Deron Williams has taken a step closer to entering a new chapter in his life as an athlete.
Apart from being former NBA stars, Kendall Gill, Lamar Odom and Deron Williams have one interesting thing in common–they have all embarked on a boxing career.
On Saturday night, the ring was set at the Amalie Arena for the boxing debut of former Brooklyn Nets point guard and three-time NBA All-Star Deron Williams. And he didn’t fail to deliver.
Williams thumped NFL star Frank Gore in a four-round exhibition boxing match, outlanding the star running back in overall (48-39) and power punches (35-28). For some, Williams’ performance was impressive but for the man himself, it was a fulfillment, a satisfaction after finally being able to scratch the itch that has been calling him for a long time–the itch of “competing” once again.
“Look, I’ve been training for years,” Williams said via Chicago Sun-Times. “Part of MMA is, of course, boxing. This opportunity came and I just felt like if it was here and I passed it up, that I’d kick myself for it.”
“I miss the hell out of competing. I miss being out there, having something to be ready for, training for,” he stressed. “This is a totally different feeling, but at the same time it’s competing, right? It’s competing, it’s training, it’s having a goal and a task. That’s why I want to do it.”
Some may not know but fighting has long been playing a key role in Williams’ life. In fact, before he even fell in love with basketball, he used to compete as a “wrestler.”
When Williams was slated for a bout against Frank Gore, he took it as the “opportunity” he was waiting for. At 37, Williams was hoping to make his pro boxing debut. Unfortunately, the Florida State Boxing Commission decided to change the fight from professional to just an exhibition.
“Combat sports have been a part of my life since my youngest days,” he said in a statement. “Before I was a basketball player, I was a wrestler. Since 2015, I have had the privilege of owning an MMA gym, and through that I have trained in various martial arts to stay active. Over the last year, I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to translate my training into a professional debut.”
After winning his first ever boxing match, Williams revealed the other essence of his decision to enter the ring. According to the former West Virginia native, he hopes people will now have look at basketball players as tough guys as well.
“I always was a physical point guard,” Williams said after the fight. “I never shied away from contact, and I showed that today. People think basketball players are soft, but I never was one. That’s what I was looking to accomplish here today.”
“Maybe I gained some new fans, but I’m just glad I made my team happy and my family proud,” he added. “My mom was nervous. She didn’t want to watch and see her son beaten up, so I hope she was proud of that.”
In the NBA, Williams has had his fair share of the spotlight. As a star point guard, he’s had epic duels with his contemporaries such as Phoenix Suns superstar and eleven-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, a player he was drafted with in the 2005 draft class.
At one point, Williams and CP3 were two of the most celebrated scoring playmakers in the league. Both players had that x-factor and the competitive juices an ambitious NBA team is looking for in a court general. However, Paul’s career evidently lasted longer.
Though he is not planning on making an NBA return anytime soon, Williams admitted that he’s “a little jealous” of his former rival’s longevity and ability to make his mark on “every team” he plays for.
“I’m a little jealous he’s still out there shining,” Williams said of Chris Paul. “And, you know, it’s fun to watch. He’s a special player, one of the best to ever do it and he’s defied time.”
“Seems like every team he goes to he makes them instantly better because there’s nobody who predicted the Suns to be in the Finals last year,” he added. “He was a huge part of that.”
Looking at Williams’ trajectory at the moment, it appears that he is indeed ready to unleash the fighter in him and embrace his newly-found career. Who knows, maybe one day “D-Will” can become the most successful ex-NBA star professional boxer.