A man moves to Nashville, Tennessee, from Little Rock, Arkansas, to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a country music star. After living out of his car for a week, he ventures into the world of professional boxing to earn rent money. Much to his own surprise, he wins bout after bout, and eventually a world championship. This is not a Hollywood screenplay from the fertile mind of a creative genius. It is the life story of Mike Rodgers, a country music singer and former professional boxing champion.
When he moved to Nashville in 1997, Rodgers lived out of his car. "I had a beat-up car, a guitar, three garbage bags full of clothes, and a great big dream," he says. The story of his professional boxing career is nothing short of legendary. Upon his arrival, Rodgers learned about weekly professional boxing shows held at the notorious Music City Mix Factory. Because his car was his home, Rodgers’ first professional boxing license bears the address of a local honky tonk bar. He still keeps that license in his wallet to this day as a reminder of his painful struggles.
Rodgers entered the boxing ring wearing a pair of tennis shoes, swimming trunks and his cowboy hat because he refused to pay the $30 rental fee that was charged to all of the opponents who needed boxing trunks and boots. Before his introduction, a drunk in the crowd yelled: "Hey cowboy, who are you supposed to be, the Honkytonk Hitman?" When Mike knocked out his 6'6" opponent in the first round, the nickname stuck and the legend of the Honkytonk Hitman began.
The promoters thought Mike would serve as a homeless tomato can, a mere opponent for pampered prospects, unaware of his extensive amateur boxing career (155 wins - 26 losses) in which he compiled numerous State and Regional Golden Gloves titles 8 years earlier. Instead, the underdog became the crowd favorite and a local folk hero after kayoing a string of foes in dramatic fashion. "I went from homeless to hero with one punch," Rodgers says. As his song “Honkytonk Hitman” tells his fans, he fought his way up the WBC rankings and continued to make a name for himself in the sport of boxing. Mike Rodgers professional boxing career has been covered in magazines like “Ring” and “International Boxing Digest” and featured in books like “Boxing’s Most Wanted”, “Fight the Good Fight”, and “The Encyclopedia of Combat Sports”.
Rodgers reached his ring aspirations when he won the WBF World Cruiserweight championship with a 2nd round knockout over Art Jimmerson while legendary boxing trainer of Mike Tyson, Kevin Rooney worked his corner. Those knowledgeable about combat sports may know that Jimmerson was not only a world class boxer but also the first professional opponent in the octagon for mixed martial arts legend Royce Gracie back in the first UFC.
Because of injuries, Rodgers retired from professional boxing after winning the championship in 2002 to focus on his music career. Mike Rodgers final professional boxing record was (25 wins - 2 losses), Rodgers continued to pick up his guitar and chase his country music dream. Rodgers had critically acclaimed success in 2004 with respected producer and hit songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall who produced a record on Rodgers for Infinity Cat Recordings (ICR) appropriately titled “Honkytonk Hitman”. Rodgers music won waves of fans across the country and around the world with his rich baritone vocals and energetic live shows. Country Weekly Magazine quickly named Rodgers their "Who's New" artist in 2004, the same issue that Keith Urban made the cover for the first time in his career.
One of the injuries that Rodgers sustained in his boxing career would now come back to haunt him in his singing one. Rodgers jaw injury was causing migraines, great pain in the joint, and difficulty eating because of the loss of range in the jaw joint. Rodgers insurance refused to cover the surgery and he was forced to live with the pain. The injury made it too difficult for him to sing for an extended length of time anymore so he quit singing. Rodgers has not performed a live show since 2008 because of his jaw joint injury that he suffered boxing.
In 2008, Rodgers opened a boxing gym that was free for all children that made good grades, participated in community service, utilized good manners, and didn’t get in trouble. If the children would abide by Rodgers code of conduct then he would provide them with a facility, equipment, uniforms, and coaching that was all free for their efforts. The program is still running strong today.
During Rodgers time off from music he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
Rodgers jaw joint injury eventually worsened and became Ankylosis; the stiffening and immobility of a joint because of disease, trauma, surgery, or abnormal bone fusion.
In October of 2012, Rodgers finally had jaw surgery to install a prosthetic jaw joint that would relieve the pain and allow a wider range of motion. The surgery was a success.
Today, Rodgers hosts the annual “Honkytonk Hitman’s Indie Outlaw Show” during CMA Fest that features several talented independent singer/songwriters and a few National acts. The show is for charity to raise money for the Middle Tennessee Golden Gloves boxing program that he created for the children. The Indie Outlaw show will be in its 10th year in 2013. Michael Peterson, Bret Michaels, Toby Keith, Chris Cagle, Jeffrey Steele, Jeff Bates, Trent Tomlinson, Ray Scott, john Arthur martinez, Billy Yates, and Buddy Jewell are all previous performers on the show.