Know When To Fold 'Em: Miguel Cotto And The Boxers Who Stayed Retired

Miguel Cotto is one of a small group of fighters who have never been tempted into a comeback
13:30, 21 Jul 2022

Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto has no intention of returning to the ring. The happily-retired four-weight world champion told DAZN, "I don't miss anything about boxing”. It is refreshing to hear one of the great ring warriors of the recent past sounding so content with life outside the sport, with Cotto adding, “I'm more calm, without the pressure of training or weight training or dieting, I'm more calm and focused on family. I really enjoy those quiet moments.”

This tale of a legendary warrior knowing when to hang up the gloves, and actually sticking to that promise, is a rarity. Usually the lure of money, the emptiness that comes through the sudden loss of fame or the sheer fighter’s instinct leads boxers to return when they are well past their sell-by date. But Cotto is not the first great champion to retire and stay that way. Here are five other all-timers who knew when to walk away.

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Gene Tunney

‘The Fighting Marine’ enjoyed a magnificent career across the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions through the 1910s and 1920s. Out of his 88 professional fights, Tunney lost just one, which he avenged several times in rematches against his conqueror Harry Greb. But his greatest achievement would arrive when he dethroned the great Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight championship of the world in 1926.

Tunney would retain his championship in a rematch with ‘The Manassa Mauler’ before knocking out Tom Heeney in his final defence in 1928. Tunney retired that year after winning the inaugural Fighter of the Year gong awarded by The Ring Magazine. Leaving the sport as reigning heavyweight king was enough for Tunney, who never boxed again.

Rocky Marciano

The gold standard of fighters who retired at the right time, ‘The Rock’ racked up a famous 49-0 record, including seven victories in world heavyweight title fights, before retiring as champion in 1955. His stunning knockout win over Archie Moore in his last bout answered the final question surrounding Marciano. He had beaten every credible challenger and walked away with his head held high.

Marciano was never tempted back, but he did don the gloves for the famous ‘Computer Fight’ with Muhammad Ali. A fictionalised boxing match where the result was supposedly decided electronically, the pair acted out their bout in the same way a movie would film boxing scenes. Marciano was the victor in the version shown to American audiences, but international versions actually crowned Ali the winner.

SM Punches Marcianojpg

Khaosai Galaxy

Real name Sura Saenkham, Galaxy is one of the most feared punchers ever to terrorise the lower weight classes. Given the wonderfully evocative nickname ‘The Left Hand That Drills Intestines’, Galaxy racked up 47 wins and 41 knockouts against just one loss.

The Thai superstar made an incredible 19 defences of his WBA super-flyweight before deciding he had left enough of a legacy. Galaxy has since embarked on a diverse career that has included music, acting and running for political office.

Lennox Lewis

Lewis went out on top in 2004, when he brought the curtain down on his career while still reigning heavyweight champion. His 2002 win over Mike Tyson had the feel of a fighter tying up loose ends, and his torrid war against Vitali Klitschko the following year left Lewis with nothing left to prove. ‘The Lion’ remains Britain’s greatest ever heavyweight.

Unlike the majority on this list, Lewis has seemed tempted to return at times. In the decade following his retirement there would be bi-annual rumours of a return to fight either Vitali, his brother Wladimir Klitschko, Tyson or Evander Holyfield. Luckily Lewis always resisted the temptation and, at the age of 56, surely any such comeback is now beyond him.

Joe Calzaghe

Perhaps Britain’s greatest ever boxer, ‘The Pride of Wales’ had already secured his legacy as a super middleweight icon by 2007. After busting up Jeff Lacy in the finest performance ever seen on British shores and outpointing Mikkel Kessler, Joe needed a new challenge.

He had always harboured ambitions to go to America and take on some of the greats of the game. Calzaghe found two such greats in the legendary Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. The Welshman would defeat both via decision, lifting the The Ring light heavyweight title in the process. It was a fairytale ending for Calzaghe, and he walked away with a superb 46-0 record.

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