Former NBA guard Deron Williams, former NFL RB Frank Gore ready for boxing debuts

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Editor’s note: This story originally published at USA TODAY Sports.

NEW YORK – Deron Williams and Frank Gore insist they aren’t entering the squared circle because they need the money or any extra notoriety.

Both excelled in sports that made them household names and millions of dollars. But as they venture into a boxing ring, both say the competitive juices that most athletes need to succeed still burn inside.

The former NBA and NFL athletes will make their pro boxing debut on Dec. 18 in a four-round heavyweight match at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Williams and Gore are on the undercard of the Jake Paul-Tommy Fury main event, with undefeated seven-division world champion Amanda Serrano also on the card. Both have heard the skeptics questioning former athletes who go into different ventures – especially combat sports – after their playing careers are over.

And there are plenty of doubters to go around. Williams is 37 years old, four years removed from his last competitive professional basketball game. Gore is 38 and played last season with the New York Jets, where he finished the season ranked third on the NFL’s all-time leading rushers list.

Chris DeBlasio, SVP of Showtime Sports Communications, said the network had to think twice before entering into the world of celebrity boxing.

“We had to ask ourselves are they serious about boxing. Was this going to be a circus? Is this serious boxing, and can we show the respect for the sport and with that, a celebrity fight,” DeBlasio said. “These guys have trained for months and sometimes years and we want to make a legitimate competition, just like any other fight.”

Both fighters will be contractually limited to weighing 215 pounds or below for the fight, which will be broadcast on Showtime PPV.

“I have always been drawn to contact sports, it has always in the back of my mind,” Williams said.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist has been training for six years leading up to this fight and said he had an MMA match in the works before the global pandemic hit. “If I didn’t take this opportunity, I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life.”

Gore is a decided underdog, mainly because of six-inch height disadvantage.

“I have been an underdog all of my life. From living in a one-bedroom apartment with 12 people, to making it the NFL and with the knee injuries and I overcame that. Nobody thought I would make it,” Gore said. “But anyone who is willing to get in the ring has to be tough, so Dec. 18 we will find out.”