Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jabs, geriatrics and journalism

After the phenomenal performance of Juan Manuel Marquez in retaining his RING lightweight title against Juan Diaz, the trend of older fighters turning in dominant displays over their younger counterparts seemed to be in tact. At 35, beating a quality boxer as busy and brutal as Diaz -- 10 years his junior -- surely sealed Marquez a spot in Canastota.

It came nearly 24 hours after 40-year-old Glen Johnson easily picked up a win over Daniel Judah, keeping the Road Warrior in the mix at the top of the light heavyweight division. Johnson sits at No. 3 at 175 pounds, behind fellow quadragenarian Bernard Hopkins and the 26-year-old Chad Dawson, to whom he lost a close and disputed decision last April.

Hopkins, apparently a freak of nature at 44, has his sights set on the sturdy and severely underrated RING cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek. Who would deny B-Hop could handle his own? The Executioner battered RING middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, 26, from pillar to post in an October light heavyweight bout.

Let's not forget about top welterweight Shane Mosley, who looked as sweet as ever in his ninth-round knockout of the iron-chinned Antonio Margarito in January amid controversy of Margs' corner cheating. At 37, Mosley has six years on the Tijuana Tornado.

It appeared 40 was the new 25.

But for every Marquez, there is a Marco Antonio Barrera; every Johnson, a Roy Jones Jr.; every Hopkins or Mosley, an Oscar De La Hoya.

Barrera, despite his warrior spirit, proved he was a shell of his former self last Saturday against Amir Khan. The Baby-Faced Assassin met a far fresher face in Khan, who caused Barrera's mug to bleed profusely. The match was called after the fifth round with Khan conquering the former champion by technical decision. Barrera lost every round on all three official scorecards.

Jones -- who has lost four of his last eight and been the recipient of beatdowns at the hands of Johnson, Antonio Tarver and Joe Calzaghe -- is scheduled to fight Omar Sheika in Jones' hometown of Pensacola on a split boxing/MMA card. Problems: Though innovative, fans of neither sport seem interested in the pay-per-view; and Jones is as clueless and delusional about promotion as he is about having a future in the sport.

Then there's De La Hoya, who will likely never accumulate the success his Golden Boy partners (Hopkins, Mosley) have in boxing's golden years. To his credit, he hasn't retired only to return to the ring, but after Manny Pacquiao came up two weight classes to brutalize him it seems like the logical option. We'll see a farewell fight, but it will be meaningless in terms of the grand scope of the fight game.

At 35, 40 and 36, respectively, these former stars' careers have stalled. Running on fumes isn't beneficial to their health or the state of boxing. It's time to pack it in and call it a career before further damage is done.

Though Marquez, Johnson, Hopkins and Mosley have a few more good fights left in them, this is a young man's game. Tarnishing legacies and well-being won't win over potential viewers and isn't impressing the present fan base.

A friend once commented on Kevin Kelley's persistence to fight on. The Flushing Flash, who will be 42 in June, is 13-8 since December 1997 and has next to zero chance fighting for -- let alone winning -- a title. He began his career 47-1-2.

The paraphrased quip: How long before Kelley trades in his mouthpiece for dentures?

That sums up a collective response to boxers pressing on beyond their primes. Families and fans could use far less onsets of physical and psychological damage.

Death speculations correlated: As a student of journalism and a fan of boxing, I have to constantly hear of the demises of both newspapers and the sport I love.

Kevin Iole wrote a great column connecting the two. I encourage all to read it, consider how to improve the situations and become activists for keeping each alive and thriving.

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." -- Mark Twain

The Sweet Science is as everlasting as the written word.