Posted On:2/02/2006 1:54am
Boxing's greats celebrate glory of fighting days
By Tim Gaynor Wed Feb 1, 1:38 AM ET
CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - They sweated, bled and broke bones in some of the most bruising ring battles of all time. They had worldwide fame and million-dollar paydays.
But for dozens of former boxing champions gathered in this Mexican resort city for a night of celebration and memories on Tuesday, a safe life in retirement has left them with mixed feelings.
"When I first quit all those years ago, I missed going to the gym as it had become such a habit," said greying former heavyweight Ken Norton, 63, who broke Muhammad Ali's jaw in a brutal 12-round battle in 1973.
"But then I realised I had so much more time to spend with my kids, so I have a very happy life," the father of five told Reuters as he leaned on a gold-topped cane in a resort hotel lobby and signed autographs for star-struck fans.
Norton was among more than 40 former champions who battled their way to titles over five decades who came to Cancun for the World Boxing Council's "Night of Champions" award ceremony.
The celebration, which includes prizes for "Most Active Champion" and "Fight of the Year," attracted ex-brawlers including Panamanian legend Roberto Duran and heavyweights Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield.
The now bulky fighters draw curious glances from some tourists as they wander through the sun-baked Caribbean resort, surrounded by burly minders and eager autograph hunters.
Many of the former champs say the transition to retirement from a life of power punching, roaring crowds and big paycheques has opened up new opportunities and challenges.
Lennox Lewis, who ducked out of boxing in 2004 while still WBC champion, says he now spends his days caring for the investments he made with his ring earnings and planning a career in movies.
"I get sent scripts, mostly sci-fi stuff and action adventures, and may give acting a try," he told Reuters, standing among a clutch of champions and former ring rivals.
"I left boxing on the right note and have no regrets, although seeing everyone gathered here brings back the thrill of it," he said.
Some other veterans gathered for the gala night say they have struggled to find a role after hanging up their gloves and stepping out of the limelight.
"I miss the camaraderie and the love we had and above all I miss the humongous paydays," said heavyweight Michael Spinks, who retired after receiving a brutal drubbing from Mike Tyson back in 1988.
Roberto Duran, now 54, is remembered as one of the greatest fighters, pound-for-pound, ever. Since being forced out of boxing by a car crash in Argentina in 2001, he has toyed with a second career as a salsa singer and a fight promoter, and admits he misses the glory days.
"I wanted to carry on fighting but I just couldn't anymore after the accident," Duran said as he signed autographs and grinned once again before a bank of cameras.
"People loved me all around the world, from America to Italy and even England, so of course you are going to miss that."
Oh the glory days! When we weren't so brain damaged!
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Posted On:2/05/2006 12:50pm
Style: Short Fist Boxing
Roberto Duran was always one of my favorites.
" If one wants to have a friend one must also want to wage war for him: and to wage war one must be capable of being an enemy." - Fr. Nietzsche 'On The Friend' Thus Spake Zarathustra
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