It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to many of those reading that, for boxers past their prime, retirement isn’t exactly something they long for. Many of us set aside a couple of dollars for a rainy day, perhaps travel the world or splurge out on that one big purchase you always promised yourself. However, for the majority of boxers who hit retirement age, it isn’t all roses and warm baths from young nurses.
Instead, many boxers struggle to make ends meet. From bad investments, poor management or simply spending their money like there is no tomorrow, retired boxers do have a tendency to wind up either on welfare, homeless or in the worst possible outcome – dead.
Although hard times can fall upon any athlete, it does tend to be boxers that struggle the most with retirement. No longer the center of attention, the buzz of the crowd, the adrenaline of a big fight and the success that comes with it. Once it’s all gone, what are you left with? Many fall into a despair of depression, fueled by a dangerous cocktail of substances and a longing for times gone past. Here, we take a look at 15 boxers who hit rock bottom after retirement:
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15 Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle is perhaps a name that many will not recognize, however, the argument can be made that he was the first ever boxing superstar. Doyle was like no other; a talented boxer, a movie star, acclaimed tenor and contender for the British Boxing Championship. Yet, there was one opponent Doyle could never get the better of, and that was the booze. From his amateur boxing career in the army, his string of 28 wins with 27 ending in knockout, soon garnered him the attention of various promoters. Doyle is often viewed as a waste of talent and rightly so. The majority of his training was done in the bar, often showing up to bouts having downed a bottle of brandy beforehand. Following a defeat at the hands of journeyman Chris Cole in 1943, Doyle retired and it wasn’t long until he winded up behind bars, relying on his ex-wife to send him an allowance to make ends meet. Doyle would end up passing away in 1978 due to complications brought on by severe cirrhosis of the liver, without a penny to his name.
14 Rick ‘Rocky’ Lockridge
Like so many on this list, Rocky Lockridge seemingly had the world at his feet. Enjoying a stellar career, Lockridge would solidify his legacy when he went on to give Roger Mayweather his first ever defeat by knocking him out in the first 98 seconds of the first round. Yet, to mention Lockridge’s name now would be greeted by bemusement. Instead of being hailed as the great boxer he was, Lockridge is now more synonymous with the internet meme ‘The Best Cry Ever’. Earning an estimated $2.5 million across his career, Lockridge would go on to blow his winnings away due to alcohol and drug abuse following his retirement in 1992. Still struggling to overcome his demons, Lockridge claims to now be cleaner than he was even during his fighting days and hopes to become a trainer. We wish him well in that pursuit.
13 Trevor Berbick
Probably best known for defeating Muhammed Ali in what would be Ali’s final match and famously being knocked out by a relatively unknown Mike Tyson (which saw Tyson crowned the youngest ever heavyweight champion), Berbick’s career is littered with run-ins with the law. Berbick would never go on to regain the success he enjoyed in the early 80s, winning relatively low-tier titles up until his retirement in 2000. Always a loose-cannon, Berbick’s antics would be caught on tape when he and fellow former champion Larry Holmes ended up in a street brawl, 10 years after they first fought (in the ring, obviously). Berbick would later be incarcerated for sexually assaulting the family babysitter in 1992, before being deported from the U.S. back to his homeland of Jamaica. It’s there where Berbick’s life begins to spiral out of control when a family feud escalated and ended with Berbick being stabbed to death.
12 Riddick Bowe
Riddick Bowe is probably the biggest ‘what if…’ in the world of professional boxing. Having earned the admiration of his country during the 1988 Seoul Olympics by claiming silver, Bowe seemed to be headed in the right direction and straight towards a long and successful career. However, boxing proved to be a tough mistress once again when Bowe began to show signs of brain damage following his trilogy of hellacious bouts with the hard-hitting Evander Holyfield. The one time showman now began to slur his words with his behavior becoming increasingly erratic. As quick to spend his money as he was to earn it, Bowe would begin to make ridiculous demands such as the fight pot of $32 million for his fight with British boxer Lennox Lewis be split 90-10 in his favor, something the Lewis camp rejected. Infuriated, Bowe would toss his WBC Championship into a trash can. Forced to retire from boxing in 1997, Bowe joined the Marines only to quit eleven days later and embark on a journey back into boxing. As always, trouble soon followed him as charges such as domestic abuse and kidnapping saw him forced to sell memorabilia down at local flea markets. Bowe once again attempted to regain his glory days by attempting Muay Thai, his one fight ended in defeat.
