Bald Barn Burners Have Always Been a Fact of Boxing Life




Professional boxing is very much a man’s sport; it’s rough, it’s tough, and it requires strength, skill and dexterity, as well as a heaping helping of resiliency and stubbornness.

There’s no special benefit to being a bald boxer; unlike in wrestling, hair pulling isn’t allowed. Nonetheless, there have been quite a few impressive hair-challenged contenders and champions in the ring, a few of whom are mentioned below.

Two of the more famous prizefighters of the modern era certainly qualify: Evander Holyfield and Marvin Hagler.

Holyfield’s bare crown wore the crown

Holyfield first received attention after winning the amateur National Golden Gloves Championship in 1983; he followed this up with a bronze metal in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games and entered the world of professional boxing on November 15, 1984. He became an undefeated cruiserweight champion and then moved up to the heavyweight division in 1988. It was in this division that Holyfield became a legend: He is the only person to win the World Heavyweight title four times. His professional boxing record is an impressive 43 wins, 10 losses, 2 draws and 1 no contest. Ironically, Holyfield may be best known among the general public for an unbelievable incident in the ring — Mike Tyson ferociously biting his ear — rather than for his actual prowess and ability.

Marvin Hagler, who had his name legally changed to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, is widely considered one of the greatest middleweight boxers of all time. He was the undisputed world middleweight champion between 1980 and 1987. A genius at self-promotion, Hagler was a great brawler in the ring and could pile drive an opponent quickly if he got him to stay in one place. Hagler is probably best known for his 1987 match with Sugar Ray Leonard, which the “Marvelous One” lost in a controversial split decision.

Other bald boxers rate high, too

George Foreman, later in his career, was definitely a member of the hair loss club and another exceptional fighter. Although his once-ubiquitous commercials for his line of electric grills have perhaps had a negative impact on his place in boxing history, Foreman deserves a lot of respect. He held the World Heavyweight Boxing title twice, the second time reclaiming it at age 45 and thus becoming the oldest person to win that title. Foreman also put up a great and notable (if ultimately unsuccessful) fight against Muhammad Ali in the legendary 1974 “Rumble in Jungle” match in Zaire. Foreman had a truly lethal hook and ranks as one of the best punchers ever in the business.

What about the aforementioned Mike Tyson, certainly one of the boxing world’s greats? That’s a judgment call, in terms of his hairlessness; he’s often been very closely cropped and in recent years seems to have been actually shaved. If one does accept him in “the club,” one gets another legend: While he has certainly been controversial, both in terms of his boxing and his personal life, Tyson is also undeniably one of the most colorful, exciting and intimidating fighters ever to throw a punch. For many, Tyson is what boxing is all about.

Hairless fighters come in all sizes

All of the above men physically match one’s image of a boxer: solid muscle. But Eric Scott Esch, nicknamed “Butterbean,” is worth noting for his work in the super-heavyweight division.

Weighing in at 442 pounds on a 5-foot 11.5-inch frame, Esch has a more rounded look but is undeniably an awesome presence in the ring. He was a five-time World Toughman Heavyweight Champion, an International Boxing Association Super-Heavyweight Champion and a World Athletic Association Heavyweight champ.

Esch may bring to mind another ultra-heavyweight fighter, Claude “Humphrey” McBride. At 6-foot 4-inches and 400 pounds, McBride was a force to be reckoned with; amazingly, he didn’t start his professional career until he was almost 40 years old. His professional record included 36 wins (31 of them by knockout) and only 7 losses. Not bad for a man of his girth.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter is less well known for his boxing and better known for the song (“Hurricane”) written about him by Bob Dylan. Carter had a five-year career as a middleweight boxer and was touted as a leading contender for the middleweight championship; unfortunately, his shot at moving beyond “contender” status ended after a loss to then-current middleweight champ Joey Giardello. In 1966, Carter was arrested in connection with the murder of three people in a bar; in 1967 he was convicted of the murders, but in 1974, key witnesses recanted their identification of Carter. This resulted in Dylan writing his song, which publicized the case and promoted the proposition that Carter was innocent. In 1983 the conviction was overturned and Carter was released.

Hair loss has a history in the ring

Baldness among boxers isn’t new, of course. Bob Fitzsimmons, born in 1863, was the first person to win championships in three divisions (middleweight, heavyweight and light-heavyweight). Jack Johnson, born in 1878, was the first black world heavyweight champion; his subsequent win over James J. Jeffries, who hoped to “reclaim the heavyweight title for the white race,” prompted riots in the streets in 50 cities.

There are dozens of other bald boxers, but the above gives a good representation of the contribution hairless hitters have made in the ring. Any way you look at it, the bald boxers have scored a serious knockout.