Great Boxers Who Didn’t Box Clever With Their Money
Pop-quiz question for the day: What, if anything, does a number of iconic, all-time great boxers have in common with your average misunderstood teenager?
Well not much, admittedly – certainly not when it comes to a single minded dedication to the expression of controlled violence anyway. But a behavioural trait that both parties do seem to share is an appalling approach to money management, and spending habits which would shame a drunken sailor.
The financial horror stories that we see in the news about household-name athletes from yesteryear going bankrupt, having blown tens of millions of pounds within a matter of years, are shockingly common. And of these fiscally challenged athletes, history has shown that legendary boxers from the past are at the greatest risk of finding themselves staring at financial ruin once the curtain has closed on their stellar careers.
There are valuable lessons to be learned about the importance of managing your money from the spectacular financial falls from grace of the following A-list all-time great former boxers.
Mike Tyson – Former Undisputed WBA, WBC, and IBF Heavyweight Champion, 50 wins 6 losses
Undoubtedly one of the standout boxing icons of the last 25 years and a boxer who is rightfully recognised as a true all-time great, Mike Tyson truly had the world at his feet.
With a fortune that is once said to have reached the $300-400 million mark, and with a portfolio of luxury assets which included a string of mansions, his own pet tiger, and a fleet or supercars, it seems almost inconceivable that such wealth could be spent in a lifetime, let alone a decade. Well to his great credit, Iron Mike did just that. Although he could once command paydays of $30 million for a single fight, eventually the fights dried up and subsequently so did his bank account. When he filed for bankruptcy in 2004, he claimed to be $23 million in debt and was unable to pay off the $7 million that he owed in taxes.
Fortunately Mike Tyson has avoided a life of destitution, unlike other ex-greats, and now enjoys a thriving media career as an actor, writer, and speaker.
Joe Louis – Former World Heavyweight Champion, 60 wins 3 losses 1 no-contest
It is universally accepted that Joe Louis, aka the legendary “Brown Bomber”, was one of the true American heavyweight greats, following his reign as World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949.
During this time Joe Louis won 25 of 26 championship fights, where he dispatched his opponents with a level of ferocious punching power and skill that arguably is yet to be matched to this day – it is no coincidence that he was ranked #1 of the Greatest Punchers of All-Time, according to The Ring. But more than this, Louis fought unimaginable racial prejudice as he rose to greatness and united both black and white America in their support for him – this was no mean feat at a time when American society was still deeply divided and segregated along racial lines. With this in mind, Joe Louis enjoyed a career which was extremely financially lucrative.
Sadly his hard-earned wealth and fortune wasn’t to last. Joe Louis suffered a spectacular financial fall from grace, after a number of failed business ventures, run-ins with the US government over unpaid taxes, and poor money management.
Thankfully, Joe Louis was a popular and much-loved figure and following an eventual agreement with the IRS regarding tax-repayments and assistance from friends and supporters, he lived out the end of his life debt-free and comfortable.
Evander Holyfield – Former WBA, WBC, IBF Heavyweight Champion & Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion, 44 wins 10 losses 2 draws 1 no-contest
The incredible boxing achievements of Evander Holyfield over the duration of his mind-boggling 39 year pro-boxing career earned him the nickname, “The Real Deal” – what else can you call a man who is a former cruiserweight and heavyweight Undisputed World Champion, not to mention the sole 4-time World Heavyweight Champion ever?
In his prime, Evander Holyfield defeated a number of top-rank opponents, with victories over Riddick Bowe, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and the legendary Mike Tyson. And like his fellow great, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield achieved the seemingly impossible by filing for bankruptcy, in spite of his $250 million in career earnings.
The Real Deal’s money woes continue to this day, and only recently he lost a 54,000 square-foot Georgia mansion as a result of a $14 million debt and an inability to make child-support payments to his 11 children.
Dariusz Michalczeski – Former WBA, WBO, and IBF Light Heavyweight Champion & WBO Cruiserweight Champion, 48 wins 2 losses
Having enjoyed a 12 year unbeaten streak which saw him win an impressive 48 consecutive wins, 38 by knockout, Dariusz Michalczeski undoubtedly deserves his recognition as a brilliant modern cruiserweight champion.
Michalczeski help three title belts before tasting his first defeat in 2003 and, in light of such success, it is unsurprising that the Polish-German champion’s earnings were considerable, with estimates suggesting that he enjoyed a €30 million career. However this fortune was short-lived because not long after his retirement from boxing, a combination of lavish spending and a pair of extremely costly divorces parted him from his hard-won cash.
Thomas Hearns – Former WBA and WBC Welterweight, Light-Middleweight, Middleweight, Super-middleweight, Light-heavyweight, and Cruiserweight Champion, 61 wins 5 losses 1 draw
Known to the world as the “Motor City Cobra” and later as “The Hitman”, Detroit’s Thomas Hearn was one of boxing’s greatest knockout artists. His fusion of incredible boxing power and technique saw him crowned as the first ever boxer to win world titles across five weight divisions – a feat which only five other boxers, including modern greats Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio, have since achieved. Over his astonishing 29 year career, the hard-hitting Hitman shared the ring with a number of big names, including Marvin Hagler, Iran Barkley, and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Unfortunately Thomas Hearns didn’t quite enjoy the same level of success with his personal finances as he did with his illustrious boxing career, and he has now lost his $40 million in career earnings. His struggles continue to this day, as only recently Hearns found himself up to his neck in over $1 million worth of debt, courtesy of unpaid tax and mortgage repayments.
The Hitman has no regrets however and is adamant that his decision to mostly spend his fortune on helping his large family was money well spent.
A financial cautionary tale for us all
As tempting as it might be to tut and laugh at the financial foolhardiness of these boxing greats, their tales of financial woe are cautionary tales that we should heed. The truth is that if somebody with hundreds of millions in the bank can lose their fortunes and find themselves with nothing through poor money management, than it can most certainly happen to those of us with a lesser budget..
It is almost impossible to understand how anybody could go bankrupt, having spent upwards of £100 million, often within less than a decade or two. Perhaps these multi-millionaire champions became too attached to their champagne lifestyles and failed to realise that their big money paying careers would not last forever – as many of us have found out the hard way, albeit on a much more modest scale, it isn’t easy to take a pay hit and adjust to having less when we have become used to a certain standard of living.
Let’s be honest with ourselves – we have all been young and nearly all of us once had an approach to money management which can only be described as reckless. Before we had rent, bills, or any other responsibilities to worry about, blowing a weeks or months wage in a matter of days was not the end of the world. In fact it was almost a rite of passage to have little to show for our wild-spending but embarrassing flashbacks, sunburn, and a load of gadgets and trinkets that we didn’t really need.
But of course adulthood, and an ever increasing number of responsibilities, forces us to change our priorities over time, especially when you are on an average or low income. And if these wild-spending boxers can teach us anything, it is that budgeting can go a very long way, whatever your income might be. If financial disaster can happen to them, it can happen to anyone.
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