25 Best Boxers Who Went to Prison – All are Pro Fighters

Boxers, like other people, can get into trouble with the law. Some for something small, some for something serious. And the following boxers got their sentences for what they did, some for a couple of months and some for many years. And there’s even one guy who was framed.

Jack Johnson

Absolute World Heavyweight Champion (1908-1915). Jack was good both in and out of the ring. He drove expensive cars, dated gorgeous white women, and led a flamboyant life. To defeat him in the ring was not possible. The U.S. authorities found another way to punish Jack for his behavior.

In 1912, Johnson was accused of violating the Mann Act (crossing the U.S. border with a woman who was not married to him). The case was made up, but Jack received one year in prison. He was forced to flee from justice. In 1915, Johnson lost the championship title to Jess Willard. Upon his return home, the ex-champion spent a year in prison. 

Antonio Cervantes

The WBA world champion (1972-1976, 1977-1980) in the first welterweight division. At the end of his career, the Colombian boxer became addicted to drugs. He got rich, but Antonio spent money on drugs after leaving the ring. Money had a way of running out.

The search for new means of livelihood led to a six-month prison sentence. After his release from prison, Cervantes was behind bars several more times (for over one year). He managed to overcome his addiction and return to everyday life.

Rocky Graziano

Absolute middleweight world champion (1947-1948). In 1942 the legendary puncher was drafted into the U.S. Army. Before the draft, Rocky served his time at Rikers Island Correctional Facility. While in the service, he broke the law: he punched an officer.

Graziano fled from justice but was forced to surrender to the authorities to avoid punishment. Rocky spent about 18 months in prison during his life.

Carlos Monzon

WBA (1970-1977) and WBC (1970-1974 and 1976-1977) are world middleweight champions. After his career, Monzon remained one of Argentina’s leading media personalities. He was a ladies’ man and received much attention from the media. In 1988, Carlos killed his ex-wife.

He received 11 years in prison, of which he served 6. In 1995 the ex-champion crashed his car while returning to Las Flores Prison. He was allowed to leave the place of confinement accompanied by police officers.

Sonny Liston

One of the greatest superheavyweights in boxing history was born to a large family in Arkansas, USA. Little Sonny had been hit a lot by his father, and those scars remained with the future boxer for the rest of his life.

At the age of 13, Liston moved to St. Louis. Mocked by his classmates, the kid dropped out of school and tried to get a job. There wasn’t enough money – so Liston soon formed a gang, which was engaged in robbery and burglary. In 1950, the future champion was caught by the cops and got a 5-year sentence.

In prison, the guy first tried his hand at boxing. It worked out so well that soon Liston even got his sentence reduced. In 1952, he got out of prison, boxed in amateurs for a year, then turned pro.

In 1956, during the conflict with the police, the boxer got a hard time – he got jail time, temporarily suspended his career, then moved to Philadelphia. There he had just as much trouble with the law – at one point, Liston was even denied a boxing license.

In 1964, the sparred champion was destroyed by Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) as the clear favorite. In the rematch, Liston lost in the opening round.

In 1971 Liston was found dead in his mansion. The official cause of death was heart failure. The boxer was found to have heroin in his system, and there were puncture marks on his arm. No syringes were found at the scene.

Esteban De Jesus

WBC lightweight champion of the world (1976-1978). After the end of his athletic career, De Jesus became addicted to drugs. In 1980 he killed an 18-year-old boy while under the influence of drugs. Esteban received life imprisonment. He served nine years. In 1989 a Puerto Rican died of AIDS.

Bernard Hopkins

Ex-champion in two divisions, an ex-absolute middleweight champion, and the first holder of four champion titles in the history of boxing. Won the title of “fighter of the year.”

The native of Philadelphia (USA) grew up “on the streets” of this troubled metropolis. By 13, the future champion had a few stab wounds and burglaries. At 18, Hopkins got to prison.

While in prison, he suddenly became interested in boxing. After serving almost five years, Bernard was released in 1988, embraced Islam, and began his professional career.

Interesting fact: Hopkins lost his first fight as a professional and won the title only on the third attempt in 1995 – beating Segundo Mercado in the rematch. After that, “The Executioner” had an impressive 19 defenses. He defeated legendary Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, winning all division titles.

In 2011, Hopkins took the WBC bantamweight belt from Jean Pascal. A year and a half later, the 51-year-old veteran was knocked out by future world champion Joe Smith. Then there was a unification bout loss to division leader Sergey Kovalev. In 2013 the IBF belt from Trevoris Cloud, and in 2014 the WBA title from Beibut Shumenov.

Naseem Hamed

The WBO (1995-2000), IBF (1997), and WBC (1999) are world featherweight champions. After his sporting career ended, Hamed served a 15-month prison sentence for involvement in a car accident.

Michael Tyson

Former Heavyweight champion, former pound-for-pound leader, and former Boxer of the Year. The youngest champion in the history of the division.

Tyson used to bully a lot as a kid. The young bully was sent to a particular school for juvenile delinquents, where he met boxing coach Bobby Stewart. For two years, he trained with him. His mentor decided that Tyson had outgrown his level and introduced him to the legendary trainer Cass D’Amato.

During his career year and a half, Tyson had 26 fights. At the age of 20 took his title fight and the WBC belt from Trevor Berbick and then the WBA title from James Smith in the unification bout.

In 1987, Tyson defeated Tony Tucker in the world title fight. The fighter alternated successes in the ring with scandals outside it. Soon he fired all of his team and became addicted to alcohol. In 1990, Tyson suffered the most stunning defeat in boxing history: Tyson lost to the unstoppable James Douglas.

The ex-champion was close to regaining the title, but in 1991 he was accused of rape and found guilty. Tyson served half of his time in prison (3 out of 6 years) and came back as a world champion (beating Frank Bruno), but soon lost twice in a row to Evander Holyfield.

In 2002 Tyson tried to become the undisputed world champion again but lost by brutal knockout to Lennox Lewis.

Rocky Lockridge

The WBA (1983-1985) and IBF (1987-1988) welterweight champion of the world. After the end of his sporting career, Rocky became addicted to heroin. In 1995, he was imprisoned for armed robbery. He served about four years in prison.

Johnny Tapia

The WBO (1994-1998), IBF (1997-1998) Bantamweight World Champion, WBA (1998), WBO (2000) Bantamweight World Champion, IBF Bantamweight World Champion (2002). Tapia was imprisoned in 2009 for violating parole regulations. Johnny was a heroin addict. He was in prison for about 1.5 years during his life.

Adonis Stevenson

Former WBC bantamweight champion, former holder of The Ring belt, and “lineal champion of the world” status.

A native of Haiti, he emigrated with his family to Canada at 7. There he soon became entangled in street crime. In 1998, he got a 4-year prison sentence for pimping, as well as battery and threatening to kill. Served 18 months behind bars.

While in prison, he got into boxing. He nearly killed a fellow inmate, knocking him out (or, more precisely, into a coma). The future champion swore he would never go back to prison. And he had a successful career in boxing.

In 2013, he took the WBC/The Ring/”Linear Belt” titles from Chad Dawson, also remembered as the “Knockout of the Year.” Made a name for himself as one of boxing’s brightest knockouts. He held the belt until 2018, then lost by knockout to Oleksandr Gvozdik, leaving him in the hospital for a long time after the fight.

James Scott

Scott is one of the best welterweights in boxing history, who never won a title because he was in prison. Until the age of 26, James was periodically in jail and prison – for beating people up, robbery, etc. Once out on parole, he began a pro career.

He had ten victories, including over former world champions. When he was getting close to a title shot, Scott was arrested on the scene for the robbery and murder of a man. He received 40 years in prison.

Wanting to continue his career, James wrote to promoters Bob Arum and Don King, asking them to arrange for him to fight in prison, but they would disagree. One of Mohamed Ali’s friends, Murad Mohamed, took over and organized the fight in May 1978, 39 months after his imprisonment.

Scott won, then did the same with the following six opponents, including multiple title challenger Richie Cates, as well as WBA number one Eddie Mustafa. That prison fight was televised on HBO.

In 1979, the WBA belt became vacant, and James Scott was supposed to box for it as the number one ranking. Still, the association refused to sanction a championship bout within the prison walls. Then James lost his motivation and began to lose, and in 1981 the court approved his life sentence. In 2005, Scott was released and lived until 2018, already at large.

Michael Nunn

Nunn spent about 17 years in prison, but that was at the end of his career. In 1982, the promising American boxer won the Golden Gloves competition, after which he became the best at the tournament for two more years.

Still, he lost the internal selection for the Olympics and went pro. He became champion in two weight classes, middleweight, and welterweight. He held the titles from 1988 to 1994.

In the twilight of his career, Michael became addicted to drugs, including selling them. In 2002, at a hotel in his native Davenport, Nunn bought a kilo of cocaine for $24,000 from an undercover FBI agent and was immediately apprehended at the crime scene. The court sentenced him to 24 years in prison, but he received an early amnesty in 2019.

Dwight Muhammad Qawi

Dwight Mohammed Kawhi had a reputation as a brutal knockout fighter in the 1980s. He won the bantamweight and heavyweight titles. His 1986 fight against Evander Holyfield, despite losing in 15 rounds by a split decision, is considered the best in the history of the heavyweight division.

He partly owes his career to prison, where he was sentenced to five years in 1973 for armed robbery, and Qawi started boxing. When released, he began to fight in the profiling rounds. He finished his career with a record of 41-11-1 with 25 knockouts and was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame.

Diego Corrales

Starting his career 33-0, Corrales was stopped by Floyd Mayweather in January 2001. Shortly after his loss to Mayweather, the boxer was accused of abusing his pregnant wife, Maria. Through cooperation with the investigation and a guilty plea, Diego received a sentence of 14 months.

After his release from prison, Corrales returned to the top of the division. He was remembered for his brilliant confrontation with Cuban Joel Casamayor, and in 2005 he had one of the greatest fights in history against Jose Luis Castillo.

On May 7, 2007, a month after his last fight, Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas.

Dewey Bozella

In 1983, the promising, talented 18-year-old Bozella was accused of murdering a 92-year-old woman and received life imprisonment. He did not confess, which left him eligible for parole on several occasions.

Bozella was released from prison after spending 26 years there, thanks to a group of enthusiastic lawyers who got the case reexamined. Once free, Dewey filed a $25 million lawsuit against the county that sued him and won the case, receiving $7.5 million.

In addition, in 2011, Bozella, now 52 years old, fought his first and only fight in the professional ring, winning it.

Tony Ayala Jr.

Tony Ayala began his professional career in 1980. In two years, he was in the ring 22 times and won all his fights, 19 of them by knockout. He was considered an up-and-coming boxer, a star of his time, but he did not get to the championship fight.

In 1983, at the age of 20, he got in with his neighbor’s schoolteacher and raped her. Because the boxer had two similar incidents before that, plus he admitted drug use in court, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Ayala served 16 of those years, and when he was released in 1999, he resumed his career but was not as successful. The 16 years out of the ring took its toll on his speed and functional qualities. Tony had five victories, and in 2000 he again got into the house of a woman who defended herself by shooting him and wounding him in the shoulder.

In 2004, Ayala was in jail again. He received ten years for speeding, distribution of child pornography, and possession of heroin. He was released in 2014 and found dead in the gym the following year. The boxer died of a drug overdose.

Ike Ibeabuchi

In 1997, one of the top heavyweight avenues of the time. Ibeabuchi received 120 days in jail for kidnapping his ex-girlfriend’s 15-year-old son, whom he put in a car and drove into a concrete pole, injuring the teenager.

Two years later, Ibeabuchi was charged with sexually assaulting and injuring three girls. He would first be subject to compulsory mental health treatment and later receive a 20-year prison sentence. Ike was released early from prison in 2015.

Carlos Baldomir

Argentine boxer Carlos Baldomir has long been an inconspicuous boxer competing in his homeland, where he alternated between wins and losses. In 2006, he sensationally defeated the absolute world welterweight champion, Zab Judah.

There was only the WBC title on the line, as Baldomir did not have enough money to sanction the fight by the other two organizations, the WBA and IBF. Carlos won on points, dominating the second half of the fight. The Ring magazine called the result of the fight “the year’s upsets.

