10 Boxers Who Became Actors – Famous Fighters Acting
1. jack dempsey
Former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey took the Roaring Twenties by storm, becoming a cultural icon in his native America and one of the sport’s first true superstars.
Known for his brutal knockouts and aggressive approach in the ring, the legendary “manassa mauler” also appeared in nearly 20 movies between 1920 and 1958.
He appeared alongside one of the four eventual wives and silent movie star Estelle Taylor on Broadway’s The Big Fight and 1925’s Manhattan Madness, among many others.
2. roberto last
“hands of stone” is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
The Panamanian legend competed from 1968 to 2001, reigning as world champion in four divisions and cementing his legacy as one of the best in history.
Although his own life and career have been portrayed in films and documentaries, Roberto Duran also appeared in a few films.
Most notably, he made a cameo appearance as Rocky Balboa’s sparring partner in Rocky II, as well as minor roles opposite Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights.
3. joe frazier
in the original 1976 sylvester stallone movie rocky, former world heavyweight champion joe frazier appeared as himself.
“Smokin’ Joe” walks into the ring in front of an excited crowd and waves to everyone as the announcer introduces him.
The legendary ‘fight of the century’ victor offers a few words of encouragement to Rocky Balboa and shares a laugh with Apollo Creed before the two famous characters collide on screen.
4. roy jones jr
Arguably the most dominant fighter of the 1990s, Roy Jones Jr took time out from a successful in-ring career for a brief cameo in 2003.
One of the most gifted boxers in history played Captain Ballard in the second installment of the popular Matrix trilogy, Matrix Reloaded.
5. tony dance
Brooklyn-born Tony Danza is best known as an American actor and television personality, but he actually started out with a career as a boxer.
In 1976 he made his professional debut and went on to have 12 fights in total, finishing just three years later with a 9-3 record.
Fortunately, Danza found a much more stable option in acting, starring in the American sitcom Taxi for five years and Who’s the Boss?, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award and four Golden Globes.
also appeared in movies like crash, the hollywood gentlemen and don jon.
6. anthony tarver
Known as “the magic man” of the ring, Antonio Tarver enjoyed a highly decorated career as an amateur and later in the paid ranks.
The southpaw from orlando won a bronze medal for america at the 1996 atlanta games before becoming world light heavyweight champion.
Notably, he handed roy jones jr his first proper loss (his first official loss was a controversial disqualification) in 2004 with a huge second-round knockout.
Two years after that high-profile win, Tarver reprized the role of Mason Dixon in Rocky Balboa, who tempts Sylvester Stallone’s iconic Hollywood character out of retirement for an on-screen showdown.
7. mike tyson
Once widely recognized as “the baddest man on the planet,” former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was one of the fiercest and most intimidating fighters in the history of the sport.
That formidable character and superstar status later led him to move to Hollywood as well.
As one of the most recognizable athletes of all time, “Iron Mike” has made many cameo appearances in movies as himself or supporting characters, the most prominent being his appearance in hangover movies.
8. texas cobb
Before hitting the big screen, Tex Cobb was a solid contender for the world heavyweight title, having once challenged then-champion Ken Norton for the WBC crown in 1982.
The American spent 16 years as a professional. He scored impressive wins over Leon Spinks, Earnie Shavers and Bernardo Mercado, but also appeared in many movies and TV shows.
His biggest film roles included The Coen Brothers, Police Academy, Raising Arizona, and Ace Ventura, as well as the shows Miami Vice, The X-Files, and Texas Ranger.
9. tommy morrison
Three years before he reigned as heavyweight champion of the world, beating the legendary George Foreman for that honor, Tommy Morrison appeared in Rocky V as Tommy Gunn.
rocky takes the character under his wing and coaches him on his way to glory before the fallout and subsequent street fight.
In real life, Morrison met a tragic end, retiring from boxing in 1996 after testing positive for hiv and finally passing away in 2013 after a sad battle with the disease.
10. michael bentt
after an exciting amateur past in the united states, london-born boxer michael bentt also achieved his dream of winning a world title as a professional.
The british-american conquered tommy morrison in 1993 to claim the wbo heavyweight title, but quickly lost it as he suffered a first defense loss to herbie hide the following year.
That bout turned out to be his last, as he suffered brain injuries from the seventh-round knockout loss. He turned his attention to acting and is best known for his portrayal of Sonny Liston opposite Will Smith in the 2001 film Ali.
from the ring to the movies
Whether it’s a temporary change of trades for a cameo during the course of their careers or an entirely new venture once they hang up the gloves for good, wrestlers throughout history have often walked away from the ring and headed to movie screens.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of boxers who became actors at some point in their lives.
for something similar, check out our post on sports stars who became actors.
Other notable boxers who became actors: Tony Bellew, Victor Ortiz, Gabriel Rosado, Andre Ward, Butterbean.
main image: twitter/miketyson