Le’Veon Bell is bullish on the prospects of his potential as a pugilist – so much so that the star running back is punting on his NFL career for the following season to instead focus on a crossover into boxing.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back will take on fellow ball carrier and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson in a five-round exhibition match at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on July 30 as a featured attraction for the Social Gloves pay-per – view show.
“The first thing that went through my mind was [that Peterson] a great opponent. It couldn’t have been a better name for my first opponent. I’m eager. I’m ready. The 30th couldn’t come any quicker,” Bell said during a news conference.
“Boxing is something that, you know, they always say it’s something you can’t play boxing. Last year, I almost set out the whole year to try to focus on boxing because I kind of knew that was what I wanted to transition to . This year, I know I’m not going to be playing this year because I want to focus on boxing. This transition has been another opportunity for me. I’m ready to showcase what I’m about.
“This is not just a one-off. This is I guess like my introduction to kind of show what I’ll be doing and how I’ll be going about myself. Just an intro.”
After being a stalwart for the Steelers, Bell has bounced around a bit over the last two years, playing for the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and rushing for just a total of 429 yards along the way .
Bell entered the NFL in 2013, and by that point, Peterson was already a 2,000-yard rusher and a league MVP.
The 36-year-old Peterson has also bounced around in the league due to declining skills and age. He played for the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans last year and totaled just 98 yards.
“He was definitely one of the guys I idolized growing up. I put a lot of things that he did on the field in my game. He definitely helped me in the aspect of my football life, for sure,” said Bell.
Peterson is considered a violent and powerful running back who embraces contact, while Bell patiently penetrates gaps and finds holes to expose defenders.
Bell believes those skills will translate over to his boxing career.
“It’s definitely been a grind. It’s been a challenge I’ve been willing to accept,” said Bell. “Me personally, I feel that I’m quicker than 99% of the people I’ve been in the ring with. My speed, my quickness, my timing. It’s really going to be unmatched. It’s kind of hard to explain in terms of football and translating to boxing.”
“That’s what makes me quick and kind of separates me as an athlete. My timing, speed and quickness is what I am going to showcase on the 30th.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.