Remember Those Professional Athletes Who Tried Boxing?
By Ken Hissner: How many professional athletes from other sports got into the ring and tried boxing?
One of the first names that came to the mind of this writer is the all-pro NFL football player Ed “Too Tall” Jones! Jones played defensive end for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys for fifteen seasons and was considered to be one of the most dominant defensive players of his era and had a career sack total of 106.
Jones was the first overall selection of the 1974 draft and was part of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XII championship team, which defeated the Denver Broncos 27-10 to win the title on January 15, 1978.
Jones retired from the NFL in 1979 to pursue a professional boxing career. Boxing had always held a fascination for Jones. “It wasn’t that I had boxing idols like Liston and Louis and Patterson,” he said, “but that every boxer was my idol.” He decided in 1977 that he couldn’t stand being out of the ring any longer and that he would box, but he stayed with the Cowboys because he had two years left on his contract, and he felt he should honor it.
In his pro debut, Jones was floored and received a majority decision win and was resoundingly booed by the crowd. On November 3, 1979, he won a majority decision over Abraham “Yaqui” Meneses, 5-6, out of Mexico over six rounds at the Pan American Center, La Cruces, New Mexico. Red Smith of the New York Times wrote: “He cannot box, he cannot punch, and his chin gives off a musical tinkle when tapped.”
It would be just ten days later, on November 13th, that Jones fought again, stopping Lee “Abdullah Muhammad” Holloman, 1-15-2, out of Dallas, having been stopped eight times in 0:44 of the sixth and final round at the Civic Plaza, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Just eleven days later, on November 24th, Jones knocked out Fernando “Toro” Montes, 18-12-1, out of Mexico, at 0:41 of the first round at the DC Armory, District Columbia, Washington.
On December 14th Jones stopped Jim “Jumbo” Wallace, 2-3, out of Tucson, Arizona, at 2:59 of the second round at Dallas Convention Center, Dallas, Texas.
On January 22nd, 1980, Jones knocked out Billy Joe Thomas, 0-4, out of Rondo, Arkansas, at 2:28 of the fourth round at Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, Indiana.
In his sixth and final bout, Jones, just four days later, on January 26th, knocked out Rocky Gonzalez at 2:12 of the first round, who was making his debut at Mississippi Coliseum, Jackson, Mississippi. Gonzalez would never fight again. That’s 6-0 with five stoppages in the career of Jones. Jones returned to the NFL to play for the Cowboys from 1980 to 1989.
Throughout his entire six-fight career, Dave Wolf, Jones’s manager, said Jones was “embarrassed by his performance but not to the extent that he gave up out of embarrassment. What we were all amazed at was the animosity he seemed to create.
Suddenly, he was the villain, as though he had broken a sacred law by giving up football.” Murphy Griffith, Jones’s trainer, said, “I think the big problem was that everyone thought he was too good a football player to be a novice in a foreign activity–and to look like a novice.”
“I have never been around so many crummy people in all my days,” Jones said of his time in boxing. But he also said, “Boxing was the best thing that ever happened to Ed. Jones.”
According to Sports Illustrated, Jones refused to discuss his reasons for returning to football, but he told intimates that his mother hated boxing. When she had a slight heart attack after his third fight, Jones told friends, “I can’t torment her like this.”
There have been others and I won’t go into detail as I have with Jones but to mention a few, one was the New York Jet’s defensive end Mark Gastineau, who after retiring from the NFL had a 15-1 record with 15 knockouts only to be stopped in two rounds in his final bout to former NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith, 15-0-1, who retired with a 27-1-2 record. 18 of those wins were against opponents without winning records.
Without going into the depth that I put in Jones, there are others like starting forward at San Diego State basketball teams 6:08 southpaw Tye Fields, 49-5 with 44 stoppages losing those five by stoppage. He had two of the best all-time trainers in Jesse Reid and Manny Steward, the latter near the end of his career.
Fields was 17-0 before his first loss, which he later reversed, and 41-1 before his second one. He moved from Montana to Edmonton, Canada. He was 6-0 in Canada, and 2-1 in the UK. 18 of his opponents had winless records. His biggest accomplishment was winning the vacant USBA title defeating Sherman Williams, 23-7-1, and knocking out former WBA champ Bruce “Atlantic City Express” Seldon.
Seth Mitchell, 26-2-1 with 19 stoppages for a high school All-American and linebacker at Michigan State. Twelve of his opponents had winless records. He was 25-0-1 before losing to IBO Cruiser champ Jonathan Banks whom he defeated in a rematch. He ended his career losing to Chris Arreola suffering his second stoppage loss.
One of the most successful was former San Francisco 49ers football player Charlie Powell, 25-11-3 with 17 stoppages due to his competition. He was 11-0-1 before his first defeat. Two of his losses were to Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson.
I’m sure there are others and would be interested in knowing some from contributors.
- Arreola blows out Mitchell in one round
- Arreola destroys Mitchell in 1st round
- Arreola battles Mitchell tonight
- Weigh-in: Arreola-Mitchell both weigh 242 lbs.