Mike Balogun envisions a big month for football players in the ring.
The former NFL linebacker steps up in class as he faces second-generation heavyweight Trey Lippe-Morrison — the son of late, former WBO heavyweight titlist Tommy Morrison—in a battle of unbeaten prospects. The bout is part of an all-heavyweight TrillerVerz IV fight card Thursday evening live on Fite TV from Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
Just more than two weeks later comes the unexpected pro debut of Frank Gore, the legendary running back who transitions to the ring after 16 years in the NFL. Gore will face former NBA star Deron Williams in a four-round bout at a maximum weight limit of 215 pounds as part of the December 18 Showtime Pay-Per-View event—topped by Jake Paul (4-0, 3KOs) versus Tommy Fury (7-0, 4KOs)—at AMALIE Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Just as he likes his own chances versus Lippe-Morrison (18-0, 17KOs) on Thursday, Balogun (17-0, 13KOs) believes his longtime friend will prevail in his pro debut later this month.
“Frank is real solid. He’s an old soul and puts his heart into everything he does,” Balogun told BoxingScene.com. “I’m real interested to see how he does against Deron Williams. I expect Frank to do real well—NBA players ain’t nothing but food to us, anyway.”
Balogun, 38, played for six teams during his three-year NFL stint before turning pro in 2014. The 6’1” southpaw was named second-team All-American in junior college before transferring to college football powerhouse Oklahoma where he was a starting linebacker. The fight with Lippe-Morrison is by far his toughest to date on paper, though he has emerged as a live underdog with the betting odds dramatically decreasing throughout fight week.
Headlining the show is another second-generation heavyweight, perennial Top 10 contender Michael Hunter II (20-1-1, 14KOs) who faces Jerry Forrest (26-4-1, 20KOs). The bout is a makeshift rematch to their June 2014 affair, which Hunter won by unanimous decision.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox