Former NBA Star Nate Robinson Set to Make His Boxing Debut

Nate Robinson has spent much of his career defying the odds. A former college football player, Robinson’s transition from the gridiron to the court at the University of Washington led to an 11-year career in the NBA. At 5-foot-9, Robinson showed heart is more important than height, winning three NBA Slam Dunk Contests.

Now the 36-year-old retired point guard is out to prove another point.

On November 28, Robinson will make his in-ring boxing debut against YouTube personality Jake Paul as part of the undercard of Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. The event entitled ‘Frontline Battle,’ the first to be produced by Tyson’s Legends Only League, begins at 9 p.m. ET at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. It will be broadcast on pay-per-view ($49.99) as well as multimedia platform Triller.

“I’m just trying to accomplish more goals people said I can’t do,” Robinson said. “I’ve checked every box and this is another obstacle I’m trying to conquer and to show I’m one of the greatest athletes to ever walk this earth, and I want to prove that.

“If I can get into this and I end up coming out on top with this fight and people see something in me that strikes them that they want to fight me or the next opportunity presents itself, I’m all for it. I’m for all and everything. I just want to conquer so much and I want to show the world I can do every sport—baseball, soccer, swimming, volleyball. It can be anything. I want to show the world that with real time and commitment, I can do anything.”

Robinson is afforded more time to commit to his new venture than he initially thought he had as the event which was originally scheduled for September 12 has been pushed back two-plus months to Thanksgiving weekend. The defensive-back-turned-point-guard-turned-boxer has been training and working out with a who’s who of boxers including Ron Johnson, Floyd Mayweather, Jose and David Benavidez, and Terence Crawford.

The 2005 NBA Draft first-round selection (No. 21 overall by Phoenix) said he’s preparing for this new challenge like anything else he’s done in his life: taking it seriously. While Robinson may not have any fights under his belt, unlike his opponent, he believes his lack of in-ring experience can actually serve as an advantage.

“The beauty about this fight is I have film on Jake Paul and he has no film on me,” Robinson said. “You have to know your opponent, learn your opponent as a student of the game, and he’s going in blind.”

Paul, the controversial social media star who has 20.2 million followers on YouTube, believes the opposite. He says his in-ring experience—one amateur bout with big gloves and headgear and one professional fight with 10-ounce gloves and no headgear—will prove invaluable when he steps toe-to-toe with Robinson. Paul bested fellow YouTuber Deji in 2018 and TKO’d YouTuber AnEsonGib in the first round in January.

“When you get into your first fight there’s nothing else like it—the adrenaline, the nerves, the cardio, all while trying to be able to relax,” said Paul, whose house was raided by the FBI in early August in connection with an alleged looting investigation in Arizona in late May. “It isn’t something you can learn in the gym, only when it’s a real fight. It’s a full advantage for me.”

While boxing purists will question the validity of a fight between Tyson, 54, and Jones Jr., 51, complemented with an undercard featuring a basketball player against a controversial social media star as nothing more than viral publicity, the event will be a big boost for Tyson’s Legends Only League as well as Triller. 

The social network and multimedia platform claims it has seen a surge in downloads since the announcement—as well as the potential TikTok ban in the United States—with up to 250 million downloads and 65 million active users. The validity of these numbers have come into question, though.

With the hype surrounding Tyson returning to the ring for the first time in 15 years and Paul’s 40+ million followers across social media, Paul believes these exhibition events have an opportunity to showcase boxing to a different, younger audience, while growing the sport. Former WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack has been added to the card against Blake McKernan, while Viddal Riley and Rashad Coulter are also on the undercard.

“It all started with me finding a passion for the sport and all the stars aligning,” Paul said of his boxing interest. “If I’m able to drive these big pay-per-view buys and put on an amazing show and show people I have real talent and boxing ability, then there’s no reason these fights don’t become bigger and bigger.”

While Paul has a goal to be one of the biggest prize fighters in the world, for Robinson this is another feather in his cap that he hopes to expand upon as he potentially transitions into boxing full time or pivots again to another sport.

“It’s a big honor,” he said. “God is good. He blessed me with a tremendous opportunity to do something that people only dream of. Being able to fight under arguably the best boxer that ever walked this earth is definitely an honor and big accomplishment, especially for myself and some of the things I’ve already accomplished in my life. Adding this to the resume is pretty awesome.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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