4. BOB FITZSIMMONS
Fights: 10 (one no-contest)
Title fights: 1-1
Summary: The former middle and heavyweight champion didn’t have an extensive career after 40, fighting only 10 times. However, his single post-40 accomplishment ranks with George Foreman’s as the most-impressive ever.
Ruby Robert had lost his heavyweight title to the much bigger James J. Jeffries in 1899, when Fitzsimmons was 36. He was a natural light heavyweight (or even lighter) before the light heavyweight division was established in 1903.
George Gardner stopped Jack Root in 12 rounds in July of that year to become the first-ever champion in the weight class. His first defense was against the great but aging Fitzsimmons four months later in the then-boxing hotbed of San Francisco. The old man, who had turned 40 that year, reportedly unnerved his 26-year-old foe when he poked his head into Gardner’s dressing room before the fight and said, according to Patrick Myler’s A Century of Boxing Greats, “Hi George. How are you? I hope you’re feeling like a good fight tonight.”
Fitzsimmons proceeded to give the young man a boxing lesson en route to a one-sided decision over 20 rounds that made Fitzsimmons the new champion and the first three-division titleholder. He would lose the belt to Hall of Famer Philadelphia Jack O’Brien two years later (after stopping O’Brien the previous year) but already had become the first 40-year-old to make his mark in the modern era.