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When NFL Stars Decide To Become Boxers

Posted on 02/07/2021

By: Sean Crose

Standing six feet, nine inches tall is almost par for the course when it comes to modern boxing. Heavyweight notables Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, and Deontay Wilder are all pushing seven feet in height. Back in 1979, however, being extremely tall was something unusual for a fighter. It was also unusual for the NFL. No wonder, then, that Ed “Too Tall” Jones garnered a lot of attention both on and off the field. A member of the legendary Dallas Cowboys, Jones decided to retire after helping his team win the Super Bowl in 1978 – and move into the prize ring at the age of 28.

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To be sure, Jones had a background as a Golden Glove fighter back when he was younger. Yet he was about to enter the heavyweight division of the late 1970s, a time which featured the likes of Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, Leon Spinks and – yes – a late era Muhammad Ali. In other words, the man was in for some stiff competition. And, while Jones’ first ring opponent was the widely unknown Abraham Meneses, the former NFL notable found himself on the mat in the sixth round of his ring debut. Jones ended up getting up and pulling off a decision win, but the man eventually realized his talents were better suited for the field rather than in the prize ring. By 1980, he was back with the Cowboys, having achieved a record of 6-0 as a pro boxer.

Fast forward to over a decade later, to 1991. For it was then that another NFL notable tried his gloved hands at heavyweight boxing. Mark Gastineau had been a member of the New York Jets’ famed “New York Sack Exchange,” yet in the last decade of the 20th century, the legendary defensive lineman was focused on the sweet science. Like Jones before him, Gastineau went nowhere fast in the heavyweight division. Although he retired from the ring in 1996 with a record of 15-2, Gastineau never once fought a high level opponent. What’s more, some of Gastineau’s former opponents later said they had taken dives in their bouts against him.

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The point to all this? Nothing really, except that those who find real success in the NFL don’t tend to do as well when they slip on the gloves. Then again, no one’s heard of a championship fighter going on to QB for the Packers, either. Besides, after his boxing career, Jones would go on to say training as a boxer actually made him become a better football player. As Conor McGregor, another star athlete who tried crossing over to boxing, has said: “What defines us is how well we rise after falling.”

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