Top 20 Greatest Boxers Who Started Late

Athletes who have decided to devote time to their potential professional career from a young age have generally received good results for everything they invested. It is fair to say that the sooner we start chasing our dreams, the sooner we will reach the goal. However, many fighters began boxing in their late twenties and achieved exceptional results despite that. 

Tony Thompson

Anthony “The Tiger” Thompson was born in 1971 in Washington D.C. Tony’s beginnings are tragic and unhappy because he mostly grew up in orphanages, had ten siblings, his mother died of HIV, and his father spent most of his time in prison.

Despite a series of unfortunate events, fate led him to the boxing ring. He started boxing when he was 26, and this heavyweight fighter achieved 13 wins and three losses as an amateur. He made his professional debut in 2000 against DeShaun Harper, where he opened his career with a victory.

His career lasted 16 years, and he boxed 47 times, of which he won 40 and lost seven, knocking out 27 opponents. Thompson had two opportunities to win the title in the fight against Wladimir Klitschko but lost both times, so for a long time, Tony was a dangerous gatekeeper of the heavyweight category. The Tiger played his last match against Luis Ortiz, where he, unfortunately, retired after losing.

Nate Campbell

Nathaniel Campbell was born in 1972 in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. He started boxing very late, being 24, when he began competing as an amateur. From 1996 to 1997, Nathaniel recorded 30 amateur victories and six defeats and won the Florida State amateur championship at 132 lbs.

In 2000, he entered the ring as a professional for the first time against Scoey Fields, whom he knocked out in the first round. Nate’s career started well, and he was undefeated for 23 matches, and in his 14-year-long career, he won the WBA, IBF, and WBO lightweight titles.

His career consists of 50 fights, of which he won 37, knocking out 26 opponents. In addition to the wins, Nate has 11 losses he suffered later in his career. Despite the decline of his career and two defeats in a row, Campbell managed to defeat Gilbert Venegas by the referee’s decision in 2014 and became the winner.

Derrick Jefferson

Derrick Lavon Jefferson, known as “D-Train,” was born in 1968 in Michigan, United States. Derrick was a successful athlete in football and basketball when he was in college, and a bright sports career smiled at him. Still, a tragic set of circumstances turned his fate upside down.

In 1993 he was shot in the leg, and his brother Kenyatta got shot in the head, leaving him paralyzed. In 1994, Jefferson put on boxing gloves for the first time, achieving quality success with his athleticism. He won the Golden Gloves as an amateur with a perfect amateur record of 18 wins and 16 knockouts.

Derrick appeared as a professional in 1995 and, in his decade of fighting, did matches all over the United States. He managed to win 28 times and knock out 21 opponents. Jefferson recorded four defeats and one draw. In 2001, D-train fought Klitschko for the title, where TKO defeated him in the second round. Derrick returned to winning ways but lost his last fight in 2005 to DaVarryl Williamson for the WBO/WBC title.

DaVarryl Williamson

DaVarryl Jerome Williamson was born in 1968 in Washington, D.C., U.S. The heavyweight fighter grew up in poverty, moving from one foster home to another, with an addict mother and a criminal father. Still, Williamson refused to let his unhappy childhood negatively shape him.

He started boxing at 25 and achieved a rich amateur career with 120 wins, 17 losses, and one draw. He knocked out as many as 103 opponents, which earned him the justified nickname “Touch of Sleep.” He transferred his dangerous hands to professional waters, where he started performing from 2000 – 2014, knocking out 23 opponents in 27 victories.

There were also eight losses, most of which were unfortunate title fights, making Williamson another man in a row who could not take the throne from Klitschko.

Lawrence Clay-Bey

Lawrence Marvin Clay-Bey was born in 1965 in Bloomfield, Connecticut, USA. Although he started boxing late at 26, he left behind a relatively successful career but an unfortunate one in title fights. As an amateur, Lawrence achieved 60 wins and nine losses, winning the United States National Championships in 1995 and 1996 and taking bronze in Berlin at the World Championships in 1995.

He began his professional career with a knockout in 35 seconds of the fight, continuing ten subsequent battles with victories. He recorded 21 wins with 16 knockouts and only three losses. However, two of those defeats were important title fights for him. He retired after a draw against Derek Bryant in 2005.

Marion Wilson

Known as “The Creep” and “Jackhammer,” he was born in 1956 in Florence, South Carolina, USA. Marion was a heavyweight boxer with a lion’s heart who started boxing late at the age of 27. In his 18-year-long career, Marion was a boxing journeyman who boxed in 57 matches and won only 12, knocking out five of his opponents.

The rest of his score consists of 41 defeats and four draws. The fascinating thing about this character is his steel chin that never allowed him to be knocked out, he fought all the famous fighters of his era who had perfect scores, and he managed to destroy several winning streaks. Wilson’s physical endurance and mental tenacity are on a higher level, and it is a real shame that he could not leave behind a better score.

Adonis Stevenson

“Superman” Adonis was born in 1977 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and behind him is an inspiring story. As a young man being, 14 years old, he got into street trouble, slept on the road, and became a gang member. Due to various charges, Stevenson served 18 months in prison, swearing never to return there.

Three years after that, in 2004, he decided to adopt healthier sports habits through boxing, and as an amateur, secured a record of 33 wins and five losses, becoming the Canadian National Champion in 2005 and 2006.

Adonis became a professional at 29, and despite the late start, in 12 years of his career, he achieved an almost perfect record of 29 wins with 24 knockouts, two losses, and one draw. Stevenson won the WBC and The Ring titles with eight title defenses in light-heavyweight.

Jameel McCline

“Big Time” was born in 1970 in New York, where he grew up in orphanages. Before becoming a boxer, he was in prison for five years, which no doubt further strengthened his character. At 25, he determined to go pro without an amateur background, knocking out his opponent in his debut in 1995.

By the end of his career, he fought on three continents, where he fought 57 matches, winning 41 with 24 knockouts. In addition, his record includes 13 defeats with three draws. Despite his lack of luck in title fights, Jameel managed to cap off his career with the WBA heavyweight title.

Five years before the end of his career, it was obvious that he was faltering because, in the last ten matches, he had seven defeats. McCline finally retired after the defeat in Russia in 2012 in the fight for the WBC title, and regardless of everything, he left behind a successful career.

Seth Mitchell

“Mayhem” was born in 1982 in Brandywine, Maryland, USA. Although initially a talented and award-winning college football player, after seeing a former football opponent win a boxing match, Seth decides to do the same.

With a short amateur career of 9 wins and one loss, at 26, he entered the professional ring against Mike Miller and won by decision. From 2008 to 2013, Seth had a short but quality career of 26 wins, 19 of which were by knockout, two losses, and one draw.

Only towards the end of his career, after 26 matches, he won the WBO-NABO heavyweight title for the first time, which he, unfortunately, failed to defend the following year against Johnathon Banks, whom he managed to avenge and win the WBC International heavyweight title. Seth retired after a WBC title loss to Chris Arreola in 2013.

Jeff Chandler

The bantamweight finest, known also as “Joltin,” was born in 1956 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. He started his career at 19, and after only two amateur matches, one defeat, and one victory, he began to navigate professional waters.

His eight-year short but successful career consists of 37 fights, of which he won 33 and 18 by knockout. There are also only two defeats and two draws. In 1979, he won the USBA title and, the following year, the NABF bantamweight title, which he managed to defend.

In 1980, he won the WBA and The Ring bantamweight titles, which he managed to defend eight times in four years. Unfortunately, in 1984, he lost the match and the titles to Richie Sandoval by technical knockout in 15 rounds and then retired.

Lucas Browne

“Big Daddy” was born in 1979 in Auburn, New South Wales, Australia. Despite his late start at 30, this talented heavyweight fighter tried his hand at boxing, MMA, and kickboxing and achieved satisfactory careers.

With Grotesk’s body and killer fists, Lucas is still active, and his record so far is 31 wins with 27 knockouts and four losses by knockout. He started his career in 2009 and was undefeated until 2018. His wall of success is decorated with the titles UBC, WBF Asia-Pacific heavyweight title, Commonwealth and WBC–EPBC heavyweight titles, and a few others, the most important of which is the WBA (Regular) heavyweight title from 2016.

Ron Lyle

Ronald David Lyle was born in 1941 in Dayton, Ohio, U.S., and died in November 2011. He was born into a large family and had a tragic story because, as very young, he was involved in gang activities and ended up in prison after being sentenced to 15 to 25 years, where he became interested in boxing and made his debut there.

His amateur career outside prison, which lasted a little over a year, consists of 25 wins and four losses. At 30, he competes for the first time as a sanctioned professional boxer. He knocks out AJ Staples in the second round. His career lasted an incredible 25 years, during which he achieved 42 wins, seven losses, and one draw.

Although he lost twice in world title opportunities, he left behind a lot of fans and a solid career, especially if you look at what he has been through in his life. A convict turned pro, Lyle is a man with a big heart and steely will.

Deontay Wilder

The well-known “Bronze Bomber” was born in 1985 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA. This heavyweight knockout artist started boxing at the age of 20. In his amateur career, he recorded 30 wins and five losses. He won the Golden Gloves and the U.S. National Championships in 2007.

Wilder also performed at the Olympic competitions, where he took bronze in 2008 in Beijing. With quality amateur experience behind him, Wilder entered the professional ring in 2008 and destroyed his opponents with knockouts in more than 40 consecutive fights.

Deontay is still active, and his impressive score is 43 wins with 41 knockouts, two losses, and one draw. He was the holder of the WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title with two defenses and the WBC heavyweight title, which he defended ten times in five years. He became especially famous after his legendary rivalry with Tyson Fury, who became the only man to knock out and defeat Wilder.

Ken Norton 

Old school boxer Kenneth Howard Norton Sr. was born in 1943 in Jacksonville, Illinois, U.S., and died in September 2013. Ken put on boxing gloves for the first time at 24 and fully neutralized his late start in his successful career.

Norton was a member of the US Marine Corps, where he participated in matches and became the best Corps fighter ever, where he was awarded several times. After an amateur career of 25 wins and two losses, Norton made his professional debut in 1967, knocking out Grady Brazell in the fifth round.

He boxed all over the U.S., where in 50 matches, he won 42, of which 33 were knockouts, and there were seven defeats and one draw. Although unlucky in title fights, Ken reached the WBC heavyweight title in his career and boxed against greats such as George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Muhammad Ali twice.

Antonio Tarver 

Antonio Deon Tarver, known as “The Magic Man,” was born in 1968 in Orlando, Florida, USA. As a light-heavyweight amateur, Tarver started boxing when he was 20; he has a record of 158 wins and 12 losses. He won the gold medal at the World Championship in Berlin and the gold medal at the PAN American Games in 1995.

Antonio also participated in the Olympic Games and earned third place in 1996. After a well-rounded and experienced amateur career, he debuted professionally in 1997. He won by knockout, and after that, he was undefeated in 16 matches in three years. His record is 31 wins with 22 knockouts, six losses, one draw, and one no-contest.

Antonio is highly experienced in title fights, where in his 18-year career, he collected and defended several titles such as WBA, WBC twice, IBF twice, and The Ring twice. In 2015, he hung up his gloves and retired after a draw with the well-known Steve Cunningham.

Sergio Gabriel Martinez

Sergio Gabriel Martínez, known as “Marvel,” was born in 1975 in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up in a united and working family. Still, he was a victim of peer violence, and in 1995 he turned to boxing with the dream of becoming a champion.

