5 famous boxers who have fought inside a pro wrestling ring

Antonio Inoki kicking the heck out of Ali's leg!
Antonio Inoki kicking the heck out of Ali's leg!
Aviral Shukla

When WWE changed its outlook from being a wrestling federation to that of a sports entertainment federation, one knew that the writing was on the wall for some famous industry alliances. From Hollywood to the NFL and show business to other sports, the WWE has managed to do plenty of cross-over programs over the years.

One such sport that bears a very similar setup the WWE is boxing.

For as long as the sports of pro wrestling and boxing have co-existed, there have been big name crossovers from fisticuffs to wrestling. The fanbase has plenty of shared ground; love from the dramatic and the bombastic, as well as high-octane action.

Right from the pioneering days of both sports and featuring literally the biggest stars ever to have graced the game, there is a colorful history of rivalry and combat.

Below we take a look at some of the most infamous moments in the history of battles between wrestlers and boxers.

#5 Mike Tyson

Tyson and Austin got in an altercation back in 1998!
Tyson and Austin got in an altercation back in 1998!

“Iron” Mike Tyson is one of the most feared and revered boxers of all time. At the peak of his prowess, he was ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ and Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world. After his ear-biting controversy in the second loss to Evander Holyfield, he was out of action for the whole of 1998.

In that time, though, he featured as an enforcer in the Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin bout at WrestleMania XIV, and ultimately turned on Michaels and popped him in the nose. Since then Tyson has since returned to Monday Night Raw on January 11, 2010. Tyson teamed up with Chris Jericho against Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

During this episode of RAW, he made things right with D-X when he knocked out his tag team partner, which allowed D-X to win the match, make up with Michaels and return to good terms with D-Generation X. There was the talk of a continued comeback that never quite materialized, but he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Tyson's initial tryst with the WWE was during the peak of the Attitude era and he was officiating a red hot feud. The fact that all the parties involved which included HBK, Stone Cold and Tyson were totally unpredictable in nature made the feud such a legendary one.

Tyson ripping open his T Shirt to reveal that he was a DX member only to doublecross the faction later on is a stuff of legend.


#4 Joe Louis

Joe Louis training
Joe Louis training

The longest reigning heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, entered professional wrestling after his boxing career had ended, mostly due to money problems.

Louis was a legend in his own sport and culturally broke down many boundaries, so his crossover helped the audiences to merge. Louis started out wrestling, but a heart problem caused him to retire from action, though he stayed in a refereeing capacity for over 16 years after his wrestling debut.


#3 Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield made his presence felt inside a wrestling ring back in 2007!
Evander Holyfield made his presence felt inside a wrestling ring back in 2007!

Evander Holyfield took on Matt Hardy in a boxing match during a 2007 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event. “The Real Deal” certainly was as legitimate as they came with his fists. An Olympic medallist, four-time heavyweight world champion and cruiserweight world champion, we often remember the sour notes such as the infamous Mike Tyson incident, but forget how successful he was in his prime.

Holyfield has featured in wrestling rings on more than one occasion, but his bout against Matt Hardy was his biggest showcase. Not only did Holyfield get to put his gloves on Hardy for two rounds, but he also scored a “knockout” over MVP after he entered the ring to let his voice be heard.

Hardy looked out of place right from the get go and stood no chance against the boxing legend.

There were also some backstage rumors of a potential bust-up between commentator John “Bradshaw” Layfield and Holyfield. Luckily things didn’t spill over.


#2 Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather trying to knock Big Show down!
Mayweather trying to knock Big Show down!

The biggest star in boxing today, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, is a born showman and a great talker. It would always garner interest for him to feature in the WWE and he did so several times to build up to WrestleMania XXIV in 2008.

Billed as "The Biggest vs. The Best," these two men squared off at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The 5’8″, 160lb Mayweather would take on The Big Show in a No Disqualification matchup. With The Big Show at 7′ and 425lbs, it was a true spectacle.

Mayweather was almost choke slammed, but one of Mayweather’s crew saved the day with a steel chair. In the ensuing mess, Mayweather was able to put on brass knuckles and KO Big Show to take the win.

In the almost eleven years since that show, Mayweather has won ten more fights and has been a part of a fight that generated the biggest buy rate to date, against Manny Pacquiao.

Big Show has been the lab rat for the WWE when it comes to cross-industry matches. The likes of Mayweather, Akebono and Shaquille O'Neil are just some of the talents the Big Show has squared off against. His record, however, is the least impressive.


#1 Muhammad Ali

This fight was a worldwide success!
This fight was a worldwide success!

Muhammad Ali was another huge mainstream star from the boxing world and another that transcended boundaries. He talked straight out of the Pro Wrestling playbook, and that endeared him to as many as it alienated him.

Love him or hate him, he was a superstar and still is to this day even after his death. Though Ali had been around wrestling many times, including refereeing at WrestleMania 1 in 1985, and even attending an event in North Korea, it was his fight with Antonio Inoki that gets talked about the most.

Wrestler Inoki was legitimately trained in submissions, and Ali was the WBA and WBC world champion. With six million dollars put up for the fight from backers in Japan, it was made into a huge event but was ultimately lackluster. It is estimated that it was broadcast to 1.4 billion people around the world, but the rigid ruleset made any entertainment value hard to come by.

There was confusion on whether it was a work or a real fight, confusion on what was allowed, and ultimately confusion on a bizarre fifteen round tussle. Inoki mostly butt scooted around the ring whilst trying to kick Ali’s legs, whilst Ali could do nothing much other than move around the ring. He threw six punches in the whole fight, and a usually obedient Japanese crowd were furious.

Ali suffered some health complications due to blood clots on his leg and felt the effects for many years. Despite the payday, it was a huge letdown to most involved, showing that some crossovers can be a success and some much more hassle than they’re worth.

Edited by Anthony Akatugba Jr.


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