Cigars and cigar smoking have long been associated with professional fighting. Not so much inside the ring as outside it. Still, there have been many great fighters who also enjoyed the occasional cigar. Today, though, seeing a boxer or UFC fighter smoking a cigar anywhere outside of a post-fight victory celebration seems like an oddity. There is, yet, at least one modern fighter who seems the perfect fit for the cigar-smoking lifestyle: Conor McGregor.
About Conor McGregor
If you don’t know who Conor McGregor is, then you must have been hiding for the past few years. Conor McGregor, also called the “Notorious” Conor McGregor, is just that: Famous for breaking the rules and breaking noses.
Starting his career in the UFC, McGregor grew up and trained in Ireland before coming onto the scene. It’s no secret that the Irish love the sport of fighting—boxing or otherwise. Irish people in the UK and the United States were thrilled to have a fellow Irishman in the ring getting wins.
McGregor’s most famous fight came when he faced one of the greatest boxers of all time, Floyd Mayweather. There had long been talk about an epic showdown between an MMA fighter and a traditional Western boxer. That dream came to life in 2017 when McGregor and Mayweather faced off. In the end, Mayweather won by decision. McGregor still had a blowout celebration and smoked a huge cigar in public, according to reports.
The answer, then, seems to be that, like many athletes, Conor McGregor does indulge in the occasional cigar. But, unlike some of the following fighters, he is far from an aficionado.
John L. Sullivan
Another boxer of Irish decent, John L. Sullivan, is, for many fighting experts, where history begins. Born in Massachusetts in 1858, Sullivan, known as “The Boston Strong Boy,” stood 5′ 10″ and weighed over 210 pounds.
Sullivan was known for many things, including having only one loss in his 44 fights. Sullivan was an athlete and first left school to pursue baseball. He turned to boxing when he realized he was more suited to what we now call “combat” sports.
Sullivan had a legendary cigar habit with some reporting he would smoke dozens every day. While the exact amount remains unclear, Sullivan advocated for cigars among other things. He stated, “My whole life is guided by nature … I believe there is such a thing as a man overworking himself and becoming stale.” That is why Sullivan advocated everything from drinking to playing late-night cards, pool, and, of course, smoking cigars. Sullivan always said that he didn’t need more than 8-10 weeks to train for a prizefight. Then, that was it. He’d step into the ring and destroy his opponents.
“Gentleman” Jim Corbett
“Gentleman” Jim Corbett was a great American boxer from the late 19th Century. Jim was the first boxer to defeat John L. Sullivan in 1892. Some say Corbett had an advantage in the match because of the new, adopted “Queensberry” rules. Yet, no one who saw the first left disappointed. The Queensberry rules have to do with the size of the ring as well as how fights should conduct themselves. Under the Queensberry rules, fights are not able to “wrap up” in the way they often used to.
The match between Corbett and Sulivan went an astonishing 21 rounds. That was during a time when fights kept going until someone got knocked out or gave up. The fight between Corbett and Sullivan was an extravaganza attended by some 3,500 people. Most newspapers across the country reported on it.
When out of the ring, gentleman Jim Corbett smoked so many cigars that he had some named after him. Today, the cigars have gone away for a time, but they were quite popular.
Joe Frazier is an interesting fighter. Although he defeated Ali, Frazier is often ignored in the pantheon of great fighters. This isn’t true of those who follow the sport of fighting. But, among the public, his name registers far lower than, say, Ali.
Frazier was considered an undersized heavyweight champion. Standing at just under 6 feet, Joe was both short and light. But he made up for his stature with incredible skill and tenacity in the ring. That, plus, he was one of the best-conditioned fighters to ever step into the ring. Often Frazier would wear his opponents down round after round, waiting for his time to strike. Back then, his nickname was “Smokin’ Joe.”
Today, Joe Frazier has become quite the cigar aficionado. He is often seen holding a Ghurka cigar.
Jake LaMotta gained fame in the movie “Raging Bull,” in which Robert Di Nero plays LaMotta. As the title of the film suggests, LaMotta’s nickname was the “Raging Bull”. Although, some people called him the “Bronx Bull” because he fought, well, like a bull. LaMotta chased his opponents around the ring and ate punch after punch to get on the inside and inflict bodily damage. LaMotta won many of his fights with vicious body shots.
Outside of the ring, LaMotta was to New York Italians what Sullivan was to Irish Bostonians. Both men liked smoking cigars and were rarely seen at public events without one in hand.
The first great, black boxer in American history was Jack Johnson. He fought an incredible 91 times during his career and had only 11 losses and 35 wins by knockout. Johnson had a huge 74-inch reach that he used to keep opponents outside until he was ready to strike.
Johnson, named the Galveston Giant, was fond of giant cigars. Although his exact favorite brand seems to have varied, one thing is for sure: the “Giant” loved his cigars.
The famed Italian-American boxer is known today as the real “Italian Stallion.” He was thought to be fighter whom the “Rocky” movies were based. But, that’s not true. Marciano certainly inspired Sylvester Stallone on some level. The fact is that during his time in the ring, Marciano was actually known as “The Brockton Blockbuster.” That’s because he fought out of Brockton, Massachusetts. Anyway, Rocky Marciano, like other fighters on this list, loved the occasional cigar.
Photo credit: @thenotoriousmma