Top 10 Professional Boxers Who Started Late

We can never get tired of the fantastic stories of boxers who started late. Like the famous saying: “the impossibility of today will be tomorrow’s reality, yet tomorrow’s reality can remain an impossibility if left untried.” 

Many chickened out of their dreams because they felt it was too late to bring them into actualization. They see it as an impossibility. Thus, they never give it a try.

So, they continue living and wishing they had known earlier, dreamt earlier, or acted earlier—a thought process that yields zero reward and tons of regrets.

Time, we know, is of the essence, but you shouldn’t use it relative to age on this topic. In boxing, it is not about how old you are but how fit are you? 

Many are still disturbed about the age limit for a professional boxer. In reality, it all depends on the strength of the body and mind. 

However, 35–40 is the expected age for a boxer to hang the gloves. Nevertheless, there have been occasions when boxers within and above that age bracket come back into the ring to prove themselves.

Below are the top 10 professional boxers who started late—they have the ideology of better late than never.

Professional Boxers Who Started Late

10. Sonny Liston

Started boxing at 19

Sonny Liston, a.k.a The Big Bear, is an American boxer who ventured into the boxing career at 19.

In boxing, starting at 19 can be considered late because most boxers have been practicing the moment they could walk.

Liston is known for his intimidating appearance and toughness. He won the heavyweight champion in 1962 by defeating Floyd Peterson in the first round.

A year after, history repeated itself in the title defense with another KO.

In 1964, the unbeatable Liston suffered a defeat against Muhammad Ali.

A year after, in a rematch, he got knocked out in the very first round. Notwithstanding, he is still a champion. Despite starting late, he could make a name for himself in the game.

9. Antonio Tarver

Antonio Tarver after defeating Danny Green in 2011
Wikimedia Commons

Started boxing at 20

Popularly known as The Magic Man, Antonio Tarver once picked interest in boxing at 10. He later walked away from it and stayed out of the game for 10 years.

At 20, Tarver officially came back to boxing with a mighty force, winning his first sixteen bouts (14 by KO).

He went on defeating some big names in the likes of Roy Jones and Montell Griffin.

Tarver won the light-heavyweight world title despite his late official entrance into boxing.

8. Deontay Wilder

Started boxing at 20

Deontay Wilder, a.k.a The Bronze Bomber, is an American professional boxer who started late at age 20 but started heavy.

His total fights are 45, with 42 wins (41 by KO), 2 losses and 1 draw. Wilder’s punching power is a thing to be reckoned with. 

At 23, he started his professional career in a bout against Ethan Cox, winning in the second round by TKO.

Wilder won his first professional title in a fight against Kelvin Price. The bout ended in the third round when Wilder’s heavy punch landed on the Price’s jaw. That punch sent Price to the rope and later to the ground. 

The referee saw how Price struggled to make it back to his feet, so he ended the bout.

Wilder suffered a defeat in 2020 in a fight against Tyson Fury. He was taken out in the 7th round with a KO, losing his WBC heavyweight title to Fury. He also lost the rematch via 11th-round KO to Furry in 2021.

7. Clinton Woods

Started boxing at 22

Clinton Woods is a former British professional boxer. He proved himself in his first professional fight against Dave Proctor, despite having a late start at 22. Woods was able to bag some remarkable victories in the bout. 

He later moved to the United States in 2002 to be a partaker in the world title fights. In the sixth round of a match with Roy Jones, he suffered a colossal defeat where the bout had to be stopped. 

Clinton did not dwell on his failure in the big city; instead, he bounced back with three straight wins and many more.

6. Luis Firpo 

Started boxing at 23

Luis Angel Firpo, a.k.a The Wild Bull of Pampas, is a late Argentine boomer. He became the first Latin American to challenge for the heavyweight title.

Firpo was faced with the then champion, Jack Demsey. The fight was a historic one as he was able to send Jack off the ring with some magical combinations of punches that made Jack fall off through the ropes.

For some moment, it seems as if Firpo will emerge as heavyweight champion, but at the count of 9, Jack made it back into the ring and later won the match.

Although Firpo lost the match, he got famous for punching Dempsey out of the ring. The pictures went viral. 

Although Luis Firpo started his boxing career at 23, he enjoyed incredible victories and fame.

5. Rocky Marciano 

Started boxing at 23

Rocco Francis Marchegiano is undoubtedly one of the greatest boxers of all time. He is the only heavyweight champion who finished his career without defeat, despite defending the title 6 times. 

Although a late starter who ventured into boxing at 23, Marciano achieved an outstanding record of 49 fights, winning all.

Known for his tireless fighting style, stamina, durable chin, and heavy punches, Rocky Marciano made a name for himself as one of the greatest in the sport.

4. Ken Norton

Started boxing at 24

Ken Norton, also known as The Black Hercules, was an American Professional boxer who rose to fame and achieved impressive victories despite starting late. 

One of his remarkable moments was his fight with the great Ali. In 1973, Norton had a shocking victory over Muhammad Ali, after which he had 14 winning streaks. 

In his autobiography, he noted how a book by Napoleon Hill helped his mind. The book was titled Think Big and Grow Rich.

3. Dwight Muhammad

Started boxing at 25

Dwight is one of the late starters in boxing. At an early age, he got convicted of armed robbery. 

While in prison, Muhammad found his purpose in the boxing ring as the Rahway State prison has a boxing extension.

After his release, he passionately followed his dream leading him to win two-weight titles.

During his career, Dwight had battled with Evander Holyfield, Michael Spinks, George Foreman, and many more. He enjoyed some victories despite starting late and making a name for himself.

2. Jess Willard

Started boxing at 27

Jess is one of these late starters in boxing at 27. He was nicknamed Pottawatomie Giant and was respected for his body build.

In 1915, Willard knocked out Jack Johnson and earned the heavyweight title he defended for four years. 

He later lost the title Jack Damsey in a fight he claimed Johnson was wearing a knuckle duster. History has it that Damsey never granted Williard a return match.

At the end of Willard’s career, he was able to win 26 bouts out of 34. That is quite a good one for a late starter.

1. Ron Lyle

Started boxing at 30

Lyle had a rough beginning as a gang member and was convicted of second-degree murder. 

While in prison, he got stabbed by an inmate, and he almost lost his life. A Doctor saved Lyle’s life after he underwent 36 blood transfusions. 

He was left in solitary for 90 days to heal, where he started exercising his body. Eventually, Lyle became interested in boxing, and he enjoyed many victories in prison.

After being released, he had his first fight at the age of 30 against A.J. Staple, winning by KO in the second round. He went ahead to enjoy many victories and some modest losses.

Wrap Up

Excuse, they say, is a foundation used in building a house of failure.

If any of these professional boxers who started late had dwelled on their ages as an excuse not to chase their dream, they would have lived an ordinary life where they are known just by their friends and close relations.

So, the bottom line is that it is never too late to chase a dream.

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Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons