Buyer's remorse? Deron Williams wanted ‘fun’ fight, but fury of Frank Gore awaits

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 15: Frank Gore works out during a media workout at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa pool prior to his December 18th fight against Deron William on December 15, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Lance Pugmire
USA TODAY Sports+

It sounded good at the time. 

In retirement from the hardcourt, former three-time NBA all-star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Deron Williams had shifted his competitive fires toward opening an MMA gym in Dallas. 

He watched this past year as his former NBA peer Nate Robinson and ex-NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco tried their hands at novelty boxing, surmising to himself, “it seems like that'd be fun. I think I can do that.” 

On a Showtime podcast, he floated the idea to the universe that if he was ever given the chance, he would “jump on it.” 

“That was a box I wanted to check," Williams told USA Today Sports+. “I’m getting to check that box.” 

Yet, while most bucket-list endeavors fulfilled are satisfying experiences, Williams is walking into a firestorm. 

His opponent opening Saturday night’s Showtime pay-per-view card in Tampa, Fla. —headlined by the Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley rematch — is the NFL’s third-leading rusher of all time, Frank Gore. 

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To watch Gore’s training footage, seeing him unleash heavy, hammering punches, barreling forward, showing fierce facial determination, is to understand all it took to stand in line behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. 

“I trained my behind off for this and I’m excited about it,” Gore told USA Today Sports+. 

When told how impressive he looks preparing for the four-round heavyweight catch-weight bout, Gore responded, “I appreciate that. Whenever I put my mind to something and say I’m going to do it, I’m going 110 (percent) about it. Because I respect the sport.” 

Williams, who has displayed a more tentative, deliberate style in his training videos, said he’s not reassessing his decision to volunteer for this bout. 

“Ha, no. He looks good. He’s been working at his craft," Williams said. “But do I have second thoughts? No.” 

Athleticism clearly remains, and he has bulked up for the bout while training at his Fortis MMA gym. 

Asked how he’ll respond to the tremendous power show Gore seems set to display, Williams, a former No. 3 lottery pick-point guard who signed a near-$100-million contract with the Nets in 2012 said, “We’ll see about that Saturday.”

“We’re both high-level athletes,” Williams said. “That’s what makes this matchup a dream after we’ve come up in different sports. We both have some background in (boxing) training. I’m just looking forward to competing again.” 

Williams said a boxing match won’t settle the debate over whether the NBA or NFL produces supreme athletes. 

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“(That) wasn’t in my thought process when I accepted the fight. It boils down to the fact that we’re both great athletes and there’s only a small amount of people who can do what we did,” Williams said. 

Gore, 38, has made no secret of the fact that, after 16,000 NFL rushing yards, he’d like the boxing appearance to remind playoff-bound NFL teams of his free-agent availability. He still chases the most significant accomplishment that has eluded him: a Super Bowl title. 

Deron William, left, works out at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa pool prior to his fight against Frank Gore on Saturday night.

Repeated highlights of Gore knocking out Williams—as Jake Paul did to Robinson—would be the ultimate route to better publicize that mission. 

Gore’s even keen on mind games, using what was supposed to be an easy media-workout session in Tampa to produce an intense session to again display his muscular frame and the loud thuds of his power punches in the presence of Williams. 

"I’m excited for the fight,” Gore said. “I just wanted to get a sweat in. 

“I’m going for the win and I’ll do whatever it takes. I want everyone to say, ‘Frank has skills and strengths I never knew he had.’”