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Athletes Who Swapped Other Sports for Pugilism

Brittany Andrews

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Boxing is always one of those sports that can look appealing from the outside. Its history alone conjures memories of glorious nights in exotic locations for legends like Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.

However, for anyone who has given the sport a go for real, there is a harsh reality check as soon as the training and hard sparring starts, not to mention the injuries and dieting that are part and parcel of the sport.

Despite all these barriers for boxing newbies to navigate, there are still plenty of sports stars from a variety of different backgrounds who try to give pugilism a go.

Here are just some of the most high-profile men who have either tried and succeeded, or tried and failed, to switch their original athletic pursuit for that of the sweet science.

Anthony Mundine – Aussie Rules

This Australian hard man is arguably the most accomplished boxer and indeed all-round athlete on this list, having performed at the top level of Aussie Rules football before going on to become world champion at both super middleweight and super welterweight.

In a boxing career that spanned two decades, he stands alone as the greatest crossover athlete that Australia has ever produced and has faced legends of the game such as Shane Mosley and Mikkel Kessler.

Many athletes from other sports come unstuck when they give boxing a go, not realizing the stresses and strains that the sport can have on both body and mind.

For one reason or another he was never universally loved by the Australian public, but his record speaks for itself and shows that with enough dedication an athlete from another sport can reach the top of boxing.

Like many fighters, he fought too long into the twilight years of his career, losing badly to Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa, both men he would have swept the floor with in his heyday.

Brandon Marshall – NFL 

From one of the longest serving crossover athletes to an NFL star who is in the initial throes of feeling out a possible career as a pugilist. Brandon Marshall used to ply his trade for the likes of the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks but having retired from gridiron he is now making noises about fighting professionally, with even Deontay Wilder in his sights.

Although Marshall was well used to upsetting the odds makers and betting tipsters during his time as a wide receiver, it is doubtful whether too many fans would back him to beat the Bronzed Bomber.

However, having topped NFL betting odds lines and tipsters’ article columns for many years, this is one athlete who is not afraid of a challenge. It remains to be seen if he can tempt a current pro fighter into a money-spinning bout before the year is out.

Deontay Wilder – Basketball 

Of course, the aforementioned Deontay Wilder did not begin life as a boxer, first excelling as a basketball player before the noble art of boxing became his focus.

After the beatdown he suffered at the hands of Tyson Fury it might not be long before the Alabama native heads back to the parquet for good.

Many athletes make the transition from hoop to ring, with skills such as good footwork and hand-eye coordination helping them adapt to life in the squared circle

Sonny Bill Williams – Rugby Union  

Rugby Union is not a sport for the faint hearted and so perhaps that is why Sonny Bill Williams was able to trade in his New Zealand rugby jersey for some boxing shorts.

By the time he had fought for the last time in a professional ring, his record stood at 7-0 with three of those wins coming by KO.

However, a boxing comeback is now on the cards with him having retired fully from all forms of rugby to reignite his boxing career.

Freddie Flintoff – Cricket 

While most men on this list have had some modicum of success in the ring, the same cannot be said of former England cricket legend Freddie Flintoff.

In his only bout as a pro boxer, he was fed a journeyman who had clearly been told not to throw a punch in anger.

Unfortunately, Richard Dawson had not read the script and uncorked one single shot to leave Flintoff sprawled on his backside. Flintoff eventually recovered to win on points, but that could not mask his obvious deficiencies in the ring.

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