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NBA star planning basketball comeback and pro boxing debut!
By Mike Indri
Retired Boxers Foundation
This Saturday night, at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, thirty seven year old Kendal Gill will be making his professional boxing debut. Yes -37 years old, yes - making his pro boxing debut, and yes - Kendal Gill!
Many sports fans are familiar with the name Kendal Gill, after all he has played fourteen seasons in the National Basketball Association after getting drafted in the first round of the 1990 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets.
After playing in only fourteen games this past season Gill was abruptly released by the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I didnít deserve to go out this way in basketball," noted Gill, a life-long boxing fan who has used his unexpected free time to regain his focus, get hungry again, and also set some interesting personal goals.
"Iíve always wanted to do this (box professionally), even before basketball," revealed the outgoing and personable Gill, adding "the Bucks waiving me could be a blessing in disguise!"
"I want to have a couple of fights, return to the NBA, and then come back to boxing," reasoned the Illinois native. "Iím not leaving basketball this way, Iím coming back big and finishing my career like a champ!"
While a champ on the basketball court Gil does realize the unlikelihood of his ever placing a pugilistic title belt up on his mantle along with all his basketball trophies.
The former Hornet, Supersonic, Net, Heat, Timberwolve, Bull and Buck seems content with entering the squared circle and realizing a boyhood dream. "Iíve loved boxing since I was about eight years old. I grew up watching and admiring guys like Hagler, Leonard, Hearns and Holyfield. My all-time favorite is Tito Trinidad, and I have the ultimate respect for Bernard Hopkins - staying on top for so long."
The 6í5" Gill, who planned on fighting as a heavyweight due to his natural playing weight being around 215 pounds logically dropped to the cruiserweight limit (between 175-200 lbs.) for his debut. "Iím sparring with guys in the 240ís and holding my own, but Iíll be much more effective as a cruiserweight."
By Gillís own admission he is a work in progress and he acknowledges that his status as a premier NBA player more than likely played a major part in this opportunity.
He is also confident that when people see how hard he has worked these past fifteen months to get this shot, and the sincerity of his efforts, that boxing fans will support him.
Fighting as the "co-feature" for the June 25th 8-Count Productions fight card, Gill will face Trevor Biley; a carefully selected, hand-picked opponent. The 5í8" Biley (0-1), from Cleveland, was stopped in the first round of his lone pro fight-which was over fourteen months ago!
The main event will showcase popular local middleweight contender Freddie Cuevas (24-7 with 16 KOís), who trains with Kendall at the JABB gym in Chicago.
The most impressive aspect of Gillís delving into the brutal, yet beautiful, business of boxing is his realistic mental approach.
Not factored by money or the whimsical notion of fighting for a championship (why fight, if not to become a champion or for the money?), Gill is fighting for pride.
Pride in showing that although financially secure and able to move on to the next stage of his life, it will be done on his terms.
Kendall Gil is taking his shot; taking a rough road instead of the easy path, to show he is a fighter. Not just for his upcoming four round pro debut, but more importantly for his future.
Maybe his distasteful exit from the game he loved was "a blessing in disguise"; a wake up call to a sleeping giant - we will find out Saturday night.