Mike Balogun could not have been given a more appropriate platform for his planned breakout performance.
The former NFL linebacker is more than seven years into his pro boxing career but still fighting for his place at the table. Balogun has an opportunity to change that on Thursday evening, when he collides with second-generation heavyweight Trey Lippe-Morrison. The scheduled ten-round bout is part of a heavyweight-themed Triller Fight Club IV show live on Fite TV from Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
“It’s a blessing to be on this platform and on an all-heavyweight event,” Balogun told BoxingScene.com. “It’s a great opportunity and I plan on showing up and showing out. I know I’m the lesser known guy in boxing among all those heavyweights fighting on that stage. I know I got to show up and show out to get people talking about me.
“By the time I’m done I won’t be the lesser known any more. I’ll be on everyone’s mind after (Thursday) night.”
The fight is a considerable step-up in class for Balogun (17-0, 13KOs), a 38-year-old southpaw from Upper Marlboro, Maryland who remains perfect as a pro but who has yet to truly find his way in the sport. Balogun excelled on the gridiron, making second-team All-American on the junior college circuit before transferring to football powerhouse Oklahoma University.
Success wasn’t quite as easy to come by in the NFL, where Balogun played for six teams during his brief career before transitioning to boxing. Most of his fights have taken place in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) region, save for a couple of trips to Florida including his most recent win– a 2nd round stoppage of Keith Barr this past April in Vero Beach, Florida.
Balogun enters Thursday’s bout with Lippe-Morrison — whose late father Tommy Morrison was a former WBO heavyweight titlist — as the betting underdog, though training with the intention of shocking the world. The 6’1” southpaw weighed 235 ¼ pounds, his lightest weight in more than two years, whereas Lippe-Morrison (18-0, 17KOs) enters at 236 ¼ pounds, his heaviest weight in more than six years.
“I put in the work for this fight. I can’t say whether or not my opponent did,” notes Balogun, who is of Nigerian descent and whose name in Yoruba means ‘Warlord.’ “Honestly, I’m kind of surprised he took the fight. We asked for it a year ago. They didn’t look excited about it and turned us down.
“Now they’ve come back around to it. I’m kind of shocked that they did, but this is my chance to push my career in the right direction. A win here definitely puts me as a frontrunner to land some big fights in 2022.”
Headlining the five-heavyweight fight cards is 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. The show will be accompanied by a Verzuz battle between hip hop icons Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Three 6 Mafia.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox