Michael Bentt: I’M A London-Born Boxer Who Fought For USA, Became A World Heavyweight Champ And Then A Hollywood Star


MICHAEL BENTT had a boxing career fit for Hollywood – before taking his talents to the big screen.

Bentt famously knocked out Tommy Morrison for the title and later portrayed Sonny Liston after becoming in actor.

But he so nearly gave up on the sport, having fallen out of love with boxing at an early age.

Bentt was born in London to Jamaican parents but grew up in New York after moving to America at a young age.


And he was made to box along with his older brother Winston by their dad, whose cousin Rudolph Bent was also a fighter.

Bentt went onto have a successful amateur career, winning four New York City Golden Gloves and five US titles.

He even won bronze at the 1986 world championship but after twice missing out on the Olympics, he thought his days were up.

That was until legendary trainer Emanuel Steward phoned and convinced him to turn professional.

But the heavyweight prospect – who had a 178-10 amateur record – suffered disaster on his debut.

He was knocked out by journeyman opponent Jerry Jones inside a round which left his boxing hopes facing the KO.
Bentt told Boxing News in 2019: “With my amateur pedigree, should that have happened ? No.

“But I had no respect for him. I didn’t think he would punch back. I was beyond depressed after the fight. I was suicidal.

“It was like having your heart broken by a woman you love and I wanted to cover my head in shame every day.

“People had reason to judge me as a loser and I started to see myself as a loser. I had a broken spirit. My confidence as a boxer was shattered.”


Bentt got a job at a hospital in Queens after the shock loss and spent almost two years out of the ring.

But iconic British boxing promoter Mickey Duff gave Bentt a fighting chance by organising some sparring with feared puncher Gary Mason.

Bentt would m ake his return in 1990 at London’s Royal Albert Hall and went on to notch nine more wins on the bounce over three years.


I had no respect for him. I didn’t think he would punch back. I was beyond depressed after the fight. I was suicidal.



Michael Bentt On Losing His Debut
By that time, Morrison was the new kid on the block, a hulking blonde American primed for big things after starring in Rocky 5.

He had just won the WBO title by beating George Foreman and was in line for a super-fight with Lennox Lewis.

Morrison had an $8million purse against Lewis waiting for him but opted to take a homecoming bout in Tulsa to pass the time.


What he did not know was that Bentt came to spoil the party and scored a stunning first-round KO to rip the title and payday away from him.

Morrison was a punch or two away from winning himself, before a right hand turned the tie on its head within a matter of moments.

Bentt remembered: “When you knock someone down and the stakes are so high, you can get caught up in it.


“He was hurt, but I knew I had to be careful. He was known for getting up from knockdowns and winning fights – and he was known for his monster left hook.

“After the first knockdown, I kept my right hand glued to my chin. He threw a big left hook, I caught it and countered.”

Following the upset, Bentt travelled back to England for his first defence of the belt, which he lost just as quickly as he had won it.

Bentt was brutally knocked out by Britain’s Herbie Hide in round seven, in what would be his last ever fight.

He spent four days in a coma but recovered within two weeks – although it was enough to spark a retirement from boxing.

Bentt said: “The emotional scars were there. Nobody likes to lose, but I think that fight saved my life.

“I would still be fighting today if that hadn’t happened and I never wanted to end up damaged.”


After hanging up his gloves, Bentt went to college and studied journalism and acting.

It was there that he found his calling for performing and before long, he mixed his new passion with his old.

Bentt landed the role of Sonny Liston in the 2001 Muhammad Ali biopic, where Will Smith starred as The Greatest.

He also helped Smith – who received an Oscar nomination for the performance – with his training regime.


Bentt said in 2012: “It was a fantastic experience. It’s my first major film and it’s like I hit the lottery.

“I’m working with Will Smith and Michael Mann, and I’m working with people like Jon Voight. I just couldn’t go wrong.”

Bentt has gone on to star in several TV and film roles, but his life and career was in 2019 remembered in an episode of the Netflix series “Losers.”


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