Tony Lopez used to walk into a packed Arco Arena with "Eye of the Tiger" blasting over the loudspeakers but still barely audible over the screams of his adoring fans.
Lopez won three world championships in two weight divisions and a North American Boxing Organization title. He was Sacramento's biggest sports celebrity in the late 1980s and early 1990s who didn't play professional basketball. Heads turned when he walked into a restaurant or night club. People wanted to be near him, shake his hand, take his picture.
Then the music stopped, the lights went on and the cheers faded.
"It's hard it really is," Lopez, 49, said last week. "The music stops, and you're like, 'Now what?' When you're 23 years old and on top of the world, you think it's going to last forever."
Lopez has no regrets about his career, other than missing out on today's million-dollar megafights on pay per view.
Instead, he made hundreds of thousands of dollars for most of his 15 title fights not enough to retire, but enough to get a good start on a successful bail bonds business.
"I'm lucky I landed on my feet," Lopez said. "There are others who were not so lucky."
Hector "Macho" Camacho tried to keep the music playing as long as possible, fighting professionally from 1980 to 2010.
Because of Camacho's flamboyant style in and out of the ring, the national spotlight burned brighter on him than on Lopez.
Camacho said boxing saved him from a life of drugs and crime, so it was no surprise what was waiting for him when he stepped out of the ring for the last time.
That's why it was more sad than shocking when this once-great champ's life ended so tragically last week shot in the face sitting in a car outside a bar in his hometown in Puerto Rico. Small bags of cocaine lay about him.
Camacho was not the first boxer to struggle after his career. Many have battled addiction, domestic violence issues, depression and mental illness.
There are no retirement benefits for boxers, no union to help.
Unfortunately, boxers often find that their biggest fights come after the final bell.
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