History of Celebrity Boxing, Part 2


The abject failure of Celebrity Boxing on FOX didn’t hinder the overall concept as much as was expected. Although ratings for the FOX show were dismal and it was widely panned by critics, there was a fight between Ricky Gervais and Grant Bovey later in the year. Unfortunately, this led to the BBC putting a kibosh on celebrity boxing. The bout between Gervais and Bovey was considered ‘farcical’, and the British Boxing Board of Control called these events “dangerous and irresponsible”.

For the next five years, we didn’t see much in the way of celebrity boxing. Every other year there was a Celebrity Boxing for Sport Relief event from 2002 to 2008, but these were charity events featuring British celebrities. The only other major celebrity boxing event during that stretch pitted Dolph Lundgren against Oleg Taktarov in Russia, and Taktarov won a convincing victory over the actor most famous for portraying Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

Jose Canseco became the first big name to step into the ring once again back in 2008. Canseco had created a huge stir with his book Juiced, as he alleged that many of the game’s best sluggers in the 1990s were using performance enhancing drugs, including himself. These allegations were originally dismissed, but subsequent investigations found that many of Canseco’s allegations were correct and thrust him into the spotlight.

Canseco looked to cash in on his second time in the spotlight by taking on Vai Sikahema in Atlantic City during the summer of 2018. Canseco was a sizeable favorite by the boxing betting odds because he had a significant size advantage over the former Philadelphia Eagles’ special teams standout. Sikahema weighed in at 5’9 and 205 pounds, while Canseco was 6’4 and 245 pounds. However, Sikahema took it to Canseco from the outset and knocked him down twice in a first-round TKO.

We saw Canseco enter the ring once more in 2009 when he took on the undersized Danny Bonaduce. Canseco was once again seen as the fighter to beat by boxing betting sites because of his size advantage, but Bonaduce was able to manage a draw against someone that was five years younger and much larger than the former TV star. Canseco finally got his first win in November 2009 when he beat Todd Poulton, and he also scored a victory over Tareq Salahi two years later.

Shaquille O’Neal stepped into the ring in 2009 and 2010. As part of his controversy plagued series Shaq Vs., he took on Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley. Both former champions were past their prime, but they called upon their skill and experience to win unanimous decisions against Shaq despite O’Neal’s tremendous size advantage.

The new wave of celebrity boxing was kicked off by the superfight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in August 2017. This fight was talked about for years, and the hype surrounding the showdown was tremendous. Mayweather beat McGregor by 10th round TKO, but both fighters earned enormous paydays for their performances. Reportedly, Mayweather made $280 million from the event, while McGregor made $130 million for his part.

That jumpstarted a slew of boxing events in 2018. Celebrity Boxing for Sport Relief was held again in March 2018, and both Jake Paul and Logan Paul entered the ring for the first time when KSI took on Logan Paul and Deji fought Jake Paul. The Paul brothers have since been the faces of celebrity boxing, although they are no longer fighting at the amateur level. Both brothers have taken it seriously and brought respectability back to the premise.

Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather Jr. faced off on June 6, 2021, and Paul was impressive against the greatest boxer of our generation. He was never going to give Mayweather too much of a run for his money, but he wasn’t knocked out and showed that he belonged in the ring. Chad Johnson took on Brian Maxwell in the undercard of that bout.

Jake Paul took down Tyron Woodley twice in 2021. He won a split decision over Woodley in August 2021, and he knocked out Woodley in the rematch in Tampa in December. Paul was supposed to face Tommy Fury, but Fury had to bow out of the fight because of a broken rib and a bacterial infection.