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He continued his boxing training at the famed 5th Street Gym, in Miami Beach, Florida.
In 1969 Rourke, then weighing 140 pounds (63.5 kg),, sparred with former World Welterweight Champion Luis Rodríguez.
In 1991 Rourke, who had trained as a boxer in his early years, left acting and became a professional boxer for a time.
After retiring from boxing in 1994, Rourke returned to acting and had supporting roles in several films, including the drama The Rainmaker (1997), the comedy-drama Buffalo '66 (1998), the thriller-remake of Get Carter (2000), the mystery film The Pledge (2001), the crime dark comedy-drama Spun (2002), the action film Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) and the action thriller Man on Fire (2004), playing the role of a corrupt lawyer.
In 2005 Rourke made his comeback in mainstream Hollywood circles with a lead role in the neo-noir action thriller Sin City, for which he won awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Irish Film and Television Awards, and the Online Film Critics Society.
Rourke claims to have received a concussion from his sparring match with Rodriguez.
From 1964 to 1973, Rourke compiled an amateur boxing record of 27 wins (17 by knockout) and three defeats, which included first-round knockout wins over John Carver and Ronald Robinson, and decision victories over Ronnie Carter, Charles Gathers, Joe Riles, and Javier Villanueva.