FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD
Unbeaten welterweight prospect Sammy Vasquez, who will headline the Feb. 20 ShoBox: The New Generation telecast, served two tours in Iraq while a member of the National Guard.
Vasquez’s first tour began in 2005, and his second tour started in 2008.
Contrasting his 17 professional boxing battles in the USA to his 18 months in the Middle East, Vasquez said, “Here, maybe we get a black eye or a busted nose, but at the end of the night, we’re both going home.”
Vasquez is hardly alone; there have been countless fighters who have served in the military, whether before, during, or after their ring careers.
Here are some familiar names:
Barney Ross: Three-division world champ joined Marines during World War II. Insisted on serving overseas and proved heroic in battle at Guadalcanal, for which he was awarded Silver Star and honored by FDR.
Nigel Benn: Before winning world titles at middleweight and super middle, served in the British Army. He was stationed in Northern Ireland for 18 months during “The Troubles” conflict.
Georges Carpentier: This war hero was pilot in World War I. Awarded Croix de Guerre, ultimate military honor bestowed in France. Returned to the ring, and in 1921, he challenged heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey in boxing’s first million-dollar gate.
Leon Spinks: Dropped out of school in 10th grade and joined the Marines shortly after. He learned to box while enlisted. Won Olympic gold in 1976, and in his eighth pro bout, he dethroned heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali in ’78.
Max Schmeling: Germany’s former world heavyweight champ was drafted and served in an elite paratrooper division of Lutwaffe during World War II. Returned to ring after war.
Ken Norton: Future heavyweight titlist served in Marines from 1963 to ’67. He was a blue-chip prospect in several sports. Began boxing while enlisted.
Saoul Mamby: Future junior welter titlist served in Vietnam for, according to Mamby, “One year, six days, and four hours.” When asked if he saw combat, Mamby said, “Yeah, enough.”
Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano (all heavyweight champions): Tunney fought in France during World War I; after being labeled draft dodger World War I, Dempsey enlisted during World War II and became commander in Coast Guard Reserves … Reigning titlist Louis served as sergeant through four years of service during World War II, boxing 96 exhibitions and donating entire purses of two title defenses … Marciano was stationed in Swansea, Wales, during World War II, where he ferried supplies to Normandy. The Rock began boxing career while in Army.