11 Frank Bruno
Former champion Frank Bruno enjoys a cult like following in his homeland of Great Britain. Similar to fellow British boxer Henry Cooper, Bruno continued to enjoy success well into his retirement following his final match against Mike Tyson in 1996, due to a serious eye injury from that fight, which ended in defeat. Yet, years of toiling in the ring soon caught up with Bruno as his mental health began to deteriorate. Since then, Bruno has found himself in mental institutions a number of times, even being attacked at knifepoint during one term and has admitted to abusing cocaine. In recent years, Bruno has come out as having bipolar disorder and has gone on to champion mental health awareness. We wish him well!
10 Leon Spinks
Leon Spinks wrote himself into the record books when he did the seemingly impossible and defeated Muhammed Ali for the World Heavyweight Championship in 1978. Even more remarkable was that it was only Spinks’ eighth fight as a professional. The Olympic gold medalist would go on to enjoy a reasonably successful career, albeit not a stellar one, and amass a fortune of $4.5 million in the process. He had dabbled in predetermined wrestler v boxer bouts in Japan’s NJPW, but his stock was rapidly decreasing in value. Spinks went on to lose by decision to Fred Houpe in his last match, who hadn’t boxed in 17 years. Fast-forward two decades and Spinks found himself a forgotten relic of boxing’s past, homeless, broke and a tendency to wind up behind bars. Spinks has gone on record by saying he spent the majority of his prize money on drugs and even wound up working as a janitor at a YMCA in Columbus, Nebraska.
9 Johnny Tapia
Johnny Tapia’s life outside the ring was probably more well-known than his life in it. Although Tapia enjoyed success, capturing five world championships at super flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight, it seemed as though the cards were always going to be stacked against the sparky pugilist. Turning to boxing aged nine in an attempt to escape his troubled upbringing, both parents having been murdered, Tapia quickly rose through the ranks capturing the 1983 and 1985 National Golden Gloves at two different weight classes before turning pro. But Tapia’s demons soon caught up with him, as late in his career Tapia began to dabble in cocaine, before being found unconscious and not breathing in his hotel room in 2007, due to an apparent cocaine overdose. Incredibly, Tapia survived and would go on to make an unsuccessful comeback before tragically dying of heart failure in 2012 aged 45.
8 Dariusz Michalczewski
Former world cruiserweight and light-heavyweight champion, Polish born Dariusz Michalczewski would carve out an incredible career, going on to enjoy a 12 year unbeaten streak and amass a record of 48 wins and 2 losses. Michaelczewski also enjoyed success at two different weight classes capturing the WBA, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight titles as well as the WBO junior-heavyweight title. Such a record means that Michalczewski ended up pocketing quite his share of the prize money, estimated to have amassed winnings totaling somewhere in the region on $35 million. However, unfortunately for Michalczewski, he also had a wandering eye. A series of divorce proceedings would lead him to lose the majority of his winnings, whereas the remainder of his fortune is rumored to have been spent on fast cars, luxury homes and horses.
7 Joe Louis
Joe Louis is, without question, one of the greatest boxers to have ever graced foot inside the boxing ring. Yet, one of the world of boxing’s most iconic fighters is also one of its most tragic. With a record of 66-3 and holding the world heavyweight title from 1937 up until 1949, Joe would go on to pocket more than $4.6 million, yet mismanagement of his money by his promoter saw the acclaimed boxer wind up with relatively nothing. Returning from having served in World War II, Joe found out that the IRS were after a taxbill of $1 million. With his debt mounting, Joe was forced to tarnish his career by taking up fights with boxers who were nowhere near his level, up until Rocky Marciano eventually forced him into retirement. With no money to his name, Joe would end up on drug fueled binges and, in death, would rely on this kindness of former opponent Max Schmeling to pay for his funeral.
