Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon, who won world titles in two weight classes and went years without being seriously challenged as one of the best pure boxers of his generation, announced his retirement on Monday.
Calderon, 37, made his announcement three weeks after strawweight titlist Moises Fuentes knocked him out in the fifth round in a challenge for the title he once held.
Calderon, a 2000 Puerto Rican Olympian, made the announcement at the Amelia Municipal Boxing Gym in his hometown of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Calderon plans to work as trainer and administrator at the gym.
"This was difficult because (boxing is) something I love, but I want to say that I'm doing this not because I'm old or tired. I'm doing this because I want to work with the kids and youth, bringing them my knowledge and tips," Calderon said at a ceremony attended by his family, trainers Jose "Cheche" Sanchez and Felix Pagan Pintor, Guaynabo mayor Hector O'Neill, WBO president Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel and several top Puerto Rican fighters, including junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez and former titleholders Juan Manuel Lopez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
"I want to be an example for all my fellow boxers that when it is time (to retire) it is time, no matter if we are rich or poor. The health is what matters. I want to thank all (the fans)."
Calderon (35-3-1, 6 KOs) turned pro in February 2001 and quickly rose up the rankings of the 105-pound strawweight division, the lightest in boxing. Despite his small size and lack of power, Calderon became a heavyweight in terms of the acclaim he received because he was so good, so elusive and so quick that he was the dominant force in boxing's smallest weight classes. He is widely considered the best fighter in the history of the strawweight division other than Hall of Famer Ricardo Lopez of Mexico.
With two dominant title reigns in two weight classes and years spent being ranked by many among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Calderon is a probable Hall of Famer.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, who signed Calderon out of the amateur ranks along with Olympic teammate Miguel Cotto and co-promoted Calderon with PR Best Boxing's Peter and Ivan Rivera for most of his career, believes Calderon deserves to be voted into the Hall of Fame when he is eligible in five years.
"For a few years he was the best boxer in boxing," Arum said. "I think he's a Hall of Famer. I think he certainly is. His accomplishments match another fighter I promoted who was a little guy, Michael Carbajal, who is a Hall of Famer, and rightly so. And I think Calderon should be also."
In his 16th pro fight in May 2003, Calderon dominated Eduardo Ray Marquez to win a ninth-round technical decision to win the WBO version of the strawweight title on the undercard of the Oscar De La Hoya-Yory Boy Campas fight in Las Vegas.
Calderon, a regular on major Top Rank pay-per-view undercards because of his popularity in Puerto Rico, went on to defend the title 11 times, winning each defense in dominant fashion, before vacating the belt and moving up to the 108-pound junior flyweight division. During his strawweight reign, Calderon defended against the best fighters the division had to offer, including five former world titleholders: Alex "Nene" Sanchez, Edgar Cardenas, Roberto Leyva, Daniel Reyes and Isaac Bustos.
In 2007, in his first fight at junior flyweight, Calderon survived a knockdown and outpointed Hugo Cazares to win a title in his second weight class. He defended WBO's version of the title six times, including beating Cazares in a rematch, former titlist Nelson Dieppa and Rodel Mayol. He fought Mayol twice in 2009, retaining the title on a six-round technical draw -- the first blemish on his record -- before winning a seventh-round technical decision against him in an immediate rematch.
In 2010, Calderon met Giovani Segura of Mexico in a title unification fight. Calderon was the consummate boxer and Segura the straight-ahead brawler with destructive power. In a fight of the year candidate, the bigger and stronger Segura dragged Calderon, 34-0-1 at the time, into a toe-to-toe fight and eventually knocked him out in the eighth round.
Although Calderon was clearly no longer what he was when he was at his untouchable best, he faced Segura in a rematch in his next fight in April 2011 and was blown away in the third round.
Calderon returned to the strawweight division last October to win a split decision against .500 opponent Felipe Rivas and then took a year off before being knocked out by Mexico's Fuentes on Oct. 6 in Puerto Rico.
But during his heyday, a lopsided Calderon decision win was about as good a bet as there was in sports.
"He was a delight because he took pride in his skills," Arum said. "In other words, he was somebody who loved boxing for the sport. When you talk about the sweet science, he was a practitioner. He wasn't a big puncher. His whole ability was to be this absolutely super incredible boxer and he gloried in that. He was a small guy, but there was an appreciation of him for his art of boxing."