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At What Age Do Professional Boxers Retire?

The age of a Professional Boxer can vary, as there have been some as young as 16, all the way to 59 years old. Just as the age while competing varies, so does the age when it comes to retirement. Because there are many factors involved in a professional boxers career choices, this is a complex topic.

So today, I’m going to do my best to answer just that. At what age do professional boxers usually retire?

On average, most professional boxers retire at around age 37. By their last fight, they usually have 50 pro fights under them, with an average career span of 16 years. However, there are exceptions, such as Robert Garcia who retired at 26, and Bernard Hopkins, who retired at 51.

Let’s talk about how I found those averages, and what factors come into play when a boxer ponders retirement.

How I Found The Average

To find the average retirement age of 37, I found 14 notable boxers who have retired in the past few years. Then, I noted several statistics, such as years spent as a pro and their fight record, and I put it all in a table for analysis.

James Toney was the oldest boxer on my list of retirees, having his last fight at age 48.
James Toney was the oldest boxer on my list of retirees, having his last fight at age 48.

I made the table on Google Sheets, which you can see here. In it, you can see all the stats that were recorded for the 14 fighters, as well as the averages.

When you take the average of the 14 fighters, the resulting age of retirement is 37 as already mentioned. But there are some caveats I should note about this list.

For one, the sample size is pretty small. There are probably thousands of fighters who have public records which we can use to find a more accurate average age of retirement. However, for the sake of time, I decided to limit it to the 14, as adding more fighters would take too long.

The second thing to note about the data is that these fighters were all very successful and well known, with most of them only having a few losses. This probably increases the average age of retirement, because a winning fighter is less likely to retire than a losing fighter, especially if they are earning high purses.

Andre Ward (left) and Floyd Mayweather are the only two fighters on the list to retire undefeated.
Andre Ward (left) and Floyd Mayweather are the only two fighters on the list to retire undefeated.

To be honest, there are likely many professional boxers who never become household names like the ones listed in the table. There are probably thousands of fighters who retire after just a few fights, at a relatively young age. There are also many journeymen boxers, who have negative records and probably have hundreds of fights.

Please note that those boxers would affect the average retirement age by making it more accurate, but also that excluding them makes the retirement age of 37 more applicable to the boxers that are well-known, which is probably what you were looking for anyway.

Even for the best pros, there are still many factors that affect how long a boxer’s career lasts. Let’s talk about conclusions we can draw from the table, as well as other information not listed.

Important Factors When Debating Retirement

Age

Age is a very important factor in any athlete’s decisions. As time goes on, a fighter tends to decline in physical fitness. A big part of this is injuries, as an athlete becomes more prone to injuries as they age, especially when considering any repeat or nagging injuries.

The most important change is a decrease in speed and reaction time, both of which gradually decrease with age according to this article. A key part of a boxer’s style as they age is their elusiveness, as they may not be fast enough to beat a younger fighter to the punch.

Wladimir Klitschko had the third best win percentage (92.75) of all fighters in the table, despite fighting until 41.
Wladimir Klitschko had the third best win percentage (92.75) of all fighters in the table, despite fighting until 41.

In fact, two boxers with high win-fight ratios were Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko, and both of them fought in their 40’s. They are both known for being hard to hit, due to their boxing style.

Most of the fighters on the table aside from Mayweather and Klitschko took losses during their last few years active. This could be due to age, but I should note that it could also be attributed to increased competition as they progress in their career.

Years As A Pro

While age naturally affects your physiology, the years you spend as a fighter are what can really cause damage. There are several parts of being a professional boxer that can cause wear and tear to the body, and start hindering performance.

The most obvious result of years of fighting is injuries. Injuries of the muscles and bones can limit a fighter’s ability immensely. For example, a common injury in boxing is broken hands. As a boxer’s hands become increasingly fragile, they are forced to throw their punches with less power to prevent another hand injury.

Mayweather has used anesthetics such as Lidocaine and Novacaine, to suppress the pain in his hands while fighting.
Mayweather has used anesthetics such as Lidocaine and Novacaine, to suppress the pain in his hands while fighting.

I’ll go more into detail on injuries in a bit, as a more important part of career length is how mundane it can be. Years of training, fight camps, and cutting weight can be very stressful for both the mind and the body.

Head Injuries

Aside from the injuries of the muscle and bone, there are more important ones, namely injuries of the brain. Concussions are very common in boxing, especially because of the size of the gloves, which allow the boxers to hit harder.

Combined with 12-round fights, the accumulation of punches can cause career-ending and even life-threatening injury. The rate of concussion also increases after receiving an initial concussion, so the risk of brain injury increases as a fighter prolongs their career.

Prichard Colon was forced into retirement when his last fight left him in a vegetative state.
Prichard Colon was forced into retirement when his last fight left him in a vegetative state.

Brain health is an issue that is gaining more attention in both Boxing and MMA, especially due to deaths in the ring. A smart boxer retires before receiving any life-changing injury to the brain.

Money

There are several ways in which money can influence a Boxer’s retirement. The most common case is that a boxer is in dire need of money, forcing them to continue their career despite signs indicating that they shouldn’t.

However, boxers may also continue fighting simply because of their earning potential, and not because they necessarily need the money. This is the case of Floyd Mayweather, who retired several times, only to come out of retirement for a big fight that draws millions.

Performance

Lastly, a fighter may retire due to a decline in performance. This decline is attributed to both the fighter’s age, as well as their years spent as a fighter. As a fighter’s performance declines, it can cause a loss in motivation to continue.

There is also pressure from the community around them to retire, as fans are quick to note a fighter who is past their prime. The lack of performance is not usually the direct reason for retirement. The actual factor in retirement is the damage received due to the performance.

However this is not always the case, as many boxers retire undefeated, meaning they were still having good performances despite age and career length.

Why Do Some Fighters Retire Earlier or Later?

I honestly believe that the true reason a boxer decides to retire early is simply due to their disillusionment from the sport. This may come in the form of a devastating loss, or simply a lack of interest.

Robert Garcia retired at the young age of 26, simply because of lack of interest.
Robert Garcia retired at the young age of 26, simply because of lack of interest.

The youngest fighter on our data table was Nathan Cleverly, who retired at age 30 after a loss by TKO. It seems the loss, combined with the amount of damage received from previous fights, is what made him decide to retire. This is noted by him posting on Twitter that he had “A few too many miles on the clock”.

Another boxer who retired very young is Robert Garcia, the older brother of four-division champion Mikey Garcia. Robert retired at age 26, after a win. When asked why he didn’t take fights against big names after his win, he simply responded that “It just doesn’t interest me, I don’t want to do it anymore”.

Robert’s lack of interest from the sport may be related to the fact that he did it from a very early age, having his first pro fight at 17.

Conclusion

In the end, there are many factors that affect the age at which a boxer decides to retire. These factors include injuries, career length, motivation, and money. Although we know the average retirement age is 37, there are many fighters who retire much older or much younger.

If you want to learn more about boxing and other martial arts, check out the Martial Arts History page, or check out the Training Tips page if you have questions about training. Thanks for reading!