Liam Neeson Is Even Tougher Than You Thought. Here's Why

At some point, Liam Neeson turned from a somewhat intense Irish romantic lead into an action hero. Not always the good guy you expect him to be, as demonstrated by Batman Begins, but always a tough one. Maybe the seeds were planted with his performance in 1995 in Rob Roy. Then, there's The A-Team, and his performance as uber-dad Bryan Mills in Taken, with that famous quote (often misquoted, as Thrill List points out: "If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." 

Before Neeson was acting, though, he did have some particular skills, on a physical level, that you might not expect. Now, lots of actors were athletes first, such as Johnny Weissmuller and Jason Statham, while a surprising number of celebrities played college football, including Burt Reynolds, Joel McHale, and Mark Harmon. Boxing is a little less popular, especially if your face is your fortune. The realism which Neeson brings to his action hero persona, however, at least partly comes from the fact that, before chasing the roar of the theatrical crowd, he was a boxing enthusiast — not as a spectator, but as a participant.

Liam Neeson, teen boxer turned rugged actor

In 2012, Neeson told ESPN that he got started in the sport when he was about nine, and kept at it until he was a teenager. "I was juvenile champion of Northern Ireland three times and Irish runner-up a couple of times in my weight division," he said, adding that he won 30 of his 40 fights. It was his last fight which gave him a certain sort of career counseling, you might say. Growing up in Northern Ireland, he aspired to go pro, until his last losing bout, he told Irish Central. "I didn't get knocked out, but I was beat and I came out of the ring and my father was with me and he said, 'OK son, go and get changed,' and I looked at him and I thought, 'Changed ... What's he talking about?'" 

Evidently, Neeson was dazed, because he had experienced a concussion. He has told slightly different versions of the story (understandable, since those moments were probably a blur). For ESPN, he said his confusion, following said injury, lasted about three minutes, whereas he told Irish Central it was about ten. However long it was, the result frightened him enough to change the course of his life. "It kind of freaked me out a bit ... I remember thinking, I've got to get out of this. It's not comfortable anymore."

The upside of all this — besides being so good at handling himself in on-screen action sequences, like sword fights with Batman — were the social benefits, as he told the Huffington Post. "I made some very dear friends, and still have some very dear friends from the boxing years."