KO: Celebrities who tried to get in the ring

WBN 01/06/2018
Freddie Flintoff boxing


The list of actors who have turned from boxing to a life in front of the camera is quite extensive. 

Tony Danza, Errol Flynn, Dean Martin; like we said, the list is long. But there’s always one or two celebs or stars from other sports who try to move in the opposite direction.

They think themselves handy in the ring and often (but not always) against the advice of those who know better, decide to step into it.

Rio Ferdinand

Last year, retired professional footballer Rio Ferdinand, formerly of Manchester United and England fame, applied for a pro license.

The word on the street was that the widowed father of three was good with the gloves on and that the application for a license was expected to go through. However, he decided to hang up his gloves after the BBBofC turned away his application.

It was a bitter blow to the guy and fight fans as many wanted to see how well he could handle himself in the ring.

Now he’s back to his football punditry and can take solace in the fact that he’ll have the World Cup to look forward to in the summer. Something tells us he’ll be backing England and although they have a fresh squad at this year’s tournament, World Cup odds have them at 14/1 to win outright.

Surely, his former teammates lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy would help him get over his disappointment of not being allowed to fight professionally.

Mickey Rourke

But what about those actors? Mickey Rourke is the one that springs to mind, and he has had several comebacks in recent years.

His first foray into the ring in the early 90s was met with derision from large sections of fight fans who thought he was using his celebrity status to gain a psychological advantage over his opponents.

He did well enough although some folks called fix over his early fights. He then returned to the ring at the age of 62, defeating 29-year-old Elliot Seymour. And there was the talk of another fight in 2017, but nothing has materialized yet.

rourke world of boxing

Mickey Rourke isn’t the only actor who has had a bout or two in the ring. (Credit: World of Boxing Russia)

Andrew Flintoff

Back to Britain, we had the legendary cricketer Andrew Flintoff take to the ring back in 2012.

He trained under Barry McGuigan and held his own in his first fight against American pro Richard Dawson.

Although Dawson floored Flintoff early on, the cricketer came back to win the fight on points.

It was labeled a circus by many within the sport and perhaps heeding the calls to quit, Flintoff decided against fighting again.

Sonny Bill Williams

But perhaps the most impressive of the lot (although some of you may argue this point) is the boxing career of Sonny Bill Williams.

Not content with representing New Zealand in both the Rugby League and Rugby Union, Williams decided that he wanted to take up pro boxing.

What’s so impressive about that? He did it while still playing pro rugby. How he got his license or permission from his club to box is a bit of a mystery, but box he did all the way to the NZPBA belt.

However, after refusing to respond to challenges for the title, he was stripped of his belt and called out by local boxing officials.

Like Australian rugby player Quade Cooper who also turned pro, there were many who felt that Williams sometimes faced weaker opponents.

They reckoned that his rise through the ranks was somewhat facilitated by boxing authorities who wanted to raise the profile of the sport in both New Zealand and Australia.

Moral of the Story

Without a doubt, some stars have made the successful leap from their chosen career to the ring, but there are many more who have failed.

The truth is that boxing is a lifetime commitment and those guys who think they can jump into the ring after a few months of training are in for a rude awakening.

Just look at what happened to McGregor, and he was already a pro fighter.

So, if you’re a famous celeb reading this now, take our advice and think carefully about how much effort it takes to step into the ring.

Win and people will say it’s a fix, lose and they’ll say you were humbled. You can’t win it seems.