When researching this article I made a sad, yet not wholly surprising discovery. Very many boxers struggle after retirement. A number of them suffer from serious health issues, particularly vision, vestibular and brain injuries related to being repeatedly punched in the head, whilst a frightening number had simply died young. A significant number of former boxers also find themselves in financial trouble following retirement, often ending up in bankruptcy. Of the many boxers I researched, at least one in three fell into one of the above categories.
On a slightly less sorrowful note, some boxers have gone on to have very happy and dare I say, ordinary, lives after their boxing careers. Boxing can be highly lucrative for those who are skilled in the art and have some nous when it comes to economics. One of the problems which can face retired boxers, like so many sportspeople, is the lack of back-up skill or trade; many boxers have very little education or specific training in any other field.
In compiling the list I looked for boxers who had gone on to do something unusual and that would not be expected of a former boxer. Therefore, those who went into the coaching or promotional side of the sport have not made this list. I also tried to feature predominantly successful and well-known boxers, I'm sure many unknown amateurs have gone on to have fascinating lives, but I wanted it to be mostly boxers who had respectable careers.
15 James Smith - Minister
James 'Bonecrusher' Smith was an unusual fighter in a number of respects. Technically, he was not the finest, he was often out-boxed, but he had an exceptional chin and great power in both arms which he could unleash in flurries to devastating effect. Smith was also the first WBA Heavyweight Champion to have a college degree, which he lost in his first defense of the title to Mike Tyson, having been champion for only three months. Three years before his retirement from the sport, Smith had already become an ordained minister. Since then, Smith has made it his lifetime's work to prevent kids from getting involved with crime and drugs, founding his own organization, 'Champion For Kids Inc.' in 2004 which he is till heavily involved in. He lives in Myrtle Beach, California.
14 Sugar Ray Leonard - TV & Movie Work
Named 'Boxer of the Decade' for the 1980s Sugar Ray Leonard is undoubtedly one of the greatest boxers of his generation. Largely through his major bouts with Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler, Leonard became the first boxer to earn more than $100 million purely from fighting. He also won titles in five weight divisions, as well as winning gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Since retirement, Leonard has remained a prominent figure, involved in a lot of media work and having appeared in a number of TV shows and movies, most recently on 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians' as he is Khloe Kardashian's godfather. Unfortunately, he has had a number of problems with alcohol and cocaine since retirement and revealed in his 2011 autobiography 'The Big Fight' that he was molested as a child and encouraged others to report their abuse.
13 Mike Weaver - U.S. Postal Worker
Mike Weaver got into the sport of boxing while serving with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam. Upon his return from conflict, he served as a sparring partner for both Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. Weaver was mismatched with far more experienced fighters in his early career, tainting his career totals, but soon showed he was a capable fighter and became WBA World Heavyweight Champion in 1980. Following his retirement in 2000 at the age of 49, Weaver took a rather unusual route for a former world champion and got a job with the U.S. Postal Service.
12 Lennox Lewis - Entertainment Projects
It was 12 years ago that Lennox Lewis defeated Vitali Klitschko. He remains the last person to do so and still the last person to be the undisputed world heavyweight champion. In a fantastic heavyweight career, Lewis defeated titans such as Bruno, Holyfield, Tyson and Klitschko. Having retired fairly young, at the age of 37, Lewis has been involved in a number of projects since then, including appearances on Reflection Eternal's debut album and a cameo appearance in Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J's music video 'All I Have'. Along with a movie appearance, Lewis is also an avid poker and chess player, and with the latter he funded an after-school chess program for disadvantaged kids.
11 Milton McCrory - Chrysler Corp.
Milton McCrory was the first Kronk fighter to become a champion after he became the WBC World Welterweight Champion in 1983. One of the most promising boxers to emerge from the famous Kronk Gym program, McCrory won his first 20 bouts and went undefeated in his first 28, before being defeated by Donald Curry and losing the welterweight title. McCrory never seemed quite the same fighter after the defeat, and despite claiming the light middleweight title, his career petered out and he was retired by age 29. As always though, the end of boxing is not the end full stop, and McCrory now works at the Chrysler Corp. tech center.