Baldomir then defended his championship belt, knocking out Arturo Gatti, and lost his second title defense, losing on points to Floyd Mayweather.

In 2016, Carlos Baldomir was accused of sexually abusing his daughter and imprisoned for 20 years. During the trial, the boxer admitted that he began raping then seven-year-old daughter back in 2008.

Clifford Etienne

” The Black Rhino” Etienne ended his sporting career in 2005. The reason for that was the accusation of robbery, car theft, kidnapping, and shooting at the officers. The boxer robbed a cash register to escape the crime scene.

He stole a car with a family in it. But he could not escape the police, so he decided to shoot back. Etienne received a total punishment of 160 years, although it was later reduced to 105 years.

Edwin Valero

World lightweight champion Edwin Valero had problems with the police as a teenager. Then he got into boxing and was distracted for a while. But Edwin could not overcome his gangster nature. He was frantically jealous of his wife, which made the poor woman constantly on the verge of life and death. Still, he continued to frantically defend her husband, although he repeatedly beat her and even kept her locked up.

When Edwin shot the woman in the leg, she told the police that she was the victim of an attack by an unknown motorcyclist. A year later, the maniacal boxer’s wife was hospitalized with bite marks and a broken rib that punctured her lung. But even in that case, she lied about falling down the stairs.

Finally, in 2010, a jealous man killed his beloved with three stab wounds to the stomach. However, he spent only a few hours in jail, committing suicide by hanging himself.

Juergen Braehmer

The native of Schwerin, Germany, had, unfortunately, a long time to learn how to fight his temper tantrums. Scandalous incidents, lawsuits, and prison sentences accompanied the career path of the future champion.

It all started in 1998 before he started his professional career. He was sentenced to three years in prison for robbery and battery.

In 2002, already in the status of the prospectus marked a new episode: provoked a traffic accident, driving a vehicle without a license. And when the injured man tried to call the cops, he knocked him down and fled the scene. Braehmer had to pay a tidy sum to get out on bail and fight for the WBC International title, and after winning, he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.

In 2005, the bully was released and resumed his career. New accusations came: at first, he beating up a man (he got away with it because he tried to steal his car), then Braehmer hit a woman in a bar, for which he got another 16-month sentence, losing his WBO title he had previously earned in the fight with Dmitry Sukhotsky.

In 2013, Braehmer became the European champion again and later won the world title (WBA Regular) for the second time. In 2017, the German went down to the second middleweight division, beating future world champion Rob Brunt in the Super Series as an underdog.

Anthony Joshua

At 20, the future British superstar was imprisoned for two weeks in Reading prison. He was accused of hooliganism and battery – he was caught during a street fight.

That episode did the future champion well. As it turned out, Joshua was going to quit boxing, but after that incident changed his mind: “If I’m going to do serious time, I’d better know how to stand up for myself.”

In 2011 the future champion got into a new unpleasant story. Cops stopped the young man’s car and discovered it was stuffed full of weed. The big guy was even suspended from the Olympic team for testing purposes. And it worked! He took gold at his home Olympics in 2012 and has been a boxing pro since 2013.

In 2016 Joshua took the IBF title from Charles Martin, and in 2017 he added two more belts to his collection (WBA Super and WBO) in a stunning match against Wladimir Klitschko. But in the future lost them to Alexander Usyk.

Rubin Carter

In 1966, Rubin Carter and John Artis were charged with triple murder during a robbery in New Jersey. Despite conflicting evidence and eyewitness accounts, both were found guilty and sentenced to long terms. Rubin Carter was not released from prison until 1985.

In 1993, the WBC gave him an honorary world title, and he was later inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. In 1999, the movie Hurricane was released, where the role of Rubin Carter was played by Denzel Washington. The story of the trial was also the basis for the song Hurricane by Bob Dylan.

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Gregori Povolotski

I have been practicing martial arts since 2007. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a huge passion for combat sports, especially Muay Thai and boxing. Helping people on their martial arts journey is what drives me to keep training and learn new things. Read More About Me

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