Top 10 biggest late bloomers in boxing

Nick Jackson

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Most boxers dedicate their entire lives to get in the position they are in, training every day ever since they could walk, which is obviously the recommended way to ensure you’re prepared physically and mentally for the boxing world but for a very few, it just wasn’t the case. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say and that shows with some of the boxers in this list who were just battling it out at the lower ranks of boxing while some on this list just got into boxing late. To qualify for this list, they must have had minimal boxing background or wasn’t competing at a high standard before making their name in boxing at an older age than most.

  1. Sergio Martinez 22, 51-3-2

Martinez didn’t actually want to become a boxer until he was 20 years old. He pulled together an impressive 39 wins to 2 losses at amateurs before turning pro. He even spent a year out from boxing at amateur level with a broken left hand before going pro. His debut saw his opponent, Cristian Marcelo Vivas disqualified, handing Martinez, the victory. Sergio Martinez fought the first 17 of his fights in his native country of Argentina, recording 16 wins and a single draw before his debut outside of his nation. He fought at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Paradise, Nevada, United States, against Mexican, Antonio Margarito which ended up being his first defeat of his career when was knocked out in the 7th round. He went on to pick up the vacant WBO Latino welterweight title with his 4th round stoppage of Elbio Felipe Gonzlaez. Just over a year later, he was the Argentina Boxing Federation middleweight champion, beating Javier Alejandro Blancoby unanimous decision. Next big step in Sergio’s journey was the IBO light middleweight title, which he ultimately won via unanimous decision against Brit, Richard Williams. He successfully defended his title twice, including a rematch with Williams before picking up a WBO Latino title, this time as a light middleweight. He went on to pick up the Won WBC, WBO, The Ring, and lineal middleweight titles and has since retired.

  1. Nate Campbell 27, 37-11-1 (1 No contest)

The American picked up the IBF Lightweight, WBA Super World Lightweight, WBO Lightweight titles throughout his career spanning from 2000 to 2014. He picked up all 3 titles with his split decision victory over Juan Díaz on the 8th of March, 2008, at the Plaza de Toros, Mexico. His titles were stripped from him when he failed to make weight for his title defence against Ali Funeka. -Nate’s tasted his first defeat in his 24th fight when he fought Cuban, former world champion, Joel Casamayor, having won all of his previous 23 fights. He briefly retired in late 2010 before returning to fight unbeaten Danny Garcia, a fight he lost by a unanimous decision. His record since his return from retirement was 4 wins and 4 defeats before retiring for good.

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  1. Anthony Mundine 25, 47-8

Formally a rugby player and son of former boxer Tony Mundine, Anthony had his professional debut at the age of 25 and later became a world champion. With only 4 amateur fights under his belt from his younger years, Anthony spent around 7 years in rugby before making the move to boxing and is considered by some, and himself, to be Australia’s best all-around athlete and has never shied away from a bit of controversy from the media most notably stating the devastating acts that took place on September 11, 2001 as not a terrorist act and that ‘America’s brought it upon themselves’ and his bizarre plea to Floyd Mayweather Jr, begging him to fight him as he thought of himself as the uncrowned best athlete of all time, a letter that was full of emoji’s and spelling mistakes.

  1. Earnie Shavers 25, 74-14-1

Earnie’s professional boxing career spanned 26 years, retiring from the sport at the age 51. He notably fought the great, Muhammed Ali in 1977, Larry Holmes in 1977 and a year later and held a 91.8% KO ratio. He fought for world heavyweight titles on two occasions (Ali & Holmes) losing both fights. Earnie is remembered as one of the hardest hitters in all of the history of the sport with ‘The Ring’ ranking him 10th best puncher in boxing history. After boxing Earnie says he visited Muhammed Ali a few times, saying Ali, George Foreman and himself all became friends.

