By Derek Bonnett: Remember when there was one definitive opponent boxers just couldn’t beat? In the modern sport of boxing, it appears fighters are gaining some momentum and pushing back the fists of time. Father Time may not have lost, but he seems to be losing his edge. His record is now too marred by a few draws and controversial decisions. It used to be that Father Time was going to get you, but now the kryptonite for all fighters has to wait. He’ll still get them all, but now he’ll have to get many in the later rounds. It’s not just boxing’s elites, such as Bernard Hopkins in recent years, who can transcend the number of candles on the cake, but more and more fighters are extending their tenure at the world class level with savvy ring generalship and well-timed blunt force trauma. Here are several SecondsOut top ten rated boxers over the age of thirty-five, who fell from the top of their respective divisions only to re-emerge as divisional forces yet to be retired by the man with the long white beard.
Back in 2012, former lightweight champion and current 140 pound contender, Humberto Soto looked to be near the end of the line. The "Crafty Little Fox", or "Zorrita", fell in five rounds at the hands of Lucas Martin Matthysse. For it was Matthysse who looked to be a machine of the future built for dominance. It would not be, even though Matthysse still had a couple good fights left in him. Ironically, today, Soto looks to have the brighter future in the division than his conqueror of several years back. Since that June defeat, Soto has amassed a record of 8-1 (2), just adding a victory on October 1, 2016. The lone defeat was a disputed unanimous decision to Miguel Orozco, who remained unbeaten with unfairly lopsided scores. However, it’s not just moral victory that has kept Soto in the mix at light welterweight. Prior to the Orozco bout, Soto boxed a clear-cut decision over John Molina Jr. The same Molina who took Matthysse through hell and back before losing by eleventh round TKO after dropping the Argentine fighter twice. Just this past June, Molina upset popular Russian Ruslan Provodnikov, who also pushed Matthysse for twelve hard rounds. Another world title may not be in the working for Soto, 36, but a world title try and additional wins over top ten opposition are not far-fetched propositions. Soto, 66-9-2 (36), does not have rankings on his side, but he has name value and that might be enough to lure fighters such as Omar Figueroa Jr., Adrian Granados, or Raymundo Beltran into a crossroads fight within the grasp of victory for the Mexican fighter.
The Panama-based Venezuelan Nehomar Cermeno is sitting in even a better position than Soto as he nears his thirty-seventh birthday in November. Cermeno, once a formidable bantamweight and interim title holder back in 2009, fell on some hard times and dipped out of the top ten rankings. Over a two year stretch, Cermeno fought 1-5-1. He had some close calls and took on some tough names at bantamweight and super bantamweight, but he simply was not winning. Cermeno is riding a three year unbeaten streak, which includes has seen him add five victories to his resume and the regular WBA 122-pound title. Cermeno edges then unbeaten contender Oscar Escandon to re-establish himself as a contender. He then won the vacant WBA belt by stopping Xiao Jun Qiu in the final round earlier this year. Just a couple of weeks back, Cermeno, 25-5-1 (15), added his first defense stopping unbeaten Anurak Thisa in three rounds with an impressive body assault. He plans to cap off the year with a rematch against Qiu, but a high-profile fight and payday may be just around the corner as long as he keeps the WBA belt around his waist. Guillermo Rigondeaux and Scott Quigg are rated much higher at SecondsOut, but neither of them boasts a belt to add to their negotiating power. Nonito Donaire has a strap, but could use another to extend his once P4P level career. Cermeno wouldn’t be favored against any of those men, but he could certainly surprise one of them should a showdown materialize.
Hozumi Hasegawa will hit thirty-six by year’s end. Hasegawa has not only extended his career with strong showings in 2016, he might have punched his ticket into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Hasegawa had a memorable reign as WBC bantamweight champion winning eleven consecutive title bouts. He surprised many by climbing to featherweight to capture the vacant WBC title against Juan Carlos Burgos by routine decision. However, his lack of size was apparent in his crushing defeat to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2011. Hasegawa’s career looked about over after suffering three knockdowns en route to a title fight loss against Kiko Martinez in 2014. However, about a year later Hasegawa upset unbeaten Horacio Garcia by unanimous decision. Just last month, Hasegawa, 36-5-0 (16) scored another upset, winning a pure fire-fight against WBC super bantamweight champion Hugo Ruiz. The Japanese three-division champion earned that distinction by forcing his Mexican foe into ninth round corner retirement. Along with Cermeno, Hasegawa has a lot of options at hand, including a showdown with his countryman and current bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka.
Boxer’s of this age are supposed to be steppingstones, not fighters once again on the rise! The average age of boxing’s elite among the top ten is gradually on the rise. Through science and diet mankind is living longer and professional prizefighters are fighting stronger.
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October 13 2016