NFL players who boxed

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much of a crossover between football and boxing. For one thing, boxing is all about the individual, while football requires a team-oriented mindset. In the NFL, all players wear extensive protection, but in the world of pro-boxing, protection is at a minimum. Finally, the level of training needed to be a successful NFL player, while demanding, is nowhere close to the intensity of the training that a boxer needs to maintain before a fight.

But NFL fans checking out the latest NFL odds from do have to weigh up some of the same factors as boxing fans and bettors. Both sports are contact events, in which serious injuries can and do occur. It is not possible to be either a pro footballer or a boxer unless you are well-conditioned and have plentiful reserves of both stamina and endurance. And although the technical skills are very different, both sports require a high level of technical accomplishment.

So, it isn’t that surprising, in fact, to find that over the years, many NFL players have taken their chances in the boxing ring. Here are some of the most notable:

Lyle Alzado

The late Lyle Alzado, who died tragically at the young age of 43, won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Raiders but was also a skilled amateur boxer. Famously, he challenged the great Muhammad Ali to an exhibition bout in 1979. Ali was retired at that time, although he would subsequently fight Larry Homes in 1980. The fight, over 10 rounds, took place at Mile High Stadium, the famous NFL venue in Denver. Ali was not in condition at the time and it wasn’t much of a contest, but Alzado could claim to have boxed against the greatest as well as having achieved NFL success.

Ed “Too Tall” Jones

Edward Jones played as a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys over 15 seasons, being a part of the Super Bowl-winning team of 1977, and is the most famous NFL player to have entered the boxing ring. Jones even temporarily retired from the NFL, fighting six professional bouts from November 1979 onwards. At an imposing 6’9”, he cast a towering presence in the boxing ring and on the football field.

Managed by Dave Wolf and Murphy Griffith, who also worked with the future lightweight world champion Ray Mancini, Jones made quite an impact in the world of boxing – in his first fight, he recorded a sixth-round decision against Yaqui Meneses, and he went on to win his five remaining fights by knockout, finishing with a perfect 6-0 record, before returning to the NFL.

Alonzo Highsmith

Running back Alonzo Highsmith was the number three pick in the first round of the 1987 Draft and went on to play seven seasons in the NFL, playing with the Houston Oilers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys, before being forced into retirement from the NFL in 1992 due to a knee problem. But having reached the top level in football, he went on to demonstrate his brilliance in the boxing ring.

Highsmith took his second sports career extremely seriously, working hard to develop the skills and level of endurance and stamina required, and the result was a successful professional career from 1995 to 1998. Highsmith fought 30 times and won 27 bouts, of which 23 came through knockouts, including the infamous fight in 1996 against another former NFL player, Mark Gastineau, which Highsmith won easily, ending Gastineau’s boxing career.

Charley Powell

Charley Powell was one of the more remarkable characters in US sport. Although he didn’t attend college, Notre Dame and UCLA selected him for their football programs. He also played baseball at a semi-professional level, though is perhaps best known for becoming the youngest player to feature in the NFL, when he made his first appearance at the age of 19.

Powell played as a defensive lineman, featuring for the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders, and achieved a notable feat in his first game in the NFL when he sacked opposing quarterback Bobby Layne 10 times. But Powell was also known for his professional boxing career, during which he fought 39 times, winning 25 and losing 11 bouts. Among those losses were defeats against Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali, and his biggest win came when he knocked out world-ranked number two Niño Valdés in a fight staged at Miami Beach in 1959.