10 Curtis Woodhouse - Soccer Manager
Curtis Woodhouse never took a conventional route, even before retiring from the sport of boxing. Woodhouse started out as a footballer, where he played briefly in the Premier League before becoming something of a journeyman, playing for no fewer than 11 different teams. Woodhouse switched to his "first love" of boxing in 2006, and was at one time the British light-welterweight champion. Following retirement from boxing, the former England U21 international switched back to football once more, trying his hand at management. After stints at Sheffield and Goole, Woodhouse now manages ambitious non-league side Hull United.
9 Chris Eubank - Fashion Industry
Chris Eubank may not have been a media darling, in fact, many people disliked him throughout his career, but one cannot deny his exceptional boxing credentials. Unbeaten in his first 10 years as a professional fighter, Eubank became the world champion at both middleweight and super middleweight, remaining as a world champion for over five years. His bouts against Michael Watson and Nigel Benn made boxing immensely popular in Britain in the 90s and despite the crowd's best wishes, Eubank never lost to either man.
Known as an eccentric throughout his career, Eubank furthered that image after retirement. He went bankrupt in 2009 and, known for his unusual fashion style, Eubank went into the tailored suits industry in 2010. Still as odd as ever, Eubank now reserves a lot of his time supporting his son, the promising Chris Eubank Jr., who is currently the WBA Middleweight champion.
8 Erik Morales - Parks and Recreation Manager
Erik Morales made ESPN's list of the '50 Greatest Boxers of All-Time', albeit only just, coming in at number 49, but few can question his career which brought us so many memorable fights. His bouts with Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao became particular highlights, as Morales both won and lost against both men. In total, Morales won world titles in four different weight divisions and defeated 15 different world champions, although his legacy was somewhat sullied through the revelations of PED found in his system in 2012. Since retiring in 2012, Morales runs a park and recreational facility in Tijuana, he is quoted as saying, "This is just a way for me to be able to thank the people who have been so good to me all my life."
7 Mike Tyson - Movies & TV
Where to start with Mike Tyson. He exploded onto the boxing scene, and there is no other way to put it. His barbaric style set him apart from conventional boxers and he blew his first 30 odd opponents away. Everything seemed in place for Tyson to become the greatest of all time, even Ali said so himself, but as quickly as Tyson had arrived on the scene he diminished. Having become the youngest heavyweight champion of all time in 1986, the writing was on the wall by 1990 when he lost to Buster Douglas, Tyson was already looking a shadow of the animal he was in the early days.
Despite winning the title back in '96 after his prison sentence against Bruno, Tyson was unimpressive. Tyson's life outside the ring has been chaotic to say the least. He managed to file for bankruptcy in 2003, despite earning $300 million over the course of his career. Following retirement, Tyson began tending to his 350 pigeons in Phoenix Arizona. Tyson has been sporadically involved in the boxing scene, and appeared in movies. Tyson's next upcoming role is in a film called 'Ip Man 3' which is expected to be on our screens in February 2016.
6 Chuck Wepner - Liquor Store Manager
The highlight of Chuck Wepner's boxing career was a dubious knock down of Muhammad Ali, although it appeared Wepner had in fact stepped on Ali's foot. Regardless, Wepner went the distance against the greatest which is no easy feat, and despite being out-boxed, out-though and out-fought, he showed he had the heart of a lion and battled on. It was for this reason that Sylvester Stallone began writing the script for 'Rocky' shortly after watching the fight.
Wepner's post-boxing career involved a great deal of his time being spent in lawsuits against the Rocky films, for which he eventually came to an out-of-court agreement with Stallone. Elsewhere, Wepner's career became a rather ignoble one, as he and John Olson made a living out of selling counterfeit Muhammad Ali and Rocky memorabilia, totaling in excess of 10,000 items. In 2002, the FBI arrested the pair and released them on probation. He now works in liquor store management with his wife, and is an expert on all consumer spirits and wines.
