As we get older, our body gives us clues that the sands of time are marching on even if we protest we’re as youthful as we were when we were 21.
Whether it’s the aching joints after a hike in the countryside or a game of five-a-side football, or the ‘oooh’ sound many of us make when standing up from a seated position, the ageing process is a creeping nemesis.
So we can only guess how 54-year-old Mike Tyson felt when he laced up his gloves for the first time in training for his upcoming exhibition bout with Roy Jones on September 12. In fairness to Iron Mike, he looks in incredible shape and still has that ferocious hand speed – they say that ever leaves you.
Quite how the ‘Baddest Man On the Planet’ copes with the bad back and sore knees of exercise as an older gentleman remains to be seen.
Tyson has not revealed his aspirations in boxing beyond his bout with Jones, but if he performs admirably in that – and claims a convincing victory – you can bet your bottom dollar he will be thinking of what else he could achieve in the heavyweight division, After all, he’s already claimed he would have beaten Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury in his prime.
A world champion at 54? It would be a huge moment in sport, let alone boxing, although Tyson would be in good company according to this list of slightly older gentlemen who have bested their youngers to win world title gold.
1. Bernard Hopkins (49 years, 3 months)
The Executioner was just nine months shy of his fiftieth birthday when he humbled Beibut Shumenov to win the WBA light heavyweight crown.
Hopkins is a hall-of-famer who holds the record for the longest middleweight championship reign in history, and he has remained active throughout his career – a key difference between his own achievements and the size of the task that would face Tyson.
On the eve of his milestone birthday he even defended his straps against the dangerous Sergey Kovalev, who outpointed the veteran in convincing fashion.
2. George Foreman (45 years, 9 months)
It seems as though boxers have a real hard time in letting go of their careers – much more so than any other sport, that’s for sure.
And that’s perhaps why George Foreman, who became a successful businessman after retiring in 1977, felt the need to come out of retirement a decade later.
A veteran of fights against some of the best in the business like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, Foreman was 39 when he ‘unretired’ and 42 when he fought Evander Holyfield for his WBC, WBA and IBF straps.
Defeat followed, but Foreman was unbowed – he fought on, and three years later he beat Michael Moorer for that WBA gold; not bad for a 45-year-old. He finally announced his retirement three years later after being beaten by Shannon Briggs.
3. Sugar Boy Malinga (42 years)
In his prime, Thulani ‘Sugar Boy’ Malinga went in with some of the finest super-middleweights in the business, including Roy Jones, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn.
He lost to that trio and in his three world title belts, so the South African must have been surprised when he finally made the breakthrough in 1996 – beating Benn at the sprightly age of 41.
Malinga lost the title later that year, but the best was yet to come in 1997 when he outpointed Robin Reid to reclaim his WBC strap.
He lost it a year later, and fought on until retiring in 2000.
4. Cornelius Bundrage (41 years, 5 months)
The turning point in Cornelius Bundrage’s career – and life as a whole – came when he appeared on the reality TV series ‘The Contender’ in 2006 at the age of 33.
After a quiet career until that point, Bundrage’s entertaining performances saw him win the bronze medal and an army of fans who enjoyed his all-action style, and he turned professional soon after.
His best day would come eight years later – ‘K9’ defeated Carlos Molina on Mexican soil to rip the IBF light-middleweight belt from the waist of the champion.
His reign was short-lived, however, as he lost to the classy Jermall Charlo a year later.
5. Manny Pacquiao (40 years, 7 months)
Sort of like a fine win, Manny Pacquiao might not be improving with age but he is certainly holding his own.
Here’s a guy who won his first world title in the 1990s, and who is still going strong to this day.
Pacquiao’s hand speed and rugged power was enough to see off Keith Thurman in July 2019, and that meant he was the new WBA welterweight champion at the age of 40 – an incredible achievement.
The Filipino will fight on, he says, and will look to defend his gold either later this year or early next.