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Handicapping Older Fighters

Boxing Betting: Handicapping Older Fighters

By Loot, Boxing Handicapper,

Boxers reach a certain point in their careers where they begin to lose some of their abilities. Older fighters start to suffer deficits in reflexes, athleticism, and speed. Their ability to thrive at a higher age will inevitably come down to whether they can bridge that gap with other skills--talents that come with being a veteran.

First, let's address this issue of ring-age, which might contrast sharply with a fighter's actual chronological age. Looking at a fighter's date of birth is not an accurate measure of his actual ring-age. As bettors, we are concerned only in the latter. You have fighters like Bernard Hopkins who can thrive when pushing 50, while other fighters, like Boom Boom Mancini, are spent forces before they even hit their mid-twenties. Those are extremes, but it goes to show there is no ready-made conversion chart to determine any of this.

Fighters can decay without much warning. Some of them fade quietly in the night, as they are unable to get it back together. They lose their edge all at once and then it's all downhill from there. Other fighters, however, start to slip, but are able to find another gear that allows them to prolong their careers and enjoy additional success.

The last thing to leave a fighter is his punching power. Fighters who are able to end a fight with a single shot and have done it time and again will usually carry that power even at an advanced age. If they lose their ability to take a punch, however, it could all be for naught. A perk of being a huge KO puncher is a lot of quick evenings. So a lot of aging punchers benefit from not having to fight many rounds, hence less wear and tear.

Then we look at other fighters like a Hopkins, who doesn't rely on power. What keeps them going? A key consideration is a fighter's lifestyle. Hopkins, a troubled youth, emerged from prison in his early-twenties. From that point, he lived a spartan lifestyle. No drinking. No womanizing. No drugging. Just boxing. It allows a fighter to preserve himself, while fighters who lead undisciplined lives unravel years earlier.

Believe it or not, there are certain skills that get better with age. Whether a fighter will succeed at an advanced age comes down to whether they use those skills. A fighter will lose some reflexes, reaction-time, and sheer athleticism. It makes it harder to win fights without those items in place. But some veteran fighters master other areas.

A veteran who has a very advanced vision of a fight is still dangerous. He might not be what he once was in purely an athletic sense. But he's so calm and relaxed. He doesn't tire himself out and he sees everything clearly. He is able to think in the ring and his thoughts are helpful strategic thoughts that can help him win the fight. He is able to analyze a fight with the calmness of a ringside announcer. And then he acts on it.

What he lacks in speed, athleticism, and youthful vigor--he compensates with smarts, timing, calm, and ring vision. Effective veterans are highly-cerebral. They excel in the area of strategy, having an innate sense of doing exactly what their opponents doesn't want them to do. And somehow, they have this knack of making their younger foe act how they want them to act.


We hear how any form of fighting is a young man's game. Then we look at the pound-for-pound lists and we see a bunch of guys in their 30's and even pushing 40. It goes to show that the sport of boxing is not a purely physical endeavor. You will hear old trainers say this sport is 90% mental. And that is an area that gets mastered only after a ton of experience is gained.

Some fighters are better-suited for aging. Again, a fighter with bone-crushing power will still be able to do damage at a higher age. But you also want to look for fighters who have nailed down some of the finer points of the sport. They're still able on a physical level, but rely more on mental warfare. They are masters of angles, ring geography, timing, and all the little tricks that a fighter puts in his vast arsenal over the course of a long career.

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