5 Evander Holyfield - Boxing Adiser
Evander Holyfield had an outstanding boxing career; an undisputed world champion at welterweight and cruiserweight, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that Holyfield lost 10 fights to the 44 he won. It was the ability to bounce back which saw Holyfield become the only four-time heavyweight world champion in history. Over his career, Holyfield beat the likes of Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Ray Mercer, Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson, although he did not fight most of them at their peak.
Holyfield's legacy has been somewhat sullied by his links to the use of HGH, even though he still denies taking the hormone. Holyfield founded 'Real Deal Records', a record label that briefly had some success. He also released the 'Real Deal Grill' and has made a number of TV appearances since his retirement. He is currently a boxing adviser for Zhang Zhilei.
4 Nigel Benn- DJ
Nigel Benn AKA the 'Dark Destroyer', was a large part of the booming British boxing scene of the early 1990s. A former middleweight and super-middleweight world champion, Benn was named the 'Greatest Super-Middleweight Champion in History' alongside Joe Calzaghe in 2013. Following his retirement, Benn became a notable DJ, performing around the world. Benn now lives in Sydney with his family, he is a born-again Christian and works to improve the boxing facilities available to youngsters in the region.
3 Vitali Klitschko - Mayor of Kiev, Ukraine
The Klitschko brothers continue to divide opinion, even since Vitali has retired. The pair are considered not the most exciting heavyweights and since Lennox Lewis's retirement, the interest of the division has lost public interest. One cannot deny the effectiveness of the brothers though. Vitali, I would say, was the better boxer of the pair, but since they refused to fight one another, it is difficult to say definitively. It is for that reason also, that Vitali never became the undisputed heavyweight champion. He was, however, the first heavyweight world champion to have a PhD and with second highest KO percentage.
Vitali has been involved in politics for almost 10 years and stepped this up to another level after his retirement in 2012. After being heavily involved in the protests in Ukraine in 2013-14, he ran for Mayor of Kiev for the second time in 2014, and was victorious. He has twice been linked with the Ukrainian presidency but pulled out on both occasions, with his political stock rising it would not be a surprise if Dr. Ironfist did run for the role one day.
2 Marvin Hagler
Marvelous Marvin Hagler was a superb fighter and remained undisputed World Middleweight Champion for seven years, between 1980 and 1987. He holds the record for the highest KO percentage of any middleweight champion and only Tony Zale was undisputed champion of the division for longer. His bouts against Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard were three of the biggest of the era, with Hagler only losing the last, in which he lost his titles.
Following the loss to Leonard, Hagler retired and moved to Italy. In Italy he became a movie star, acting in a number of prominent Italian action movies. With an impressive acting repertoire, Hagler has starred as varied characters, ranging from a U.S. Marine to a part in an Italian sci-fi movie. To this day, Hagler still resides in Milan.
1 George Foreman - Minister, Entrepreneur
It may not be as little-known as some of the other entries on this list, but the post-boxing life of George Foreman is quite extraordinary. Foreman burst onto the boxing scene like a force of nature. His power was incredible and he knocked both Joe Frazier and Ken Norton out within two rounds. It was those victories which made Foreman the big favorite when he came up against Muhammad Ali. In the legendary Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman was defeated in remarkable fashion after Ali allowed him to punch himself out before Foreman was so tired he could push him over.
Seen as more machine than man before the fight, Foreman was always painted as the square in comparison to the charismatic entertainer that was Ali. After the fight, Foreman's image changed dramatically. He became something of a national treasure in the U.S. and immensely popular. Following 10 years out of the sport, he returned to reclaim the world heavyweight title aged 45, making him the oldest man to do so by some distance.
Foreman put his success down to healthy living and eating and Russell Hobbs Inc. leapt at the opportunity to put Foreman's name to a product. The George Foreman Grill was born around the turn of the millennium and has incredible success, selling over 100 million units. It is estimated that Foreman has made in excess of $200 million through the endorsement deal, far more than he made from his boxing career. Foreman is also an ordained minister and an author.