The Truth About Bruce Lee's Only Official Fight

The star of classics like Enter the Dragon and Fist of FuryBruce Lee transcended humanity decades ago and became, instead, an action figure in the imaginations of children and martial arts enthusiasts. He's sort of a collective rhetorical dad who could, we're just sure, beat up everyone else's dad.

All of which makes it borderline unsettling when you realize that the guy only ever had one professional, officially ranked fight in his career. For all of his clout, charisma, and ability to make Hollywood casting directors uncomfortable by playing a high-stakes game of "I'm Not Touching You," the most famous fighter in Hollywood history only squared off against one dude in the ring. And brother, by all accounts, it was unspectacular.

Bruce Lee's boxing match

According to martial arts news site Bloody Elbow, Bruce Lee's only fight on record took place on March 29, 1958. Lee, a young buck of 18 summers, was set to face off against the defending champion, 17-year old Gary Elms at Hong Kong's Inter-School Individual Boxing Championship. European boxing was apparently the only fighting style in vogue at the time, as postcolonial authorities weren't wild about the idea of kung fu fighting, citing express concerns over practitioners' purported capacity to move fast as lightning. It was, to hear the British describe it, a little bit frightening.

So boxing was the sport of the day, and Lee squared off in the ring against Elms. Did Lee win? Don't be silly, of course he did. He won by a unanimous decision, but he failed to get the knockout, which witnesses say he wasn't happy about. Lee managed to knock Elms to the ground three separate times, but Elms kept getting up, and Lee apparently had a tough time fighting with traditional boxing gloves on.

The story ends dramatically. Lee, frustrated by his inability to beat the living consciousness out of another teenager, vowed "never again to be constrained by rules and regulations he found stifling." And thanks to that rebellious streak and his lack of affinity for the rules, he never succeeded at anything again ... except, you know, becoming a legend, making a truckload of money, and having a whole bunch of epic movie fights.