Bob Dylan has sparred with champion boxers and has his own gym, but that does little to impress Mavis Staples. She and Dylan used to date — he even wanted to marry her — and they toured together in 2016. After years of knowing Dylan, Staples joked that she didn’t think she would have any trouble going toe-to-toe with him in a boxing ring.
The ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ singer owns a boxing gym
Dylan has always been a fan of boxing. Early in his career, he even said he aspired to be a referee for the sport. While he hasn’t moonlighted as a boxing referee, he did open a members-only boxing gym, where he once sparred with professional boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
“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,” Mancini told the Daily Beast in 2021. “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.”
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Though Dylan isn’t a professional, Mancini said that he found his skill impressive.
“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.”
Mavis Staples said she could knock out Bob Dylan with ease
Mancini found Dylan’s boxing abilities impressive, but Staples didn’t think much of them. She boxes for exercise as well.
“Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go to the fitness center. I have a personal trainer that gets all the kinks out,” she told rolling stones in 2019, adding, “I do the treadmill and boxing. I got the pink boxing gloves, and I take the ball and work with it.”
She joked that she could take Dylan down with one hit.
“I’d knock him out with one swing,” she said. “He’s so little. It would hurt me to hit Bobby like that, but, oh, yeah, I’d take him out.”
Mavis Staples and Bob Dylan dated in the early 1960s
Staples and Dylan met in the early 1960s. They ran into each other at concerts, and Staples said Dylan developed a case of “puppy love.”
“He was a cute little boy, little blue eyes, curly hair,” she told the New Yorker in 2022. “He and Pervis [Staples] got to be tight. They’d sit out on the stool, drink wine.”
Dylan wanted to marry her, but Staples said she’s happy they didn’t tie the knot, even if she looks back on the relationship fondly.
“I still have letters that we would write to each other,” she said. “And the only time we would see each other was when we happened to be on the same show… I was the one that dodged a bullet. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with him.”