By Jake Donovan
If the retirement sticks, then begin the countdown for Jorge Arce to gain eligibility for eventual induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
One of the most popular lower weight fighters of all time, the former four-division champ announced his exit from the sport on Saturday evening. The retirement speech came moments after his third round knockout loss to Nonito Donaire at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
"My career is over. I lost to the best man," Arce stated afterward. "I have a family to take care of. I have my children. I promised them that if I lost I would retire. I lost, and I’m a man of word."
The loss snapped an 11-fight unbeaten streak, which included title wins in two more weight classes well after having been written off countless times. The one-time lineal flyweight king made noise in the flyweight and super flyweight divisions, before his limited boxing skills were exposed by then-streaking titlist Cristian Mijares in April ’07.
Subsequent losses to Vic Darchinyan and Simphiwe Nongqayi had many calling for the wildly popular Mexican to call it career.
Instead, he defied the odds. The recent unbeaten streak prior to Saturday night included avenging the previous loss to Nongqayi last year, four months after resurrecting his career with a 12th round upset stoppage win over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. to capture a belt at 122 lb.
Arce dropped back down in weight late last year to win a vacant bantamweight belt to gain acclaim as just the second fighter in Mexico’s rich boxing history to claim title status in four weight classes. Saturday’s fight with Donaire brought the free-swinging knockout artist back to reality.
"He is good. I thought I could do better, but he’s very strong,"; Arce admitted of Donaire, whom he considers a close friend beyond the ring. "I’m proud to have lost against the best man."
Arce finishes – if in fact he is really through – with a record of 61-7-2 (46KO) in nearly 17 full years as a professional. His original claim to fame came in dubious fashion, having served as the final knockout victim to Michael Carbajal, the Hall-of-Fame junior flyweight who retired after his come-from-behind 11th round knockout in their July ’99 title bout.
The loss sparked a change in style for Arce, who ran off 26 straight runs and became a fixture in pay-per-view undercards and eventually gaining exposure on HBO’s Boxing After Dark.
"He gave us a wonderful career," stated HBO color commentator Roy Jones Jr, the former pound-for-pound king who knows a thing or two about greatness in the ring. "He’s been a wonderful fighter for the lower weight classes."
He also proved to be a wonderful businessman. In addition to his in-ring popularity, Arce previously started in a Mexican reality TV show. All told, he retires a content and wealthy man.
"I’ve kept all of the money that I’ve earned and I can go home and watch boxing on TV," Arce rationalized afterward to HBO’s Larry Merchant, who prior to the fight announced that the broadcast would be his last after a 35-year career behind the mic.
Arce wished for a happier ending, but is honored to head off into the sunset with another iconic figure.
"Now, I get to retire with you," Arce stated to Merchant. "You are the best."
For more than a decade in the lower weight classes, Arce was right there with the best. In five years or perhaps longer, enshrinement in Canastota will be awarded to properly reflect such greatness.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JakeNDaBox