  1. Carl Froch 24, – 33-2

Carl did actually have an extensive amateur career but 24 is old for most people starting their pro career in boxing. Froch had a lot of success at amateurs before turning pro by picking up two ABA middleweight titles and obtaining bronze at the 2001 World amateur championships. He made his debut at York Hall in London where he beat Michael Pinnock by TKO in the 4th round of the scheduled 6. A year and a half later, he picked up the English super-middleweight title by beating Alan Page by TKO in the 7th round. He went on to pick up the Commonwealth super-middleweight title by beating Ghanaian, Charles Adamu in March 2004 by points and British super-middleweight title against Damon Hague while retaining his Commonwealth super-middleweight title. On the 8th of December, 2008, Froch became the WBC super-middleweight title holder when he beat Canadian, Jean Pascal, a title he held until mid-2010. He became the Unified super middleweight champion in 2013 when he beat Danish boxer, Mikkel Kessler

  1. James Smith 28, 42-17-1

Smith turned pro at the age of 28 after a successful amateur career that saw him winning 35 fights and only losing 4. After just 15 fights (14-1) Smith was fighting for a world title against Larry Holmes, with Holmes winning by TKO in the 12th round. He got his second chance to become world champion against Tim Witherspoon, 2 years later from his defeat to Holmes. Smith dropped Witherspoon 3 times, all in the opening round to become the WBA heavyweight title holder. He lost his title to Mike Tyson, with Smith putting his title on the line and Tyson putting his WBC title on the line, Tyson won by unanimous decision. Smith ended his career 1999 after a TKO defeat in the 8th round by Larry Holmes.

  1. Clinton Woods, 22 – 42-5-1

His involvement in drugs and crime led him to box for a way out and eventually became a world champion. The light heavyweight beat American Rico Hoye to become the IBF light-heavyweight title holder, after three attempts, firstly against Roy Jones Jr in 2002 and then his draw and loss to Glen Johnson. He then successfully defended his title for 3 years from 2005 to 2008. He was also the British light heavyweight champion, European and Commonwealth light heavyweight title holder.

  1. Audley Harrison 29, 31-7

Harrison won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics for team GB at Super-Heavyweight. He made his debut in 2001 versus Mike Middleton. Harrison won the fight by TKO in the very first round and went on to have 19 win streak which saw him pick up the WBF (Federation) heavyweight title before losing to Danny Williams for the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight title. Harrison was challenging for a world title, fighting David Haye for his WBA heavyweight title. Haye swept through Harrison in the fight to record a 3rd round TKO victory. His final fight saw him fight Deontay Wilder who had recorded 27th consecutive knockout victories from as many fights. Harrison was down after 70 seconds and despite beating the referee’s count, the referee declared Harrison unfit to carry on. Audley Harrison then retired to never return to the ring again.

  1. Lucas Browne 30, 25-0

Previously and only briefly, Browne fought in MMA, switching to boxing with a record of 6 wins and 2 losses, having picked up the XMMA Heavyweight Championship. Browne made history by becoming Australia’s first world heavyweight champion after capturing the WBA ‘Regular’ title but was later stripped of the title when he failed a drug test just two months later. This was overturned but Browne has since failed yet another drug test. Most recently, Browne beat Matthew Greer with a second round TKO.

Honourable Mention:

Matt Skelton 35, 28-9

Skelton, previous to boxing, was pro kickboxer with a record of 63 wins and 8 losses. He had a respectable career in boxing too, picking up belts at British and European level as well as challenging for world titles. His last fight was a loss to Anthony Joshua where he was stopped by a second round stoppage

  1. Rocky Marciano, 24 – 49-0

One of the most famous cases of late blooming, possibly in all of sporting history having only punched a heavy bag before his incredible career. Boxing historians call Rocky the greatest heavyweight boxer in history and we a knock out percentage of 87.75%, it’s definitely up for debate. Rocky had 12 amateur fights, winning 8 of those and losing 4. He started his professional boxing career in 1948, beating Harry Bilizarian. In 1952, he won the world heavyweight championship by beating Jersey Joe Walcott. Marciano defended his title six times before retiring in 1956.



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