Huddle Up is a weekly Q&A with a Cardinals player on a topic outside of football. In this week's installment, safety Tony Jefferson talks about his undefeated boxing career and the tough decision to give up the sport.
Question: So your dad was a boxer, right? Did he bring you into it when you were young?
Answer: Yeah, my dad was always for it. My mom wasn't really a big fan of it. She didn't really like my dad boxing in the first place. He had gotten hurt on his job after he was training for the Olympics and that's when he stopped boxing. My mom didn't like it but my dad always wanted me to do it. There was one year I even thought about skipping a year of Pop Warner and just do boxing. I had a change of heart toward the end, and I was lucky enough to go to another team.
Q: How old were you at that point?
A: That was in middle school. I had just switched over from my dad's trainer to a local trainer where I was at. I was about to go into high school football, and I was like, I can't miss out on this. I've got to play football. All my friends were doing it too. That was a big deciding factor.
Q: How long did you box?
A: So I was going from 11 to 15. I was actually training with my dad's trainer. He was pretty tough. My very first practice with him, I put my hands down and he smacked me in the face. I was like, 'I don't want to do this anymore.'
Q: So he was trying to tell you to be defensive?
A: Yeah. Keep your hands up. He was showing me a valid point. From there on, I was able to keep my hands up.
Q: When you were thinking about doing that instead of football, why was that something you were interested in pursuing?
A: I was just naturally good at it. They called me 'Cobra' because of how my hands were and my movements. I was pretty swift. It was just natural to me. My defense was good. I was just way better than people in that weight class.
Q: Did you have an official record?
A: There were small tournaments. I never really got into the professional amateurs or anything like that. I was taking it seriously, but I wasn't. I never lost. I can say that (laughter).
Q: So you won all the local tournaments?
A: Oh, yeah.
Every local tournament. The low-rider tournaments where they go and do car shows, all that stuff.
Q: Was it hard giving it up when you were undefeated?
A: Yeah, because I know that if I would have stuck to it I feel like I could have been really good. It's just the thing is, with how the weight classes go, I don't know what my weight would have been. I probably would have been 180 right now (Jefferson is listed at 212 pounds) and trying to fight in that weight class. It's interesting. I liked boxing a lot. There's no other better physical conditioned shape to be in than when you're a boxer.
Q: What ultimately made you decide to give it up and focus on football?
A: I missed football too much. Just from that time period when I was about to miss a whole year of football. There was a two-month span (while focusing on boxing) where I was like, 'I've just got to play football.' I'd be at school and we'd be playing football at lunch. I couldn't miss out on football any more.
Q:For those two months, though, you thought you might just do boxing and really try to take off?
A: Yeah. I had that vision that maybe I could be the next Lennox Lewis, or Mike Tyson, or something like that.
Q: Do you still like watching it?
A: Oh, yeah. Me and my dad still watch boxing all the time. They still show the small HBO fights that I always watch.