Hall Of Famer Carl Froch Says 'World Champions Don't Quit', But Is He Right?

'The Cobra' got himself in a spot of bother with Roberto Duran's family
16:13, 16 Jun 2023

Carl Froch has landed himself in hot water this week with comments he made during his International Boxing Hall of Fame induction. ‘The Cobra’ told the audience in Canastota, New York that “world champions don’t quit”. Doubling down he added, “quitters do not get inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.”

These words raised the ire of one of Roberto Duran’s daughters. She spoke to Froch about the comments and his thoughts on her father’s “No Mas” withdrawal against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980. Froch was incredibly complimentary of Duran, as any boxer worth his salt would be when it comes to ‘Hands of Stone’. But his initial words did spark an interesting thought. Should a world champion or a legend of the sport ever quit in the ring?

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Boxing is sustained by its never-say-die bravery and some of its most courageous warriors have seen their legacies endure long after their time was up for this reason. Arturo Gatti, Jake LaMotta, Diego Corrales and Evander Holyfield are all great warriors hailed for this trait. 

Muhammad Ali, a man so gifted he was termed “The Greatest” and few challenge it, was another of these fighters. Even when his skills had eroded beyond recognition, he had to be rescued by his corner under doctor’s advice as Larry Holmes pounded him like a crumbling statue from a bygone age. Ali himself would not quit. He couldn’t. But should he have done?

Arguably yes. Of course if those around him had held Ali’s best interests a little closer to their heart, he wouldn’t have been anywhere near a boxing ring by 1980. But if he absolutely had to take on ‘The Easton Assassin’, nobody would have looked at him any differently for withdrawing. In fact, some of the greats of the game have found discretion to be the better part of valour at times.

The once-fearsome ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson ended his career by quitting. The Catskills bulldog knew his time was up as the moderate skills of Kevin McBride ebbed the last of his strength in 2005. Tyson quit on his stool after six completed rounds. This can be seen as an intelligent example of quitting. Mike knew it wasn’t there any more and saved himself further humiliation at the hands of a fighter who wouldn’t have given him 30 seconds of trouble in 1987.

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Tyson was also on the opposite end of a less dignified example of quitting. His WBA title win over champion Bruce Seldon in 1996 lasted under a round. Tyson barely had a chance to land significant shots before the reigning king abdicated his throne, seemingly cowering under the idea of the ‘Iron’ one as the referee waved off the contest. These sorts of quitters are the ones you feel Froch really meant during his speech.

Duran is a thorny issue, and his frustrated dereliction of duty against Leonard divides opinion today. Some saw it as a terminally angry man losing his rag with an opponent who was making him look foolish. Certainly there was no other time in a 119-fight career where you could accuse Duran of cowardice. But that wasn’t enough to stop ‘Hands of Stone’ becoming a pariah, particularly in the Panama homeland he could not return to after the loss.

Bringing things up to date, current WBA ‘regular’ champion Daniel Dubois was accused of quitting in his 2020 scrap with Joe Joyce. At first glance it appears he did. An innocuous jab saw Dubois take the knee, never to return. But when you understand the damage, a fractured eye socket, you begin to understand.  

But despite the grotesque swelling and genuine possibility of permanent damage if he had carried on, social media wags were still quick to allege that quitting was involved. Again, as with Tyson, this sort of quitting should be encouraged in boxing. As an industry we are the first to act solemnly when tragedy strikes. By virtue, we should not be ignoring the warning signs and cheering all the way up to said tragedy. Dubois’ decision was the difference between his life as a world champion now or an early retirement and a lifetime of impaired vision.

Do “world champions quit”, as Froch put it? Yes they do. It is certainly not a trait to be overly encouraged. We don’t want bouts ending in three rounds because a stray jab has opened a papercut-sized nick on one of the fighters. But Tyson and Dubois are evidence that quitting can also prevent the sort of damage we have seen far too often following this sport. 

What Froch said was justified to a point, and understandable from a fighter as relentless as he was. But I’m sure he understands there is nuance involved here. Froch probably also realises he shouldn’t bring up the topic in a room with a member of the Duran clan.

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