It wasn’t always the prettiest fight – and it wasn’t ever expected to be – but Deron Williams nonetheless opened some eyes in his exhibition bout against Frank Gore.
The former NBA guard was the aggressor for most of the fight, using his 9-inch reach advantage to drop some heavy shots on Gore and keep the former NFL away. The highlight came during the third round when he called a knockout that sent shock waves through the boxing world and sent Gore wrestling with the ropes.
Williams won the fight by split decision (40-35, 38-37, 37-38), but insisted he finished after his only win.
“I’ll go sit my old idiot—somewhere and let these professionals do their work—” Williams told Showtime reporter Ariel Helwani after the fight Saturday night in Tampa, Florida. “Honestly, I probably looked bad in there. I feel like the last five sparring sessions, I’ve been on point, and my head wasn’t coming on. It’s just different—all your training goes out the window. It’s been fun, I was glad I had the chance to get out here and do But just as I thought I got into this, I’m done.”
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The fighters exchanged shots during the first two rounds, though Williams emerged as a more skilled fighter as he evaded heavy punches from Gore and was able to connect to heavy punches on his own.
There was nothing harder than the hit he hooked in the third round. Gore let his guard fall, hit Williams, and shot a powerful header before following with several more hits to send Gore to the ropes and earn himself a knockout.
“I knew I was going to have an advantage in snatching and with my wrestling background, so I used that to my advantage,” Williams said.
According to Showtime stats, Williams landed 48 punches — 30 percent of his hit total — while Gore landed 39, for just 23 percent.
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Before the fight, former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall said on the Showtime PPV broadcast that NFL players were tougher than NBA players. Williams said more fights are needed to see if this is true.
“Right now, it’s 1-0 (for the National Basketball Association),” Williams said. “Brandon Marshall can get in here and do it against someone and find out.”
Helwani asked Williams if that meant he would interfere in the ring against Marshall, but Williams immediately denied he had any interest in another match.
“Didn’t you hear what I just said?” Williams said. “I said he could come in here and do it against someone else.”
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Gore said that, even in the event of a loss, he had fun during the fight and came out with a lot to learn. He did not rule out a return to boxing.
“When he caught me, locked him up, I let him hit me and I didn’t reply because I was still learning, but that’s what it is,” Gore said to the confectioner. “He came out, fought hard and got the dubbing, I’m fine with that.”
Williams said that, given the disappointing end to his NBA career, he’s been thrilled with the way he’s doing.
“I just wanted to prove to myself that I can get out of here and do it man,” Williams said. “Everyone talking on Instagram and Twitter, they’re not going to get in here in front of all these pay-per-view people for their first post, man. Hats off to Frank, man. He had a dream, he had the goal. We came out here, we both, and we did. So in my opinion, we’re both winners. It’s one, one.”