NATE ROBINSON has gone from NBA superstar to boxing beginner – ready to make his debut on Mike Tyson's undercard.
The three-time Slam Dunk champion has swapped the basketball sneakers for boxing boots as he prepares for his first ever fight.
He faces YouTuber Jake Paul over six rounds on Saturday, and will attempt to conquer two sports in doing so.
Robinson, 36, tells SunSport: “I want to prove to everybody that I’m one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the earth.
“I want to show the kids with hard work and dedication and when you believe in yourself you can do anything.
"It’s more than to be famous or to be seen, that’s nothing.
“I have so much to prove and I want to prove it to myself that I can do anything."
Robinson has been incorporating boxing training in his workouts for three years with his strength and condition coach Chris Denina.
They believed the pad work helped with hand eye-coordination needed in basketball.
But Robinson has not featured in the NBA since 2015, and most recently played in Lebanese league in 2018.
And after hearing an open challenge from Paul, 23, online, Robinson answered the call which kickstarted started his new journey.
At first the pair were just going to settle the score in a backyard bout streamed on YouTube.
But after their managers came together in May, they instead find themselves on the undercard of Tyson's comeback fight against Roy Jones Jr.
Robinson explains:“I ran across one of Jake Paul’s YouTube streams on my Instagram, and he was saying he could knock out any athlete or YouTuber.
“And I was like, ‘S***, I’ll fight you, what’s up?’ He wanted to see if it made sense and the fans took a liking to it.
“We were just going to set up some kind of backyard type deal and put it on YouTube.
"We had no clue we’d be on the Mike Tyson undercard, that’s a blessing.”
Robinson has spent the last six months learning the ropes as a boxing novice under the guidance of trainer Francisco 'Paco' Reyes.
And Reyes reveals when the basketballer first walked into his Tenochtitlan gym in Renton, Washington, he was treated like any other newcomer – who had to fight for respect.
Reyes says: “To me, he wasn’t Nate Robinson. I train my amateurs and my professionals the same.
“As soon as he stepped foot in the gym it was just a brand new person who needed to earn respect, earn his spot in the gym.
“That’s how he’s been going about it from day one.”
Robinson was just 21 when he entered the NBA, debuting for the New York Knicks.
But all the years dedicated on the court are nothing compared to the months he has spent in the boxing gym.
Robinson admits: “This is way harder than anything I’ve ever had to do in my life.
"Boxing training compared to basketball? Basketball is a walk in the park compared.
“Basketball is easy, and then doing this for a couple months, I’ve never done anything harder."
Robinson comes into the co-headliner as a betting underdog.
Paul is the more experienced fighter, having eased past his pro debut in January while also winning an exhibition bout in 2018.
But Robinson's time sharing the court with some of the greatest stars in NBA history feels his team with confidence when it comes to handling pressure.
Trainer Reyes says: “I’m not worried about Jake.
“Yes, he does have that experience in the ring, under the lights, Nate may not have been in the ring but he’s performed in front of people on the big stage.
“He knows what it’s like to perform against some of the best basketball players and athletes in the world.”
Robinson adds: “I’ve played against some of the greatest players in the world, Kobe Bryant, rest in peace, I’ve played against Lebron James, Alan Iverson, Shaq, you name it.
“I’ve blocked against some of the biggest guys and showcased my talent and always held my own.
"Come the 28th I’ll show what Nate Robinson is all about."
The same players who helped carve Robinson's confidence will be supporting him this weekend.
He says: “So many of my NBA buddies are just upset they can’t come to the match.
“They’re all going to have fight parties, and order the fight and show their love and support."
Robinson's months of learning and dedication will all come to a close when he laces up the gloves for the first time.
And he has already envisioned success on the night – in whatever form necessary.
He reveals: "I’ve been writing in my journal this whole time, something I’ve done since I hooped, I like to visualise what I feel should happen.
“I just want victory. Whether I’m knocking him out or we have to go the six rounds, I just want to win, it doesn’t matter how I get it done.
“I want to show what heart looks like, what a champion looks like.”
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