It wasn’t always the prettiest fight — nor was it 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 land some heavy shots on Gore and keep the former NFL running back at bay. The highlight came during the third round when he connected on a knockdown blow that sent shockwaves across the boxing world and sent Gore grappling with the ropes.
Williams won the fight by split decision (40-35, 38-37, 37-38), but he insisted that he was done after his lone win.
“I’m going to go sit my old dumb a— down somewhere and let these professionals do their s—,” Williams told Showtime’s Ariel Helwani after the fight Saturday night in Tampa, Fla. “Honestly, I probably looked terrible out there. I feel like my last five sparring sessions, I was on point, my head wasn’t coming up. Soon as you get out here, you start getting touched, it’s a whole different — all your training goes out the window. It was fun, I was glad I had the chance to get out here and do it. But like I thought coming into this, I’m one and done.”
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The two fighters traded shots during the first two rounds, though Williams appeared the more skilled fighter as he evaded heavy punches from Gore and was able to connect on heavy shots of his own.
There was none harder than the punch he connected on in the third round. Gore let his guard down and Williams struck, landing a power shot to the head before following with a few more blows to send Gore into the ropes and earning himself a knockdown.
“I knew I was going to have my advantage in a clinch 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 total thrown — while Gore connected on 39, for only 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 there need to be a few more fights to find out whether that’s true.
“Right now, it’s 1-0 (for the NBA),” Williams said. “Brandon Marshall can get his a— in here and do it against somebody and figure it out.”
Helwani asked Williams whether that meant he would step into the ring against Marshall, but Williams immediately denied he’d have any interest in another bout.
“Did you not just hear what I said?” Williams said. “I said he can get in here and do it against somebody else.”
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Gore said that, even in the loss, he had fun during the fight and came away with a lot to learn. He did not rule out a return to boxing.
“When he grabbed me, locked in, I let him hit me and I didn’t hit back because I’m still learning, but it is what it is,” Gore told Helwani. “He came out, he fought hard and got the dub, I’m all right with it.”
Williams said that, given the disappointing end to his NBA career, he felt happy about the way he performed.
“I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get out here and do this, man,” Williams said. “Everybody that’s talking on Instagram and Twitter, they wouldn’t step in here in front of all these people on pay-per-view for their first fight, man. Hats off to Frank, man. He had a dream, he had a goal. We came out here, both of us, and did it. So in my mind, we’re both winners. It’s one, one.”