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Mansour KO'd: How and why aging fighters take the bait

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Last weekend, 26 year old Rio 2016 Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist Filip Hrgovic (6-0, 5 KOs) scored a third round KO over 46-year-old Amir Mansour (23-3-1, 16 KOs) in Zagreb, Croatia.

At first glance, it's no surprise, right?

A well-schooled, 26 year old former Olympian defeats an opponent 20 years his senior.

But Amir Mansour is not your typical "showcase opponent" an has more than held his own against heavyweight contenders.

Last year, he defeated Travis Kauffman (then 31-1) after his dust-up with highly-ranked Dominic Breazeale (then 16-0) the year before. In the Breazeale bout, Mansour won the first five rounds on the judges' scorecards (50-44, 50-44, 50-44) and floored his foe in Round 3 after inadvertently bitting his tongue nearly in half during the previous stanza. The freak incident eventually cost him the fight as he could not breathe through his mouth and was forced to retire on his stool.

In addition to the fine showing against Breazeale, who would next face then IBF Champion Anthony Joshua, Mansour drew with eventual WBC heavyweight contender Gerald Washington (then 16-0) in 2015 and boasts previous wins over Fred Kassi, Jason Gavern and Dominick Guinn.

So, how did Amir Mansour, always a live dog previously, become a showcase opponent last weekend?

Age, Lack of Preparation and an Opportunistic Foe
As we've seen with Bernard Hopkins, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and a host of others, a fighter in his 40s can whoop an solid opponent in his 20s. And even when that 40-something fighter falls short, they are often fully capable of pushing their young foe to the limit (Wladimir Klitschko vs Anthony Joshua). Nevertheless, a fighter in his 20s will usually have physical advantages, particularly in reflexes and stamina. Moreover, the younger man will be able to attain top form easier and quicker than his 40-something foe. As a result, adequate preparation is critical for the older fighter. He must be supremely focused and in top form, physically and mentally, every time he enters the ring.

But, when that 40-something fighter is successfully baited into facing a much younger opponent on short notice, the result is almost always the same. Not only does he face physical obstacles, he can't fully capitalize on his edge in experience because he's not in top form.

And yes, promoters understand it well. The often-used tactic heavily stacks the odds in the younger man's favor.

Tyson vs Holmes 1988
Larry Holmes was 38 when he faced 21 year old Mike Tyson. OK, so the former wasn't in his 40s yet but close enough.

Tyson's promoter, Don King, offered Holmes big money to the fight with the then surging, undisputed champ but there was a catch. Holmes, after a two-year layoff, wouldn't be given the necessary time to get in shape for a fight of that magnitude. And when Larry balked at the timing of the fight, insisting he wouldn't have enough time to prepare, King threatened to walk away and give the title shot to another fighter.

Holmes recently told Salfordstar.com:

"Mike Tyson was tough but you've got to remember something" he added "For two years I was off and did not fight."

"They come to me, offer me a lot of money to fight Mike Tyson and I said 'Three and a half million dollars? Where's Mike? Let's go get him!'"

"He beat me but I think if I had more time to get ready and train for the fight then it would be no problem."

Back to Amir Mansour...
So, why would a fella like Mansour be ideal fodder for a young stud?

Answer: He has a fine record, is known for strong performances against quality contenders, and, of course, is 46. 

Amir's credentials are attractive yet he posses minimal risk to his fighter... if not fully prepared. That's what makes fighters like him attractive to promoters of up-and-coming fighters.

So, why would Mansour agree to fight a tough opponent on such short notice?

Answer: For starters, Mansour, regardless of his age, is a warrior who would relish the opportunity to square off against anyone under the right circumstances and even a few wrong ones.

Secondly, in return for accepting a fight on short notice and not having adequate time to prepare, his opponent's promoter will often offer him a higher-than-usual purse as bait. Like Larry Holmes in the aforementioned example, the older fighter realizes he won't be competing at his best because he wasn't given ample time to get ready for the match but succumbs to the temptation of a sweeter purse.

Is the older fighter wrong for falling for the bait?

In some cases, they shouldn't do it. A loss, especially a quick KO, will almost always reduce his overall stock, (immediate) future purses and division ranking. However, sometimes the targeted fighter has no matches on the horizon and simply can't afford to hold out. Such may have been the case with Amir.

After his scheduled August 18th rematch with Russian prospect Sergey Kuzmin was cancelled, Mansour was not only left without a payday, he'd spent $10,000 of his own money in training for a fight that didn't happen.

With no fall back options, the 6'1" Mansour, who had fought only twice since January 2016, probably chilled at home for three weeks until he got the last-minute offer to fly to Croatia to face a 6'6" opponent he probably wasn't familiar with. So, while Hrgovic was getting focused and comfortably implementing his pre-fight routine, Mansour was scurrying at airports en route to his destination.

After the fight, Mansour told FightSaga, "He really wasn't that strong, I simply made the same mistake that often plagues us older fighters, which is being inactive consistently and then getting called out for a big fight; Even though deep down inside you know you don't have time to prepare, you still chase your dream because you're a warrior."

It happens all the time, Amir, and has been happening for years.

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