If a boxer doesn't take a break, would his prime last longer?
History tells you that Ali, Louis, Dempsey and Tyson were not the same after taking a long hiatus from the ring. On the other hand, the men that had uninterrupted careers were able to fight well into their late 30s and early 40s (Lennox Lewis for example).
What says you? I think that athletes stay fresh if they're active and lengthy time off sets them back.
But on the flip side, if you fight a long interrupted stretch, fight after fight, maybe it can wear on you and allow some punk to upset you when you least expect it.
Re: If a boxer doesn't take a break, would his prime last longer?
I think taking a break does diminish your skills. I've heard too many pros saying they weren't ready for this guy- they needed a few more fights before taking on so and so. As well, bigger guys seemed to weather inactivity, and injuries better than little guys. Little guys tend to have a stellar peak for a few years, and then mediocre careers during the second half.
And the flip side, as you say, taking prolonged punishment affects your health. period. Guys with great defense seemed to be faring better in their old age (Chuvalo, Klits) than those who took many punches to the head. The problem with brain injuries is that you don't see the affects till years later.