There is an open secret in contact sports.
Football players want to be fighters; many already think they are. Many football players lace up the gloves or even hit the mat for a cross-training session in either boxing or mixed martial arts for training purposes.
— Karisa Maxwell (@KarisaMaxwell) December 15, 2021
However, with the influx of social media influencers becoming professional boxers, retired football players are following suit.
Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson fought an exhibition on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Logan Paul bout. Johnson faced off against professional MMA fighter Brian Maxwell, going the total distance in a four-round exhibition bout.
On the eve of Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley 2, former NBA player Deron Williams and NFL player Frank Gore are stepping up for their first professional boxing match.
The bout is not an exhibition, and the two are playing for keeps.
“I don’t have any pro fights [per se], but combat sports has been a part of my life since I was growing up,” Deron Williams said in a statement. “I was a wrestler here in Texas, and I actually won States twice as an eight-year-old and a 12-year-old.
“I would have continued competing but I had to make a choice between basketball and wrestling. I feel like I made the right choice.”
Deron Williams and Frank Gore gave fans a little taste of their boxing skills during #PaulWoodley open workouts 🥊
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) December 15, 2021
The first sport for the three-time NBA All-Star and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist was wrestling, which he competed in for eight years. During that time, he won two state titles. His passion for combat sports has remained an integral part of his training regime ever since.
“I’ve always been drawn to boxing. I’ve always been drawn to MMA and been a UFC fan for as long as I can remember. I started training while I was still playing in the NBA and became part owner of Fortis MMA in 2015. I’ve been training here ever since.”
A University of Miami alum, Gore was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 as a third-round draft pick and remained a key player of the team for 10 straight seasons. During his time as a Niner, the running back gained notoriety for his rare and impressive athletic ability.
“I’ve been around it for so long, I love competing,” said Gore via statement. “I want to give it a shot. I’ll see how this fight goes. If I want to do it again, I know I can. If I want to just do it one time and it’s over after that, it’ll be something I wanted to do and I did.
“I’ve been working my behind off. I respect my opponent. This sport is really tough, man. I take my hat off to all boxers out there. It’s not easy. … A lot of people don’t understand what boxing takes. Training is no joke. In football you got 10 other guys. In football you can hide behind other guys. In basketball you can hide. In this sport, you can’t.”
As NFL players decide their options after professional football, boxing is now possible. The transition is now extremely viable, with Williams and Gore appearing on this weekend’s Showtime broadcast.
More news from our partners: