Bob Dylan Once Sparred With a Boxing Hall of Famer: ‘He Wasn’t Playing Around’

TL;DR:

  • Bob Dylan invited a professional boxer to his boxing gym.
  • Bob Dylan and the former boxing champion sparred together.
  • The musician has many hobbies outside of writing and performing.
A black and white picture of Bob Dylan  with a harmonica.
Bob Dylan | Val Wilmer/Redferns

Outside of music, Bob Dylan’s interests include slapstick comedy, welding, and boxing, among others. The latter was of such interest to Dylan that he owned a members-only boxing gym in Santa Monica. He trained here and even invited former professional boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini to spar with him. Mancini described how the training session went. 

Bob Dylan invited Ray’ Boom Boom’ Mancini to his boxing gym

In 1994, Mancini learned that an unnamed celebrity wanted to meet him. 

“I went to the dentist and the dentist tells me he has a famous patient who is a big fan of mine, and that I’d be getting a call from him soon to come over to his gym,” Mancini told the Daily Beast in 2021.

The gym impressed the former lightweight champion.

“I got there and let me tell you, I’ve been in many boxing gyms and this one was the best I had ever seen: carpeted, no smell, clean,” he explained. “There were vintage posters, autographed memorabilia from Ali, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and others. I looked around and there was this older, curly-haired guy on the other side of the gym wrapping his hands.”

Mancini explained that he wasn’t that big of a fan of Dylan’s music, but still was impressed by him.

“I recognized it was Bob Dylan. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a big Dylan fan,” he said. “I mean, I knew some of his songs, like ‘Highway 61’ and ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ but that was it. Still, don’t get me wrong, even then I knew Dylan was an icon, someone who changed the way we see Rushmore, if we had one.”

Bob Dylan wanted to spar with the boxing champion

Dylan was hoping to spar with Mancini. The boxer had retired in 1992, and Dylan seemed concerned about hurting him. 

“At first Dylan was short-arming his shots as though he was worried about hitting me,” Mancini said. He told the singer, “Come on Bob, let your hands go. Extend your punches. If you hit me it’s my fault.”

Dylan began throwing better punches and insisted that Mancini could hit him back. Dylan was no professional, but his stamina and drive impressed Mancini.

“We went four three-minute rounds, enough to exhaust most fifty-something part-time boxers, but after we sparred, I was impressed by the fact that Bob went over and did another six rounds on the heavy bag,” he said. “He wasn’t playing around. He was serious about training.”

Mancini explained that Dylan only had one stipulation while they sparred.

“At the end of the round, Dylan came over and said, ‘Ray, could you lay off those headshots? I still have a few songs left in there.'”

The musician has a number of interests outside of music

Dylan has been a professional recording artist since the early 1960s, but he has many interests outside the music industry. He is a painter and a sculptor and owns a whiskey distillery. He has acted in films and even pitched a comedy series to HBO before tiring of the project. When he called Carrie Fisher to ask for help with a cologne company, his friend George Harrison gave insight into Dylan’s many projects.

“Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I saw George Harrison at this dinner party, as one does, so I tell him that Bob called and he said, ‘Don’t worry, because you know whenever Bob is on the road for a long time, he starts thinking about finding a regular job,” Fisher wrote in her book Wishful Drinking. “You know, a job that will take him off the road.'”

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