Steve Bunce on Boxing: Carl Froch should follow the examples of Joe Calzaghe, Lennox Lewis, Barry McGuigan and Henry Cooper – and retire on his own terms, free of desperation

 

Henry Cooper was younger and possibly lighter than Carl Froch when he uttered the deathless final words of his career in the minutes after losing to Joe Bugner at Wembley in 1971: "That's it. That's me lot."

Cooper never even dreamt of fighting again, but he did take Bugner on once more in a cross-Channel swimming race, the veracity of which is hard to establish; I do, however, have a signed picture of the pair in their tiny trunks shaking hands before getting into the water. "I did it again, I won that," Bugner told me.

In the ring that emotional night at Wembley Cooper was 36 and 10 months and officially weighed 13st 7lb. He looks 10 years and two stone heavier in the harsh pictures from the night, and in his glorious retirement, as the gongs arrived and the legend increased, he looked younger at 50 than he did against Bugner.

Joe Calzaghe was three months younger than Froch is right now when he walked away from the sport after beating Roy Jones at Madison Square Garden in 2008. Calzaghe was unbeaten in 46 fights and Froch was less than a year away from being a serious rival. "I had nothing left to prove," insisted Calzaghe, who has refused several offers to end his exile.

Froch will be 37 on 2 July and has still not confirmed his ring intentions, sending out mixed messages that have been seized on by a disparate group of fighters; there are as many as six boxers looking to get in on the Froch business in three different countries at present. The number will increase if and when he ends the speculation and decides to continue fighting.

In 1989 Barry McGuigan walked away from the sport after a cut-eye loss to Jim McDonnell; McGuigan was just 28 but he was determined not to be the last to know when it was time to quit. The history of boxing is dominated by the sad tales of men who fought too long, ignoring advice from men they trusted and listening instead to the latest flattery bending their ears.

"The magic had gone," admitted McGuigan. "I'd achieved everything that I wanted to achieve in my career. I couldn't see the reason to continue." He walked away after holding a tearful, impromptu conference in a stairwell and refused all offers to return, including a comical effort that was oddly alluring from Don King one night in 1993. In McGuigan's chilling and often brutal 2011 autobiography, Cyclone: My Story, he recalls a meeting with the American promoter.

"Don King showed up and worked on me for about an hour," McGuigan recalled. "'Come on,' he said. 'I'll put you on in America and we'll have them little leprechauns and we will have people playing the harp and fiddle and I'll make you millions.'" At the time McGuigan was 32.

Perhaps the sweetest boxing retirement in the last 25 years was by Lennox Lewis, who has slowly turned into a dignified statesman, in early 2004. Lewis was 37 and nine months when he fought and won for the last time in late 2003 against Vitali Klitschko in the type of brutal, blood-and-pain slugfest that can make an old man of a young man inside a few rounds. Klitschko was leading on all three scorecards and had stood and traded ferocious punches with Lewis until his cheek and eyebrows exploded, forcing the referee to intervene in round six; Klitschko needed nearly 200 stitches to close his wounds and pull his face back together.

The news that Lewis had decided to retire was greeted by a spontaneous outburst of applause at his London press conference. The ride was, as they famously said of Muhammad Ali's years, finally over for Lewis, and he walked from that Park Lane hotel like a man without a care in the world; Lewis left behind no questions and that matters to proud prizefighters.

Froch is not walking away from a rival, not denying a man a chance and that makes the decision his. "Thirty-six is getting to the age. You know it's time to leave, but something tells you you've got to take one more gamble," said Muhammad Ali. He did take one more gamble, he lost and it remains a dark blot on his career and the men that surrounded him. Froch is a wealthy man, a family man and a proud man; his decision will be free of both hubris and desperation.

Adams suffers surprise defeat

Olympic champion Nicola Adams has suffered her first defeat in almost two years, losing in the European Championships quarter-finals in Bucharest. Adams was made to pay for a slow start as she lost a tight verdict against Bulgaria's Stoyka Petrova.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

£27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

ETL Developer / Consultant

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Geography Teacher, Immediate start, Dover School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is urgently s...

English Teacher

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We have an urgent requirement fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week