6 Iran Barkley
Reported to earned over $5 million across his 63 fights (43 wins), Iran Barkley earned a reputation for himself as something of a hard-hitter having knocked out bookkeepers favorite Tommy Hearns to capture the WBC Middleweight Championship before beating him by split decision in their hotly anticipated rematch. Barkley’s opponents read like a who’s who of the boxing world – Nigel Benn, Trevor Berbick, Roberto Duran. Barkley was far more than a one trick pony, proving himself as being one of the all-time greats by capturing three world championships at three different weight classes. Unfortunately for Barkley, however, a run of six defeats in his final fights saw him eventually throw in the towel on his career. Having suffered a stroke and penniless, Barkley wound up living rough on the streets in 2010 before non-profit organisation BronxWorks came to his aid.
5 Thomas Hearns
Known for his slugfests opposite Marvin Hagler, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and Wilfredo Benitez, Detroit pugilist Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns racked up a record of 61-5-1 with 48 bouts ending in KO. Known to adapt to any weight class with relative ease, Hearns managed to capture multiple world championships in six different weight classes. Yet, like so many on this list, Hearns could not hold onto the $40 million he earned since retiring in 2006. Upon learning he owed the IRS over $250,000, Hearns was forced to auction off his beloved boxing memorabilia. But the real drain on his finances has been his own family, however Hearns insists he is not bitter about it – a better man than most.
4 Wilfred Benitez
One of the youngest ever champions in the world of professional boxing (winning his first title age 17) and often hailed as one of the greatest Puerto Rican boxers of all time, the story of Wilfred Benitez is a tragic one. Having defeated 30 year old veteran Antonio Cervantes to capture the WBA Junior Welterweight while still in his teens, ‘El Radar’ would go on amass a record of 53-8-1 and earn an estimated $3-6 million during his career. However, in 1988, the promising boxer was diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, or in simpler terms brain damaged from being repeatedly hit on the head. Today, Benitez is wheelchair-bound, suffers from dementia, and relies on 24/7 care from his family and government welfare payments to keep afloat.
3 ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson
Often cited as the greatest pound for pound boxer (a term created for him by acclaimed sportswriters) of all time, ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson would enjoy a career that many in the boxing world can only dream of, with the remarkable record of 173-19-6. However, that success didn’t follow him outside of the ring. Following his retirement from boxing, Robinson attempted to make a name for himself through various failed businesses and the entertainment industry, which coupled with a seemingly never-ending string of doomed relationships alongside a taxman eager to see what Robinson had pocketed at his peak, saw his fortunes begin to dwindle. Although the writing was on the wall as far back as 1955, Robinson continued to struggle financially up until his death in 1989.
2 Evander Holyfield
Dubbed ‘The Real Deal’, Evander Holyfield’s ability to burn through money is almost as remarkable as his in ring career. With a record of 44-10-2, the now 54 year old likely still longs to make a return to the ring to capture that elusive heavyweight championship for the sixth time. Across a career that spanned 28 years, Holyfield pocketed an impressive $250 million and, perhaps even more impressively, managed to send it all spiraling down the drain. One of the greatest athletes of his generation became flat broke due to idiotic business decisions, a gambling addiction, a lavish lifestyle to pay for and welfare support to pay out. He's since improved his financial position by making paid speaking engagements, but times were tough for Holyfield for a while.
1 Mike Tyson
It won’t come as a surprise to many that none other than ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson tops our list, as the very man embodies the dangerous highs and lows that are associated with professional boxing. One of the most iconic athletes of the 20th century, Tyson notched up a record of 50-6, with 44 bouts ending in catastrophic knockout fashion. At his peak, it is estimated that Tyson was worth $400 million, yet it was all destined to come crumbling down. A series of high profile convictions, divorces, prison sentences, alcohol, drugs and frivolous spending saw Tyson throw away his talents before our very eyes. Tyson has always insisted that his former promoter Don King scammed him out of over $100 million, eventually bringing him to court in 2003 before settling for a payment of a mere $14 million. Filing for bankruptcy, Tyson was forced to accept fights just to keep the IRS at bay before eventually selling his beloved Ohio mansion to ease his money woes. In more recent years, Tyson has managed to climb his way back to financial even ground, but the question will always remain – what could have been…
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