THE BEST CAMEOS BY BOXERS IN MOVIES
Hollywood has always had an affinity for boxing films. Boxers have appeared in cameo roles as themselves, as other boxers, and other roles as bit parts. Even some boxers like Randall “Tex” Cobb found himself a second career in Hollywood as a character actor. Here are some of the more notable cameos by your favorite boxers including Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier, Roy Jones, Jr., and Lennox Lewis…
PART 1: BOXERS AS THEMSELVES
Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard did not need any acting lessons because they played themselves.
JOE FRAZIER IN ROCKY (1976)
The one and only Smokin’ Joe Frazier appeared in the first Rocky film as himself. At the start of the fight between Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Frazier was introduced by the announcer and he entered the ring to wave hello to the crowd. Frazier offered up a few words of encouragement to the Italian Stallion before he bantered with Apollo. “They must be friends,” uttered Rocky to his trainer Mickey.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD IN THE FIGHTER (2010)
The lives of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) were chronicled in The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell. Sugar Ray Leonard played himself, announcing a fight between Micky Ward and Mike Mungun. In real life, Dicky Eklund fought Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. Leonard won, but Eklund allegedly knocked Leonard down. The referee ruled it a slip, but Eklund swears he landed a punch.
EARNIE SHAVERS IN HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (1992)
Earnie Shavers was probably the hardest hitting boxer who ever lived. At least 68 of his 74 victories came from a knockout. Over his career, Shavers beat three world champions. In the film Honeymoon in Vegas starring James Caan and Nicolas Cage, Shavers appeared as himself.
PART 2: BOXERS IN CASINO MOVIES
Boxing and Las Vegas often go hand-in-hand. Perhaps it’s because both boxing and Sin City offer bright lights and non-stop action, or maybe it’s just because so many boxing matches occur at high-profile Vegas venues. Either way, appearing in a casino themed movie is a big deal, as over the years – from Casablanca to Rain Main – the casino has grown to become one of the most popular settings in which to tell stories. Big-time boxers like Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis appeared in a couple of casino-centric films.
MIKE TYSON IN THE HANGOVER (2009)
Mike Tyson and a tiger. What more can you ask for in a cameo? Tyson appeared in the raunchy comedy The Hangover, directed by Todd Phillips. During a visit to Vegas for a bachelor party, three friends (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis) embark on a drug-fueled night of debauchery. They wake up after blacking out only to discover that they stole Mike Tyson’s pet tiger. Tyson demands they return his tiger and hijinks ensue.
Tyson also appeared in the sequel, The Hangover Part II (2011), in which he sang a karaoke version of “One Night in Bangkok.”
LENNOX LEWIS VS. VLADMIR KLITSCHKO IN OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001)
It’s a fight that never happened in real life, but it happened in the movies. A championship-billed fight between Lewis and Klitschko was the centerpiece of the plot for Ocean’s Eleven, directed by Steven Soderbergh. During the Lewis/Klitschko fight, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew (Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, etc.) planned to rob the Bellagio’s vault on the biggest gambling night of the year. Ocean’s crew arranged a temporary blackout, which allowed them to bypass a sophisticated security system to walk away with millions. Soderbergh’s film was a remake of the 1960 original titled Ocean’s 11, starring Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Both versions of the film, Ocean’s 11 (1960) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001) have become an integral part of casino pop culture.
PART 3: TEX COBB
Randall “Tex” Cobb gets his own category. The curly-haired gargantuan boxer from Texas is probably more famous for being a character actor cast as a villain in numerous Hollywood films and TV shows. Cobb was 42-7 as a professional heavyweight fighter and he had a title shot against Larry Holmes in 1982. Cobb lost, but his commanding physical presence garnered the attention of casting directors in Hollywood.
After he retired from the ring, Tex Cobb was a familiar face – typically playing a villain or bad guy – on many popular TV shows including The X-Files, Miami Vice, MacGyver, Moonlighting, Walker: Texas Ranger, and Married…With Children. Cobb also appeared in blockbuster comedies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), Diggstown (1992), Raising Arizona (1987), Liar Liar (1997), Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994) and Fletch Lives (1989).
PART 4: RANDOM CAMEOS
Boxers like Roy Jones, Jr. and Butterbean also appeared in reality-comedy flicks and one of the greatest sci-fi action films of all-time.
ROY JONES, JR. IN THE MATRIX: RELOADED (2003)
Roy Jones, Jr. should have won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, but he lost in a highly-controversial and scandalous decision. Jones went on to have one of the most successful careers in all of boxing with 62 wins and 45 knockouts. Jones was named Fighter of the Decade for the 1990s. In one of the coolest cameos by a boxer in the history of cinema, Roy Jones, Jr. played Captain Ballard in the second installment of the Matrix trilogy.
BUTTERBEAN IN JACKASS: THE MOVIE (2002)
Eric “Butterbean” Esch got his nickname because in order to make the proper weight for a fight, he went on a crash diet consisting only chicken and butterbeans. In Jackass: The Movie, slacker daredevil Johnny Knoxville boxed the oversized Butterbean…in the middle of a department store. It wasn’t even close.
PART 5: BOXERS PLAYING FICTICIOUS BOXERS
Boxers were also cast to play the role of fictional boxers, such as Antonio Tarver and Tommy Morrison. Also, several real-life boxers were cast in Creed to give it authenticity.
TOMMY MORRISON IN ROCKY V (1990)
Tommy Morrison appeared in Rocky V in the role of Tommy Gunn, an up and coming fighter from Oklahoma that Rocky takes under his wing. Rocky trains Tommy well enough to win the title and the two have a falling out. They inevitably have a street fight to settle their differences.
BELLEW, WARD, AND ROSADO IN CREED (2015)
For Creed, several real boxers were cast by director Ryan Coogler in order to give the film more authenticity. Creed is the latest film in the Rocky franchise featuring Tony Bellew, Andre Ward, and Gabriel Rosado. They all appeared as opponents of Adonis “Donnie” Johnson Creed, the young fighter that Rocky Balboa agreed to come out of retirement to train.
VICTOR ORTIZ IN SOUTHPAW (2015)
Victor Ortiz appeared in Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The former WBC welterweight champion is actually a southpaw.
ANTONIO TARVER IN ROCKY BALBOA (2006)
Olympic bronze medalist and former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver appeared in probably the least-known film in the Rocky franchise called Rocky Balboa. In the film, Tarver plays the heavyweight champion Mason “The Line” Dixon. Rocky comes out of retirement to fight Tarver.
With so many boxers taking to the big screen, perhaps we’ll see a new trend of more fighters turning to acting in their spare time. If not, we can always count on them to make cameos in high profile movies, because everyone loves a good fight.