As Floyd Mayweather is attempting to retire undefeated, we are constantly reminded in the world of boxing about the few that have done this successfully. There are some such as former contenders Michael Loewe and Jemal Hinton who quit as their careers were getting underway, so they can hardly be counted.. yet there have been more than a few world champions who have done the same. They deserve our adulation: Finito Lopez, Calzaghe, Marciano.
However, there have been fighters who were close to achieving this distinction, and blew it. I am not counting the fighters like Brian Mitchell and Gene Tunney, who had one loss early in their careers, avenged it many times, and then went on an unbeaten tear. I mean fighters who were retired, unbeaten, and chose to come back. These following fighters blew a rare perfect career:
Jimmy Carruthers. The Australian former world bantamweight champion from the 1950s won the title from South African Vic Toweel, and defended it 3 times before retiring. Given that this weight class was without many western competitiors, and not many of the smaller countries had yet involved themselves, men got to the title pretty fast. It was a short career, but Carruthers ended it unbeaten, only to come back a whopping 7 years later. He lost 3 straight, and 4 out of 6, before realizing he made a mistake.
Jeff Fenech – Speaking of Australians, many do not realize that Fenech was a 3 time, 3 division world champion who had retired due to hand problems. They remember his comeback, where he was unjustly denied a 4th title when he was robbed against Azumah Nelson. Nelson and Calvin Grove both KO’d Fenech shortly after this, however, meaning he came back and tarnished the perfect record for nothing. His fame, money, and US profile increased with the Nelson robbery, however, so maybe it was worth not having a perfect record.
Aaron Pryor – Speaking of retiring for unhappy reasons, Pryor never did officially retire. Drugs and sanctioning body affiliations took away his junior welterweight title, but it was impatience and ambition that KO’d his unbeaten record. The 0 went against Bobby Joe Young in his first comeback bout. He later won 3 fights, but was eventually convinced his best years were behind him.
Jim Jeffries – The most famous ill-advised comeback. Jeffries was unbeaten champion for 5 years, but was never the most active fighter. His unbeaten record was barely more than 15-0, when he came out of a 5-year retirement to be the “white hope”. By his own admission, he would never had beaten the great Jack Johnsons at his best, so other than the big dollars he made, it was a fruitless endeavor from the start.