Sergio left behind an amateur career of 39 wins and two losses to prepare for professional matches. In 1997, he made his professional debut, winning by disqualification, and after that, he achieved an incredible series of victories.

Martinez had the opportunity to fight around the globe in his 61 battles, earning 56 wins, three losses, and two draws. He has held world championships in two weight classes, including the joint WBC, WBO, Ring magazine, and lineal middleweight crowns from 2010 to 2014.

He also held the WBC super welterweight title from 2009 to 2010. With six successful defenses of the Ring and lineal middleweight titles, Martnez’s 50-month reign as champion is one of the longest in the history of the weight class.

Ray Mercer

Raymond Anthony Mercer, aka “Merciless,” was born in 1961 in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. Raymond is a former member of USAREUR, and in his life, he tried his hand at kickboxing, MMA, and boxing. Ray started boxing at the age of 23, and everything about boxing he learned in the army.

As an amateur fighter, Mercer raised his record to 64 wins and six losses and won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. With an enviable sports and military background, in 1989, he knocked out his opponent in the third round in his first professional match. In his career of 19 years, Mercer recorded 36 wins with 26 knockouts, seven losses, and one draw.

In 1991, he managed to get the WBO heavyweight title, which he defended in the next match and then vacated it; after a successful career, Ray said goodbye with a victory against Richel Hersisio in 2008.

Clinton Woods

Clint was born in 1972 in Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, and competed in super middleweight and lightweight. Although he started boxing relatively late at 22, that did not stop him from making an excellent career.

He made his professional debut in 1994 against Dave Proctor, whom he defeated on points and thus began his career. In 15 years of fighting, his score is 42 wins with 25 knockouts, five losses, and one draw.

Clinton is the winner of the British Central Area super-middleweight title with one defense, the Commonwealth super-middleweight title, European, British, and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles, the WBC International light-heavyweight title, and the most important for him, the IBF title with four defenses. He retired in 2009 after losing to Tavoris Cloud by unanimous decision.

Bernard Hopkins

One of the most famous and greatest boxers of all time, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, was born in 1965 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. A man about whom it is unnecessary to talk because his career speaks for him, he started boxing professionally after his release from prison in 1988.

While incarcerated, he unofficially established his amateur record in a rehabilitation program, amassing 95 victories and four defeats. He was released after serving a five-year sentence, and in 1988, Bernard made his professional debut, losing it by a majority vote.

He won his first vacant IBF-USBA middleweight title after two years and continued to do so in the following 21 fights. Hopkins then successfully defended the title four times in the next two years. He boxed in 67 matches throughout his 28-year career, winning 55 and losing 8, with two no-contests and two draws.

“The Alien” was successful in eliminating his opponents 32 times. He has won the WBA, WBC, IBF, and The Ring titles in lightweight twice and the WBA, WBC, IBF, and The Ring titles in the middleweight, which he successfully defended 22 times, including 13 knockouts. After losing title battles in 2014 and 2016, he decided to retire.

Rocky Marciano

Although he deserved to be in the top spot, the icing comes last, so we’ll end our list with one of the greatest of all time. Rocco Francis Marchegiano, known by the justified nickname Rocky, was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, USA 1923.

He started boxing at 23, and with his successful career, he has shown that it is never too late. In his short amateur experience, he recorded nine wins and four losses, and he began his perfect professional career in 1947 with a third-round knockout against Lee Epperson.

It is debatable what is more impressive, the fact that his career lasted only eight years or that during that time, he fought as many as 49 matches and remained undefeated in all of them. Rocco managed to knock out 43 of his opponents. In 1952, he won the NYSAC, NBA, and The Ring heavyweight titles, which he managed to defend six times in the next three years, with five knockouts.

Marciano is one of the few fighters who managed to say goodbye to boxing in such a good run and retire in 1955, thus becoming the only heavyweight champion who ended his career undefeated. “The Brockton Blockbuster” died in an unfortunate air-plain crash on August 31, 1969.

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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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