“Ali is 38 years old,” said then heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes. “His mind is making a date that his body can’t keep.”
Muhammad Ali, the greatest of all time, had retired in 1979, but boxers rarely call it a day on their own terms. They need to be forced into it with one final attempt to regain their former glory. Or that impossible-to-resist payday.
Ali had beaten the odds before. Many experts thought George Foreman would destroy Ali in ’74 but he used the rope-a-dope to wear down the seemingly invincible slugger, who had battered Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.
In ’78, an out-of-shape Ali lost to Leon Spinks but avenged the defeat later that year, giving the young man a boxing lesson. But….after one round against Holmes, Ali knew he had nothing left and thought, “My God, I have nine rounds to go!” Holmes won a unanimous decision.
Flash forward to 2015 and Bernard Hopkins is 50 years old and still competing. He was the light heavyweight champion of the world before losing to Sergey Kovalev in November of 2014.
We are younger than we used to be.
In his 20s, Mick Jagger claimed he wouldn’t be performing “Satisfaction” at 40. When the Stones tour rolls its way into August he’ll be 72 and still singing about making some girl.
Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Rob Halford, Brian Johnson, Steven Tyler and Sammy Hagar are all senior citizens and still getting it done without croaking, literally or figuratively. But how long can they last?
Then again, it comes down to staying healthy. Jagger appeared on David Letterman’s show to read a Top 10 list devoted to the Stones and said that in the old days, they used rock and roll to get drugs and have sex…now they need drugs to have sex and play rock and roll.
Will we see a 75-year-old rocker belting it out in front of a stadium crowd? And I mean, defying his age and hitting the high notes. As much as I love Paul McCartney it was painful to hear him attempt to recreate his mid-’70s vocals during that Grammy performance of Maybe I’m Amazed. As many said, drop a key, you’re 72. Sir Paul and the Stones both have amazing catalogues so the chance to hear all those classics in concert overrides most concerns over the legends not sounding like they did 40 or 50 years ago.
Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard toured well into their ’70s but we’re talking casino shows that ran an hour at the most. I saw Little Richard in 2001, and the Killer a few years later. They both looked frail.
Ali was a shadow of his former self at 38. Hopkins will likely get a title shot at 50, and, when reporters ask why he’s still fighting, Bernard the Executioner (though he’s usually Bernard the Dodger due to his legendary defensive skills) replies with, “Because I can.”
In previous blogs I’ve knocked Jagger and crew for not knowing when to call it a game but I suppose I should put them, Ozzy, Hagar, UFO, The Scorpions and other aging warriors in the same category as Hopkins.
If you can, I salute you.