5 boxers who won big in their golden years

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May 25th, 2020

These five fighters proved that conventional wisdom is no match for skill and determination as they found success long after most pundits had written them off.

5. Antonio Tarver

"The Magic Man" is a terribly underrated fighter who never was able to break away from the signature moment of his career when he stopped Roy Jones Jr. in their second bout. While Tarver couldn’t score consistent wins over elite foes in his prime, he went on a solid run in his advanced years. At 39, Tarver dominated Clinton Woods to win the light heavyweight title. Tarver then moved up to cruiserweight to destroy Danny Green in a stunning performance three years later and would even move up to heavyweight, ending his career there at the age of 47.

4. Thulani Malinga 

South Africa’s Malinga was one of the most resilient fighters of the modern era. Malinga had previously failed in three attempts to win a title, but 15 years into his pro career and against former conqueror Nigel Benn, Malinga would finally get the job done and win a world title. Though Malinga would lose the title in his next defense, he’d recapture it against Robin Reid. Malinga would end his career three years later with the distinction of becoming a world champion at a stage of his career where the feat was rather unlikely.

3. Larry Holmes

Not wanting a KO loss to Mike Tyson to end of his career, "The Easton Assassin" made one last run. Holmes was more than equipped in his older years to handle the deep 90s class of heavyweight, starting with a defeat of then undefeated Ray Mercer. Holmes fared well in title fights against Evander Holyfield and Oliver McCall, but couldn’t spring the upset. This heavyweight great ended his career at the age of 52 with a win over Eric "Butterbean" Esch.

2. George Foreman

Foreman holds the distinction of being a consensus top 10 heavyweight in two of the greatest eras in the division’s history. Twenty years removed from his shocking loss to Muhammad Ali in Zaire, Foreman pulled off the greatest comeback of all time when he knocked out Michael Moorer at age 45 to become the oldest man to win the belt. So great was Foreman’s late run that the debate still rages on of whether the younger or older version of Foreman was better.

1. Bernard Hopkins

After 20 defenses of his middleweight title, Hopkins moved up to light heavyweight at the age of 40 and dominated Antonio Tarver to win a title in a second weight class. Two years later, he would defeat the heavily favored Kelly Pavlik in a career defining performance. Not to be outdone, Hopkins would regain the light heavyweight title at the age of 46 against Jean Pascal. His late career dominance is unlikely to ever be equalled.