When Bonecrusher Smith knocked out WBA heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon in the first round in 1986, he became the first heavyweight champion with a college degree, having acquired a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Shaw University. A native of Magnolia, N.C., Smith started boxing while serving in the U.S. Army. After leaving the military, he went to work with the North Carolina Department of Corrections. He began his professional career with a 1981 bout on ESPN, which he lost, but then he upset future cruiserweight Rickey Parker, followed by three more wins over respected opponents. Smith then scored nine straight knockout wins to gain a fight with undefeated British prospect Frank Bruno. To everyone’s surprise he knocked out the favored Brit in the 10th round. In 1987, Smith risked his championship belt against Mike Tyson’s WBC belt in Las Vegas, and he lost a decision. He fought off and on for several years winning most of his bouts by knockout. In 1999, Smith lost a decision to his friend Larry Holmes and at the age of 46 hung up his gloves. He compiled a record of 44-17-1 as a professional and won many amateur and military fights.
After retiring, Smith became an ordained minister and dedicated his life to helping young people stay clear of crime and drugs. He and his wife, Reba, are the parents of three.