Many NFL fans know Highsmith from his time as a player and as an executive. These days he’s working with the University of Miami but he had another career before his return to football. Highsmith entered the world of boxing and fought 30 times before he hung up his gloves for good.
It may seem unfair to include him on this list because this is a significant record. However, there’s no denying that some of these were freak shows against subpar opponents. They made him appear to be better than he was and included fellow former footballer Mark Gastineau (via The Athletic).
In 2022, MVP Promotions announced that Williams would join the ranks of NBA stars on their roster. He agreed to fight on one of their undercards with Frank Gore a potential opponent. Williams earned a lot of money during his time with the likes of the Cavaliers and the Nets (via Euro Hoops).
But a boxing exhibition provided him with several motivations. Firstly, there are the financial benefits of fighting another man for a few minutes. Then there’s the competitive appeal of training for this event and testing his masculinity. It doesn’t matter if they’re freak shows because it will feel like a title fight for Williams.
For a decade, Askren was one of the best welterweight MMA fighters in the world outside of the UFC. He won the Bellator and ONE Championship titles before he finally entered the top U.S. promotion. However, he was past his prime and suffered mixed results despite building his profile.
After he retired from MMA he agreed to box Jake Paul as the YouTuber’s first true combat sports opponent. Many fans hoped that Askren would demolish the upstart but that’s not what happened. Paul knocked Askren out in controversial circumstances and many people called it a fix (via Asia Net).
Every boxing fan respects Holyfield because he is one of the sport’s biggest legends. However, he arguably fought for too long and nobody wanted to watch him. His final professional boxing match came in 2011 when he was 48. But Holyfield couldn’t resist the allure of the ring and came back in an exhibition in 2021.
The 58-year-old fought former UFC champion Vitor Belfort in a grim display. Belfort demolished Holyfield and showed no respect for the heavyweight icon’s age. Many fans found it uncomfortable to watch and disturbing because of the potential health implications (via GiveMeSport).
Jake Paul made waves in 2020 when he flattened Robinson in a boxing match. This was controversial because career boxers and coaches found the fight offensive. They also thought that it set a dangerous precedent and that these freak shows are irresponsible.
Longterm boxing coach Teddy Atlas condemned the fight and pointed his finger at boxing’s overseers (via TalkSport). He said: “I don’t care about athletes or not, stop allowing guys who don’t know how to fight into a ring. Paul has trained to fight. Awful. Why have a California commission if they allow this.”
Woodley was one of the most dominant UFC champions ever. He combined his wrestling base with a powerful right hand that knocked out his opponents. However, he suffered a dismal losing streak before he finally departed from the UFC. Then he entered the world of YouTube boxing and met his nemesis, Jake Paul (via USA Today Sports).
Somehow, Woodley contrived to lose two matches against ‘The Problem Child.’ First, there was a boring decision loss but worse was to come for the Missouri native. He agreed on a rematch against Paul on short notice but the YouTuber knocked him out. Both of these events were freak shows and an embarrassment for the sport.
Bell is one of the NFL’s most polarizing figures because of his eccentric personality. He became a star with the Pittsburgh Steelers before his greed destroyed his career prospects. After he sat out for a year, he joined the Jets but this didn’t go well. Then he joined the Chiefs but barely played.
It appears that Bell found his true calling by competing in boxing freak shows. He knocked out Adrian Peterson in one of these encounters but this wasn’t the end. Bell has now agreed to fight former UFC fighter Uriah Hall on the undercard of Jake Paul vs. Anderson Silva. He also says that this will be his main focus moving forward (via NBC Sports).