In the world of celebrity engagements, the spectacle of boxing matches has seen an unexpected rise, showcasing the fighting skills of personalities better known for their fame and stardom in entertainment, pop culture and other sports. The surprising cases in which celebrities stepped into the boxing ring puzzled and intrigued the public. From Hollywood stars to famous politicians, these figures, often associated with fame in their respective fields, have temporarily swapped the red carpet for the boxing ring. The motives behind these aspirations can range from charitable initiatives to personal achievement.
Yet the common thread lies in the amazement of witnessing familiar faces engage in raw, unscripted combat in the ring. As we reveal the celebrities who got into boxing, we also reveal their unexpected and inexplicable pursuits and performances that captured the attention of audiences around the world.
10 Vanilla ice
In 2002, the “Ice Ice Baby” singer appeared on the first episode of Fox’s “Celebrity Boxing.” Rob Van Winkle, better known as “Vanilla Ice” took on Todd Bridges of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame, who ended up winning the fight, dominantly earning several knockdowns on his way to a 30-27 decision, though Ice uses MMA legend Tank Abbott in his corner.
9 Idris Elba
The four-time Golden Globe winner is also a trained professional kickboxer who has fought boxing matches in his career. In 2016, Elba fought the younger Lionel Graves at the Road To Glory event in the United Kingdom, winning the bout in the first round by TKO. He trained in Muay Thai for 12 months, the process of which was documented in the Discovery Channel documentary Idris Elba: Fighter. So influential is his imprint on boxing that he even started a training camp to divert children away from violent knife crime in the UK.
8 Aaron Carter and Lamar Odom
In what the crowd saw as a strange boxing match, 6-foot-10 Aaron Carter was easily overpowered by the sheer height and reach of 6-foot-10-inch Lamar Odom. The former two-time NBA champion dropped the singer/songwriter twice before securing a second-round knockout victory at the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
7 Shaquille O’Neal
Among the most decorated NBA players in history, Shaquille O’Neal also had a brief stint in boxing between 2009 and 2010. During that time, ABC aired a program called “Shaq vs,” which saw the basketball star go up against other professionals in their respective sport. On the show, O’Neil boxed former world champions Oscar de la Hoya and Shane Mosley with several modifications such as two-minute rounds and ninety seconds of rest. Despite Shaq’s weight and height advantage, he lost to both former world champions by unanimous decision.
6 Tonya Harding
Tonya Harding is certainly one of the most infamous athletes in modern history, having been banned by the United States Figure Skating Association for her involvement in the injury of fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Harding appeared on “Celebrity Boxing” in 2002, defeating public servant Paula Jones. She then embarked on a professional boxing career amid rumors of her financial impropriety. She later retired from professional boxing with a record of 3-3.
5 Mitt Romney
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced the five-time world heavyweight champion in 2015. The fight was organized to raise money for CharityVision, an organization that provides surgeries to cure blindness. In what was a light match between the two, Holyfield eventually emerged victorious when Romney threw in the towel in the second round,
4 Mickey Rourke
While a world-famous actor, Mickey Rourke’s first passion was boxing. He held an impressive 27-3 record in his amateur boxing career in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, the injuries Rourke faced due to his exploits in the ring caused him to retire early, only to return after indulging in some great acting roles between 1970 and 1990. Upon his return to boxing, he remained undefeated in only eight fights to be overshadowed by his health caused by his exploits in the ring. He underwent several facial reconstructive surgeries and even suffered from short-term memory loss.
3 Ricky Gervais
The British comedian participated in a charity boxing match for the British charity “Comic Relief”. He was pitted against businessman Grant Bowie. The fight went three rounds and Gervais was declared the winner by split decision. He then donated the £5,000 prize money to Macmillan Cancer Support. Despite his extensive training and surprising victory, Gervais never returned to boxing.
2 Kim Kardashian
In one of the strangest appearances by a celebrity in the boxing ring, Kim Kardashian has made her apparent opposition to fighting in the ring clear. She competed in a charity boxing match that was televised on Keeping Up with the Kardashians in 2009. Wearing hard hats and a pink outfit, Kim Kardashian took a lot of punches from her opponent Tamara Frapacella. She ended up losing the fight to Frapasella in an uneven match, eventually leaving the ring with a bruised eye.
1 Justin Trudeau
Current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau boxed Canadian Senator Patrick Brazeau in 2012. The bout was organized for a charity called the Regional Cancer Foundation, for which the event raised more than $200,000. Trudeau eventually won the fight in the third round despite a flurry of punches from Brazeau. The climax of this bout came after the fight, in which Trudeau cut off Brazeau’s long hair in the House of Commons as part of a premeditated bet before they faced each other in the ring.