Mickey Rourke, the 64-year-old Golden Globe-winning actor and loosest of cannons even by Hollywood standards, can't get quite quit that addictive game of gloved face punching. Yesterday, Rourke's boxing manager told the Russian outlet TASS: "We are currently in work on organizing a bout for Mickey in the Urals [in western Russia]. This may happen in February or March next year. Mickey is now practicing every day, he is looking forward for the bout and keeps asking when he would be fighting in Russia."
Now the obligatory back story for why an Academy Award nominee fighting in a ring isn’t a totally stupid, quixotic, and dangerous idea. Rourke knows exactly what he’s doing: he took up boxing as a kid and spent years compiling an amateur record before he’d ever read a line on screen. In the early 1990s, he took a hiatus from Hollywood and linked up with Hells Angel/Jean Claude Van Damme assailant/Golden Gloves boxer Chuck Zito for a successful pro career, going 6-0-2 with four knockouts as a light heavyweight. Those botched plastic surgeries that rendered the actor in The Wrestler nearly unrecognizable from the one in Rumble Fish? Those were to repair the toll pugilism took on his face.
Famously, Rourke came out of retirement in November 2014 for an exhibition bout in Russia, the home of his longtime girlfriend, and the then-62-year-old Rourke finished 29-year-old Elliot Seymour with body shots in the second round. Just as famously, the 1-10 Elliot later claimed Rourke’s associates paid him $15,000 to throw the bout in Moscow. (Rourke, Seymour noted, probably had no idea the fix was in.)
It was an awful fight with an ignominious aftermath, so, um, why not try it again? In between posting pictures of his Pomeranian, Rourke's Instagram is full of snapshots of the work he's putting in at Wild Card Boxing in LA as well as his training partners. Other reports mention Olympic gold medalist and Wild Card fighter Egor Mekhontsev as being part of the bill, but no prospective opponent for Rourke has been announced.
We've spent a lot of time talking about old people fighting and why that's usually a bad idea, but Mickey Rourke's late-stage return to boxing lends some texture to easy moralizing. Assuming that he's healthy and that he wants it to be on the level, what's so bad about an aging, willing, and capable celebrity fighting someone befitting his abilities and reflexes? It's not like he'd been soaking it all up as a member of Japan's House of Councilors for the last decade only to be yanked from retirement to get beat up by someone 50 pounds heavier in front of a quiet, gawking audience on New Year's Eve. It's not like he's a former champion trying in vain to script a perfect ending. It's not like Rourke versus whoever is being packaged as appointment viewing along the lines of Gracie-Shamrock III. We've seen the depths, and they reach far deeper than Mickey Rourke going a few rounds in Russia.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.