“I’m very happy to be back to the boxing ring. Thank God for letting me do this”, Rourke told AFP ahead of the fight with 29-year-old Elliot Seymour.
Wearing only a cowboy hat and turquoise boxer shorts, the 62-year-old actor showed off his tanned, tattooed and muscly physique to a cheering crowd as he weighed in at 81.3 kilos (179.2 pounds), the same as his rival.
Rourke is set to fight Seymour ahead of a match between Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov and Jose Luis Castillo of Mexico.
The organisers said the boxers were receiving “large amounts of money” in fees, declining to give details but saying “everyone is happy”.
Rourke was an amateur boxer before his Hollywood career took off and he became a sex symbol star in films such as “9 1/2 Weeks.”
He returned to boxing as a professional for eight matches in the 1990s, causing damage to his face that necessitated surgery and changed his appearance.
In 2008 he starred in “The Wrestler” about a washed-up fighter making a comeback, winning a Golden Globe for best actor.
– ‘I wanna fight again’ –
Rourke said he was “terrible” when he made his own comeback.
“Before, when I fought 18 years ago, I smoked, I didn’t run, I got by on my natural ability,” he told journalists in Moscow.
He said a boxing match between Russian Ruslan Provodnikov and American Tim Bradley inspired him to take on the challenge of returning to the ring.
“I went to the gym and I was terrible: smoking, you know, drinking,” Rourke said.
His conditioning coach, Jordan Feramisco, “broke my ass every day”.
“And then one day I said: ‘Fuck this. If I’m gonna do it. I think I’m strong enough, I can do it.'”
The actor is a frequent visitor to Russia and has been romantically linked to a Russian-born model, Anastassija Makarenko.
On a visit to central Moscow in August, he bought and wore a T-shirt sporting a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I met Putin … and he seems to be a very good guy,” he said at the time, according to popular Russian daily Komsomolskaïa Pravda.
Rourke says he always dreamed of fighting in Russia. He hopes to do four more fights, all in Russia.
“I think I’m strong enough,” the actor said ahead of Friday’s five rounds of two and a half minutes each.
“We train hard as we can, but in the end it’s in God’s hands