On Saturday night, Frank Gore and Deron Williams are going to be stepping into the ring for the first professional fight of each of their careers. The former NFL and NBA stars are boxing on the undercard of the Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley fight, and each is going to look to earn his first victory.
But how did we get here? Part of it has to do with the age of celebrity boxing matches in which we’re currently living. Former athletes and influencers alike have found ways to get in the ring and garner significant media attention during their fights.
As long as that’s going on, we’ll continue to see athletes in the twilight of their careers participate in these events. But for Gore and Williams, this fight goes beyond that.
This isn’t just another paycheck opportunity or a quick cash grab. Both players seem to legitimately love boxing and want a chance to prove that they can, in fact, win — or at least compete at this level.
Why is Frank Gore boxing?
Gore was cross-training as a football player and boxer while he remained an unsigned free agent during the 2021 NFL offseason. However, he revealed in the early stages of the NFL season that he had turned down offers from NFL teams to serve as a running back.
Why? Because he wanted to focus on his fight training.
“I just fell in love with how hard it is,” Gore told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. “I felt like, ‘Man, I couldn’t fight.’ And I always like a challenge. So I kept doing it and doing it and I saw myself getting better and better.”
Gore also said that he has “always loved boxing” and was looking forward to making a fight happen. There was nothing concrete when he first spoke about his decision to Rapoport, but shortly thereafter, the opportunity to fight Williams emerged. Now, it’s becoming a reality and Gore believes he is ready for the moment.
“I’m excited to be fighting on this card and can’t wait to show the world what I’ve been working on,” Gore said in a statement, per ESPN. “Boxing has me excited, and on Dec. 18 expect fireworks!”
Why is Deron Williams boxing?
Williams’ path to the fight was a bit different than Gore’s in that Williams spent his younger years wrestling and won multiple state titles in Texas. He has made it a big part of his life in his post-NBA days as well, and he owns an MMA gym in Texas, where he also trains.
“I’ve always been drawn to combat sports, I grew up wrestling first sport,” Williams told MMAFighting.com. “Wrestled all the way up to high school and I’ve always been a big boxing fan, big MMA fan, and part-owner of Fortis MMA in Dallas, Texas, and I’ve done a lot of training there over the last six years.
“I’ve always wanted to, I had the idea of maybe doing a fight, maybe an MMA fight. I actually had one right before COVID hit that I was in training camp for and my opponent pulled out, so it was always kind of in the back of my mind and I’ve stayed in shape and I’ve stayed training. … It’s one of those opportunities that comes along and if I didn’t take it I feel like I’d be kicking myself for not jumping on that opportunity for the rest of my life, so here I am.”
Williams admitted that some people think that he is crazy for fighting Gore, who outweighs Williams despite being six inches short than the veteran point guard. But like Gore, he is looking forward to the fight, facing the unknown and seeing if he can perform well in this “challenge.”
“There’s a lot of unknowns in this fight and I think that’s what makes it exciting,” Williams said. “He’s been training for years, I’ve been training for years. I’ve been doing a lot of MMA, but a lot of the work that I’ve done is boxing and so it’s not new to me. I’ve sparred with a lot of guys from our gym, a lot of killers from our gym, and I’m excited about this challenge.”
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