Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg and 8 More Hollywood Stars Who Left Everyone Speechless With Their Boxing Skills

Over the years, other stars have donned gloves to tell different boxing stories

Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg and 8 More Hollywood Stars Who Left Everyone Speechless With Their Boxing Skills


  • Sylvester Stallone's Rocky franchise redefined the sports genre in Hollywood
  • Tom Cruise's character in Far and Away becomes a bare-knuckle boxer to survive in Boston
  • Daniel Day-Lewis trained with two-time Irish Olympian Phil Sutcliffe and worked with Barry McGuigan to further polish his skills for the movie
  • Michelle Rodriguez impressed viewers with her ability to throw punches in GirlFight.
Show More
Featured Video

When one thinks about boxing movies, more often than not the sight of Sylvester Stallone training with Eye of the Tiger song in the background comes to mind. The story of the Italian Stallion which originally stretched through six movies redefined the sports genre in Hollywood and inspired different generations to drink raw eggs, train like the protagonist, and act all gritty for at least a day.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa.

But the relationship between boxing and Hollywood transcends Stallone’s Rocky franchise. Over many decades, fans have been blessed with a number of stars, including Tom Cruise and Mark Wahlberg, donning gloves to tell different stories.

Wallace Beery – The Champ (1931)

Hollywood has been making boxing movies since the late 1800s, attempting to replicate the same level of drama and nail-biting moments fans on the ringside experience. But it is Wallace Beery’s portrayal of a down-on-his-luck boxer, Champ, in 1931, that put sport-themed movies on the map at the Oscars, earning four Academy Awards nominations.

Wallace Beery.
Wallace Beery.

Champ, who was an alcoholic, spent more time training and convincing promoters to set up a fight than actually getting inside the ring, but the little glimpse of his talents was enough to earn Beery an Oscar for Best Actor.

Robert De Niro – Raging Bull (1980)

There’s little debate over Rocky’s position as the most successful and influential boxing movie of all time, but when it comes to engrossing screenplay and individual performance, Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull often knocks out Stallone’s Italian Stallion.

A still from Raging Bull
A still from Raging Bull.

In Raging Bull, De Niro portrayed Jake LaMotta, a former middleweight boxing champion. Apart from the boxer’s talents in the ring, he brilliantly brought the paranoia, jealousy, and rage LaMotta experienced in his personal life to the big screen. This display led to him winning his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.


Tom Cruise – Far and Away (1992)

Tom Cruise‘s character Joseph Donnelly, a young Irishman, dreams of owning land rather than lifting a boxing belt, but to survive in Boston, he ends up becoming a bare-knuckle boxer.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Far and Away
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Far and Away.

Until his character is beaten and forced to fight off starvation, Cruise impresses viewers with his rogue style of throwing punches in local fights.

Read more: “He was just feeling fear and sadness”: Tom Cruise Found Himself in a Horrible Spot After He Dominated Robert Downey Jr in a Ping Pong Match


Daniel Day-Lewis – The Boxer (1997)

The three-time Oscar-winning actor is known for giving his all to bring the most authentic and touching versions of his characters onto the screen, and The Boxer, in which he played Danny Flynn – a fighter who tries to put his life together after being released from prison – was no different.

Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis.

As per talkSPORT, Daniel Day-Lewis trained with two-time Irish Olympian Phil Sutcliffe, who has trained Conor McGregor. The coach said the actor’s boxing ability was ‘out of this world’. Lewis also worked with Barry McGuigan to further polish his skills for the movie.

Michelle Rodriguez – GirlFight (2000)

Michelle Rodriguez is mostly known for playing Dominic Toretto’s love interest, Letty, in the Fast and Furious franchise.

Michelle Rodriguez
Michelle Rodriguez.

However, before getting in the driving seat, Rodriguez, a newcomer at the time, impressed viewers with her ability to throw punches as troubled teen Diana, who finds discipline, self-respect, and love in a boxing ring.

Will Smith – Ali (2001)

Will Smith took on the challenge of depicting the story of the life of perhaps the most prominent athlete of all time, Muhammad Ali.

Will Smith in Michael Mann's Ali (2001)
Will Smith in Ali (2001).

The biographical film didn’t do well at the box office, but the actor’s preparations for the role, which included gaining 35 pounds of muscle and training for hours a day, worked wonders and he certainly managed to ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’


Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Having already shown her acting talents in Boys Don’t Cry, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Hilary Swank accepted the immense task of transforming into boxer Maggie Fitzgerald for Million Dollar Baby in the space of just 90 days.

Hilary Swank
Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank.

The actress revealed (via Movieweb) that to achieve the goal, she trained two and a half hours of boxing and approximately an hour and a half to two hours lifting weights every day, six days a week. The producers asked her to gain 10 pounds of muscle to resemble a boxer’s physique. She managed 19 pounds. Her hard work paid off, leaving critics stunned with her left hook, eventually leading to her second Oscar.

Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter (2010)

Mark Wahlberg couldn’t beat his Teddy bear in Ted but in The Fighter he pulled no punches as Micky Ward, who teams up with his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) to get his career back on track.

Mark Wahlberg The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter.

Wahlberg prepared for the role for four years and accordingly didn’t need any stunt double for the most intense boxing sequences in the movie. A proper authentic show!

Read more: “When they see me get on my hands and my knees”: Mark Wahlberg Set the Record Straight on the One Quality That Sets Him Apart from Hollywood

Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw (2015)

Jake Gyllenhaal went to extreme lengths to play the role of Billy Hope, a boxer who while losing personal battles in his life turns to trainer Titus Wils to get a grip on his life.

Jake Gyllenhaal FandomWire
Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw.

While the aforementioned actors left fans in awe with their ability to throw punches, Gyllenhaal left viewers stunned by his dedication to the role which led to him suffering some serious blows to his face. He underwent a grueling regime to transform himself into the light-heavyweight champ and delivered a breathtaking performance.

Michael B. Jordan – Creed (2015)

Rocky didn’t just give a boost to the sports-themed movies of the 70s and 80s by smashing box office records. Its impact can also be seen in the present through Creed, the spin-off of the popular franchise. Stallone takes the back seat in the Michael B. Jordan-led franchise as the coach of Adonis Johnson, the son of his former rival Apollo Creed.

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed
Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed.

The Black Panther star did well to replace the physical prowess of Stallone in the boxing ring with his equally heavy punches and shrewd dodging skills. On top of that he delivered a more versatile performance by capturing the emotional vulnerabilities of the character’s personal life.


Read more: “I’ve never seen anyone work as hard”: Tom Cruise Pushed Emily Blunt to Her Absolute Limits That Reminded Director of Matt Damon’s Brutal Jason Bourne Training in $370M Movie


Written by Vishal Singh

Articles Published: 514

Vishal Singh is a Content Writer at FandomWire. Having spent more than half a decade in the digital media space, Vishal specializes in crafting engaging entertainment- and sports-focused stories. He graduated from university with an honors degree in English Literature.