By Gav Duthie: Whether you are a journeyman, domestic fighter, contender, champion, or legend, all a fighter wants is to make the most of their talent and potential. Boxing is a dangerous sport and should never be taken for granted.
Train your hardest, live a clean life and do your best. Because boxing is such a tough gig and many who turn to it have difficult upbringings, there are some really sad stories.
Some fighters don’t make the most of their careers through bad luck; some are self-inflicted. Here is a list of 10 undefeated boxers whose careers were cut short before their prime.
It will hopefully show just how precious your health is and the decisions you make. For any prospect, don’t take the future for granted.
Shawn Estrada 16-0 (14)
Youngest of 16 siblings, the American Estrada was an outstanding amateur with a great pro career ahead of him. He amassed a 110-7 record in the unpaid ranks, culminating in going to the 2008 Olympics. He lost to eventual Gold medalist James Degale. His pro career started well with 16 straight victories. Unfortunately, constant back injuries and a ripped tendon in his hand caused a halt to his career in 2012. As of the time of writing in 2022, he is still only 36, but a boxing return seems likely, and he is now a fitness trainer .
Dmitry Pirog 20-0 (15)
He was lined up for a fight with Gennady Golovkin in 2012 when he had to retire due to a back injury he sustained in training. He was the WBO middleweight champion at the time, defeating ‘Miracle Man’ Daniel Jacobs, and had defended the title 3 times. Afterward, he did well moving into Russian politics, but many felt he was the real deal and could have defeated Golovkin; we will never know.
Rock Allen 15-0 (7)
A really good American prospect who had started well as a professional. Of his 168 amateur wins, the standouts included Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson twice, and Marcos Maidana. He participated in the 2004 Olympics as well. He was 15-0 when he had a car accident in 2011 with his brother, which resulted in 3 months of hospitalization. He hadn’t boxed since 2009 anyway, but his career was definitely cut short.
Harry Simon 31-0 (23)
Unlike the aforementioned fighters, Simon’s lack of career was more down to life choices than bad luck. Simon last boxed four years ago at almost 50 years of age. His son is now a professional at 15-0 also, and they boxed on the same night in 2018. He was a two-time WBO champion who boasts a win over the great defensive wizard ‘Winky’ Wright and represented Namibia at the 1992 Olympics . He was involved in 2 serious car accidents, both of which resulted in fatalities. Two died in the first in 2001, but Simon was ruled not to be driving, but he was in 2002 where 2 Belgian tourists and their baby died. Simon was seriously injured as well. With his injuries and jail term, he was out of the ring from 2002 to 2007. Even on his return, he only boxed eight times between 2007 and 2018, as his career never really got going again. He wrote a book called ‘Lifestyle and Treatments in Prison.’
Ricky Womack 13-0-1 (6)
A really sad tale. A fantastic amateur who had six ding dong amateur battles with Evander Holyfield which ended in a 3-3 stalemate. He was well looked after and mentored by Kronk founder Emmanuel Steward, but his childhood traumas of physical abuse kept dictating his life choices. In 1985 he was convicted for two counts of armed robbery of video stores where he also shot a customer in the leg. He didn’t need the money but was a kleptomaniac. He resumed his boxing career after 15 years in jail in the Millennium winning four boots but eventually took his own life in 2002.
Edwin Valero 27-0 (27)
A horrible story that ended in his wife’s murder and his suicide after being arrested for it. He was 28 years old and the WBC lightweight champion at the time of his death, a two-weight world champion and was talking about as a future opponent for Manny Pacquaio. Due to brain injuries suffered in a motorbike accident before he turned professional in 2001, scans often conveyed irregularities. He is one of the few champions to win all his fights and all by knockout.
Shawn Simpson 12-0 (4)
A recent story where the unfortunate Simpson discovered swelling on the brain after a medical in 2020. Simpson was still hoping to box as of last year, but it is a difficult task to convince medical boards. He is a recent father, so the news would have been difficult, but he seemed happy that he would get the chance to be a Dad. He was an eight-time National amateur champion with over 200 wins at the amateur level.
George Foreman 3rd 16-0 (15)
Obviously, being the son of a boxing legend with a net worth of around $300 million, he didn’t actually need to box. It was probably something he only did to prove something to himself. He only fought for three years but managed 16 wins with 15 knockouts over low-level opposition. He was praised for his skills, though but opted for other ventures. He has a BA (Business Administration degree) and manages his father’s Business Interests. He also opened lots of gyms but recently disassociated himself with the ‘Everybodyfights’ brand he began.
Joe Mesi 36-0 (29)
He was a big prospect when his career was cut short. He was a throwback with an aggressive style, power, and high punch output. His best win was against former cruiserweight champion Vasiliy Jirov, but the win came at a cost with possibly two subdural hematomas in his brain resulting from it. He continued his career until 2007, winning seven further fights and was rated #1 with the WBC. At the time, the champions were the likes of Oleg Maskaev and Sam Peter, so he may well have won a title, but his scans kept coming back with brain injuries, so he was forced to stop. He also went into a solid career in politics after.
Ike Ibeabuchi 20-0 (15)
Maybe the most famous of all ‘the what could have been.’ The winner of one of the most talked-about fights in heavyweight history against David Tua, he was considered the next Mike Tyson. After a battery and attempted sexual assault in a hotel landed him in prison with a strange sentence of between 5-30 years. He failed to convince the board in 9 parole hearings over 11 years that he should be released despite earning two university-level degrees in during his stretch. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he was finally released in 2015 and primed for a return in 2017 but ended back in jail due to parole violations. He is said to be out again, although that has not been verified completely. He is 49, so a return is unlikely, but his last chilling stoppage victory over future world champion Chris Byrd in 1999 keeps the myth going that he could have been something truly great.