserve notice.
Michael Spinks: Perhaps the greatest light heavyweight in boxing history, Spinks went on to keep Larry Holmes from tying Rocky Maricano's record by winning the heavyweight title in 1985. After winning over Holmes again - albeit controversially - Spinks earned a notable victory over hard hitting Gerry Cooney in '87.
Then came Mike Tyson.
The two met in '88 to decide for good and all who the TRUE heavyweight champion was. In less than a single round, it was clear that man was Iron Mike. After his crushing defeat at the gloves of Tyson, Spinks walked away from the sport - and with good reason. What was there left to prove?
Marvelous Marvin Hagler: Hagler was THE MAN at middleweight - a true warrior with a true skill set who came up the hard way. His rule in the 80's was legendary. Hagler won what may well have been the greatest fight ever by knocking out Tommy Hearns in the third round in '85. He then went on to KO John Mugabi in an absolute war the following year.
Sensing the time was right to strike, Ray Leonard challenged the aging Hagler in '87. Although soundly favored, Hagler nonetheless lost one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history. Realizing tough guys can't catch a break when facing pop culture icons, Hagler retired rather than engaging in a rematch with Leonard, his reputation, money and health in tack.
Rocky Marciano: Probably the most famous undefeated pug in history, Marciano is unique for retiring while on top. A champ who met and bested all comers, including the amazing Joe Walcott and a way over the hill Joe Louis, Marciano wisely packed it in after winning a brawl with the great Archie Moore (it's my personal all time favorite fight after Hagler-Hearns).
He may have died too young in a plane crash, but Maricano died a legend, not just in the world of boxing, but in the entire world of sports. Talk about leaving a legacy.
George Foreman: I know what you're thinking - Big George doesn't belong here. Ah, but he does! After getting beaten by Jimmy Young in '77, Foreman found God and stopped fighting. When he came back, ten full years later in '87, many laughed. Foreman was a different man than before, though: happy, God fearing, likable...and in possession of a jab that could set up his still potent power punches.
You know the rest of the story. Against all reason, Foreman managed to regain the heavyweight title by besting Michael Moorer in '94 - a full twenty years after he lost it to Muhammad Ali in Zaire. Foreman stopped boxing in '97, a legit legend and wildly successful corporate spokesman.
Ask yourself this - would this story have had such a happy ending if Foreman had decided to keep right on fighting after the loss to Jimmy Young all those years ago?