If a random reader strolled into my office this afternoon, looked me up and down, then said I should hit the bricks because I'm no good at my job anymore, you can imagine where I'd tell him to go. (And then I'd wonder how the guy got in the building and change the locks.)
So I don't expect Shane Mosley to heed my words -- or the warnings of anyone else, outside of those in his family or professional circle. Boxing is his trade, he's allowed to make an honest living, and if a boxing commission is still willing to green-light him, who am I to tell him not to step through the ropes again?
But here it is anyway: Shane, please take your gloves and go home.
Here's the thing: I actually believe Mosley, even at 41, remains a viable welterweight opponent at the second -- or third-tier levels. And when he returns Saturday in Cancun, Mexico to face Pablo Cesar Cano -- a tough 23-year-old kid whose only two losses came to Paulie Malignaggi and Erik Morales in close decisions where Cano gave as good as he got -- there will be an element of mystery to the proceedings. Mosley isn't being thrown to the wolves.
But it comes down to more than just an interest in honest competition, or even a preservationists' urge to hermetically seal the legacy of a three-division titlist and former pound-for-pound buzzsaw. (Mosley hasn't won a fight since 2009, going 0-3-1 since then, so that ship has sailed anyway.) Of greater concern is the toll exacted on him by 55 professional fights -- particularly the more recent ones, in which his hair-trigger reflexes seemed to rust before our eyes.
This isn't a broken-down Joe Namath or Shaquille O'Neal hobbling through his final days of athletic glory. Losing a few ticks off the fastball or a half-step down the line? A guy can live with that. But for a fighter whose foundation is built on reaction time and hand speed, a slight erosion of skills translates to fewer connects, longer bouts and more glancing blows coming back that turn into flush shots to the face. Can a guy live with that? Maybe. But even a handful of those sort of rounds can ruin the quality of that life over time.
Fighters and fans both understand the potential costs. You either make peace with them or move on. But no one who appreciates the sacrifices that boxing requires has the stomach for gratuitous carnage. Mosley might not be that far gone just yet, but he's testing those limits. For his own sake, is it too much to ask him not to?
With that, here are five fighters I'd like to see retire right now:
He hasn't thrown a meaningful punch since buckling the knees of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the second round of their 2010 fight, when Mosley was coming off a 15-month layoff and suddenly appeared a different fighter. He went into a shell after those initial rounds against Mayweather, and he was painfully gun-shy against Manny Pacquiao a year later. Having trouble touching up Floyd is one thing. The fact that Mosley not only couldn't get to Manny but ultimately stopped trying was perhaps the more telling sign.
Toney, 44, is a mess in just about every sense of the word. Once a devastating middleweight and super middleweight titlist, he's now a sloppy heavyweight who is 6-4-1 with two no-contests against middling competition since 2005. Toney still has power, but he's too slow to use it effectively. Worse, his titanium chin, which keeps him in fights even when he's overmatched, ironically has become one of the greatest threats to his health. After 87 pro fights -- an almost obscene number in this day and age -- he conducts blustery, unintelligible interviews that would be humorous if they weren't so heartbreaking.
McCall's moment in the sun -- a second-round TKO of heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis in London -- is now almost two decades old. Now consider that he has fought 40 times -- forty! -- since. McCall still has the goods to have somewhat recently beaten creaky former contender Fres Oquendo but couldn't measure up to Wladimir Klitschko victim Francesco Pianeta. That shouldn't inherently rule that “The Atomic Bull” be put out to pasture, but considering his age (48), the power of his heavyweights foes and the sustained punishment he has taken (McCall went the distance in 10- or 12-rounders in nine of his past 10 fights), I'd say enough is enough.
Because they're often left with so little after being stripped of their speed in their early or mid-30s, most of boxing's little guys get out of the game at a more appropriate time relative to their primes. Wonjongkam, 35, never got the memo. The former flyweight champ and Thai stud seemed to be drained of most of his fight after outpointing Edgar Sosa in 2011. A draw and an upset loss to journeyman Sonny Boy Jaro followed, and his since then his wins (three against fighters making their debut) don't speak near the volumes of his single defeat (a TKO at the hands of sub-.500 foe Rey Megrino).
Roy Jones Jr.
For those who aren't old enough to remember or who were living on Neptune during Jones' prime from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, here's a quick scouting report: Think Floyd Mayweather Jr. meets Mike Tyson. Jones was literally scary-good, combining speed and dominance with a fearsomeness that infused each of his fights with a sort of fascinatingly macabre inevitability. Which is why it's stunning to see the current version of Jones so utterly disarmed against fighters he would have ripped to shreds back in the day. Yes, he's 44. And of course the moves between divisions weren't kind to him. But even just five years ago, when Jones already was in mid-decline, the crushing knockout he suffered against Denis Lebedev (in 2011) would've been unthinkable. There's a reason we now only see Roy on HBO with a mic in his hand.