Tuesday, August 23, 2005

[NBA] Kendall is for Real in Boxing

Gill's 2nd win is no slam dunk

Kendall Gill can now focus on trying to play again in the NBA this fall, with two boxing victories under his belt and a chiseled torso above it.

Gill, 37, won a unanimous decision over tough but overmatched Jason Medina in a four-round bout on Saturday's undercard to the Fernando Vargas-Javier Castillejo main event at Allstate Arena.

"This guy was a lot tougher than my first fight," a first-round knockout of Trevor Biley, Gill said, admitting that Medina "stunned me with a right hand in the first round."

But Gill rallied throughout and rocked his opponent several times with shots to the head, using both hands, including a strong final round, when he switched from southpaw to right-handed and surprised Medina with good left jabs.

"I think I made adjustments better than in my first fight," said the 198-pound cruiserweight. "Last time, when I hit the guy with hard shots, I could see him going."

Gill, who fulfilled his aim to win twice this summer, rated his second bout "a B-minus," and said, "My right jab has to be a lot better.

"I can focus on the NBA now," said the veteran who followed a standout career at the University of Illinois with 141/2 pro seasons. "I'll see who wants a hungry, very capable, very motivated, very in-shape 37-year-old. The Lakers are my first choice. I love the triangle offense. I love [coach] Phil Jackson."

However, he added, "I'm a little scared that I like boxing so much."

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A 195-pound cruiserweight, he has been training for nearly seven months at the JABB Boxing Gym on North Oakley Street. That has included sparring with Fres Oquendo, who has challenged twice, unsuccessfully, for a heavyweight title and doing roadwork with aspiring middleweight Freddie Cuevas, who is slated to face James Kitchens on Saturday's Aragon card.

At times, driving to a workout, "we've passed by the United Center as fans were coming there for a Bulls game, and I briefly thought I should be there," Gill recalled.

Instead, he was paying his dues running along the lakefront in the dead of winter to live his first dream.

"I wanted to be a boxer before I wanted to be a basketball player," he said of his childhood in Chicago. "Even as a kid, my real passion was boxing. But all my friends played basketball, and there was no one to feed my interest in boxing."

His list of sports idols includes boxers Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, and he has a print and videotape fight library.

He has dabbled in mixed martial arts, and since he has focused on boxing, he said, "I respect fighters more than any other athletes.

"The NBA lifestyle is more pampered. In boxing, I see these guys go through punishment in training just to have a life in this sport."

Working with trainer Mike Garcia, that regimen of pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, roadwork and sparring has enabled Gill to lose 20 pounds from his NBA playing weight of 215.

"My conditioning is far beyond what I'd do for basketball, so I'm in the best shape of my life," Gill said. "When I get to the NBA, I'll be a monster."

He would like to reach his goal of 15 seasons by playing for coach Phil Jackson with the Lakers next season.

"I love the triangle offense," he said.

His goal as a boxer is less certain.

"It takes many years to be a champion," he said. "Maybe I'll have a handful of fights, maybe more. As long as my body says it's OK, I'll be there. I know it's a risky sport, and I don't intend to stay in it until I slur my words or anything like that."

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