During the last few weeks there has been much speculation and many articles have been written about whether Floyd Mayweather would be coming out of retirement for a huge money rematch with Manny Pacquiao.
This focus on a recently retired boxer got me thinking about the issues fighters face when contemplating retiring from the sport and indeed why so many of them return to the ring after seemingly hanging up their gloves.
I reached out to a legendary boxer who retired on his own terms in 2004 and stuck to this decision – former Undisputed Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
Lewis, also an Olympic gold medalist, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He is a highly respected figure in the boxing world and provides excellent insight on his decision to stop boxing when he did, why he has stayed retired and offers some good advice to any young fighters starting their journey in the sport today. Lennox also offers his thoughts on training fighters and the current Heavyweight scene.
CM: Hi Lennox, how is retirement treating you? How do you keep busy and what have you got going on right now?
LL: Retirement has been good. After boxing I wanted to focus on my marriage, my family and building our home here in sunny Jamaica. We have four children now so I spend my time chasing after them to keep my figure!
CM: You retired in 2004, was there ever a point where you seriously considered coming back?
LL: Yes… but then I woke up. I retired for a reason. When I made that decision I made it when I knew I would keep that promise to myself. Father time waits on no-one. I've watched too many greats say “just one more” only to be beaten by fighters that could never have competed with them in their prime. I knew from the time I turned pro that this would never be me.
CM: You were trained by the late, great Emanuel Steward throughout your peak years. What kind of advice did he offer when you discussed retirement with him?
LL: Mainly just to be sure this is what I want. There will always be one more fight. Someone to call you out. If I fought Klitschko again and beat him soundly people might say you didn't beat his younger brother though. If I beat both of them there would be another. There is never a shortage of people who come for your crown so you have to be wise enough to prepare yourself and know when to say when.
CM: In my mind you are the best example of a retired boxer who has kept their word and stayed that way. Why do you think so many other fighters can't do the same?
LL: I think the attention and adulation can be like a drug. So when you see some of these great champions, sometimes they see a young up and coming champ and the attention he's getting and they miss that glory. They don't see any difference in their minds. Their minds are wired to think like and be a champion but it's the body that actually has to go out there and do the work. When that happens you get in there and your mind is telling your body to do the things it used to, but it's lost a step or two. This is a recipe for disaster for many great fighters. That and needing the money.
CM: Ah the M word, so in terms of boxers returning due to money problems do you believe the sport (perhaps through national associations or the sanctioning bodies) could do more when it comes to educating fighters on managing their finances or do you think that should be the responsibility of the the individual and their support team?
LL: Definitely. I think these organisations could educate fighters much like they do in the NBA and NFL but when all is said and done it is still up to the fighters to make the decisions. I always tell young up and coming fighters to Protect That Money. There will be a thousand people around you finding ways to separate you from your money.
There will always be very smart guys in nice suits saying big words about what they can do for you with your money. You have to learn how to navigate that circus but it still comes down to common sense. Sign your own checks. Know who's getting paid, how much and why and set yourself up for your future by preparing now. Protect That Money!
CM: I know you did some advisory work with David Price a while back – have you ever considered training boxers full time?
LL: Yes, but right now I'm working with the youth in my League Of Champions Training Camps. Working with Price was also a learning experience for me because it taught me a few things. I won't take a part time or marginal position in a camp because it doesn't give the fighter what they need. Price also wasn't willing to commit to a full training camp away from all the distractions of family and life that I told him he needed.
There's a ton of hard work and sacrifice between good and great. If you're not willing to make those sacrifices then you may not ever reach your true potential.
CM: Finally I assume you keep an eye on the current boxing landscape. What are your thoughts on the Heavyweight division right now?
LL: I say it's wide open now. Fury is getting help for his depression. Klitschko was the dominant heavy but now he has a question mark on him after his fight with Fury. Is his age catching up? Was it a fluke? Or was he exposed? Anthony Joshua is progressing well. I think he needs more rounds because you don't learn much by knocking people out early. Deontay Wilder is out there. He's young and has all of the physical aspects to be a good champion but he still shows inexperience. He needs to stick with and master the fundamentals. He told me that sometimes he gets excited and begins to throw wild punches. An experienced and polished fighter might be able to exploit that about him. I'm excited about these guys and the new crop of fighters coming up. I would say the division is levelling out so we will have to wait to see who is the last man standing.