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Jim Thorpe and More! Baseball, Basketball and Football Players in Boxing

*Photo Credit: Native American Rights Fund

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent

Here’s a bughouse list of football players who tried to cut it as professional boxers. To date, none of them have fought for a world heavyweight title. Jim Thorpe, the Olympic Gold medalist considered to be the greatest athlete and sportsman of all time, is the only real famous name on the list. Boxing was only one his many multisport talents. Thorpe has been gone for so many decades, so the nature of his boxing talents and career remain obscure.

Lyle Alzado-The late Denver Broncos defensive end fought an eight round heavyweight exhibition against Muhammad Ali at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Colorado, in July 1979, televised on NBC television.

Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones-The Dallas Cowboys defensive end was 6-0 as a professional.

Mark Gastineau-New York Jets defensive end went 15-2 with 15 knockouts. Currently suffering from dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, brain injuries Gastineau claims was caused by poor tackling techniques. Most of his fights were fixed, and a rematch win over Tim Anderson was rumored to be caused after Anderson was poisoned (source: BoxRec). A knockout loss to fellow football player Alonzo Highsmith ending his boxing career for good.

Alonzo Highsmith-A running back with the Houston Oilers, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Highsmith was 27-1-2 with 23 knockouts. Did not win either of his last two bouts. Knocked out Mexican heavyweight Jaime Munguia, the father of current World Junior Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia.

Tye ‘Big Sky’ Fields-A starting forward for the San Diego State basketball team, Fields knocked out his first 17 professional opponents despite having no amateur background. Final record 49-5 with 44 knockouts. Got knocked out by heavyweight contenders Monte Barrett and Mike Perez in the first round.

Seth Mitchell-Michigan State middle linebacker who went 26-2-1 with 19 knockouts. A 2013 first round knockout to heavyweight contender Chris Arreola exposed Mitchell, who then retired for good.

Tom Zbikowski-The football safety played for the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. Went 8-0 as a professional over an eleven year period, with none of his fights going past the fourth round. Later went to work for the Chicago Fire Department.

Derric Rossy-Boston College defensive end who went 31-13 with 15 knockouts as a professional, often on the short end of close decisions he probably deserved.

Ray Edwards-Defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons who went 12-1-1 with seven knockouts as a professional. A fourth round knockout loss in 2016 to journeyman Keenan Hickmon ended his boxing career for good.

Jim Thorpe (1887-1953)-Played professional baseball for New York, Cincinnati and Boston. Thorpe also played professional football, and was later president of the American Professional Football Association (later the NFL). Olympic medalist Thorpe also played professional basketball, and also excelled at boxing, lacrosse, swimming and hockey. Although Thorpe died in 1953, in June 2010 his late son John ‘Jack’ Thorpe went to court to have his body returned to his native Oklahoma to be buried with family, and removed from his namesake Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, which had bought Thorpe’s body from his third wife for monetary consideration. The historical monuments to Thorpe are impressive at the town created in his memory. Jack Thorpe died in 2013. On October 5, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the matter, 62 years after his passed away. Retired university professor Dr. Michael Koehler, Thorpe’s eldest grandson and author of 16 books, did not support the lawsuit.

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Robert Brizel - Head Boxing Correspondent
Robert Brizel - Head Boxing Correspondent
Robert is the Head Boxing Correspondent for Real Combat Media Boxing since 2013. Robert is also a photographer and ringside reporter for the RCM Tri State region which includes NJ, NY and PA. Robert conducts exclusive interviews, provides historical boxing articles and provides editorial ringside coverage of major boxing events. You can contact or follow Robert on Facebook and by email at robertbrizel@realcombatmedia.com.