Junior Dos Santos was UFC heavyweight champion but is now targeting boxing glory: ‘In MMA I was known as a boxing guy’ | Boxing News

Junior Dos Santos knows the bleak recent history of crossover fighters. He has seen his fellow MMA stars fail in the boxing ring but has long suspected he could break the mould.

Dos Santos is a former UFC heavyweight champion who was known for blistering knockouts delivered with his crushing right hand, but now he is beginning a long-held ambition to become a boxer.

The Brazilian has signed a managerial deal with SJAM Boxing who also guide Joe Joyce, Johnny Fisher and Solomon Dacres, a trio of heavyweight contenders.

Junior Dos Santos
Junior Dos Santos is a former UFC heavyweight champion

He has vowed not to be a flash-in-the-pan, and aims to reach the pinnacle of a second sport in a way that previous MMA fighters failed to do.

“Even in MMA I was known as a boxing guy – I was always there for the knockout, to stand up and bang,” he told Sky Sports.

“I would train boxing everyday but jiu-jitsu only three times per week. I consider myself a boxing guy.

“Now I want to test myself in a real professional boxing fight.

Jake Paul
Ex-UFC champion Tyron Woodley lost to Jake Paul

“There is something different about boxing which is just beautiful. It is a different art. When you do it well? Beautiful.

“I have always loved boxing. I have trained with the highest-level guys in Brazil like Robson Conceicao.

“It was always a big dream for myself to do it. But I was having a successful career. Now is the right time. I’m a free agent.”

Conor McGregor’s unsuccessful boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather has been followed by Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley’s failure to beat YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul.

The omens are not good for Dos Santos.

“Their speciality is not boxing, stand-up, striking,” he points out about Askren and Woodley’s recent in-ring defeats.

“They are wrestlers so it is very different.

“Both were great fighters, especially Woodley who was the champion and had so many good skills. But with boxing? You have to be a part of this world. I feel like I am a part of it because my best ability is striking.

“They were there for the money! And they did good. They made what they tried to do.

“But I won’t be there just for the money. Everything I do in my life, I try to be the best.”

EUM20210620DEP03.JPG .GUADALAJARA, Jal., Boxing/Boxeo-Ch..vez.- Aspectos de la pelea de exhibici..n entre el boxeador Julio C..sar Ch..vez Jr. y el ex peleador de artes marciales mixtas, Anderson Silva, la noche de este 19 de junio de 2021 en el Estadio Jalisco. Foto: Agencia EL UNIVERSAL/AFBV
Anderson Silva defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

The exception to this theme of MMA fighters failing inside the ring is Anderson Silva, the UFC all-time great, and Dos Santos’ fellow Brazilian.

Silva beat 60-fight veteran Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and then knocked out fellow MMA great Tito Ortiz.

But his journey began quietly much earlier – in 1998 Silva lost his boxing debut then, in 2005 during his MMA heyday, he won a second fight inside the ring.

Dos Santos, then just a fan, was ringside.

“I was there! I wasn’t even dreaming of being a fighter back then,” he said.

“It was just amazing for an MMA guy to beat Chavez Jr.

“People said MMA guys can’t fight at the highest level of boxing but this isn’t true. We can fight. Anderson was a great example.

“I am going in the same direction, I want to follow his steps.”

Junior Dos Santos
Dos Santos plans to make an impact as a boxer

Brazil’s Dos Santos won the UFC heavyweight title a decade ago – his highlight reel includes stoppage wins over Mirko Cro Cop, Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir, Mark Hunt and other luminaries of the sport.

But even at the age of 37, he retains supreme confidence in his KO power.

“For sure. You cannot train to get heavy hands. You are born with them. I have knockout power and I will use it with boxing gloves.

“But it isn’t my main ability. I am a very natural heavyweight and I move very well, I move like a middleweight. This is a great advantage, especially in the boxing world.”

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson, then 54, boxed an exhibition against Roy Jones Jr

Dos Santos may appear a prime candidate for the ‘exhibition’ fights that have been staged adjacent to the true heavyweight division in the past year. Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Evander Holyfield and David Haye have stepped back between the ropes with differing fortunes.

But Dos Santos is setting his ambitions higher: “I want to fight the big champions and beat them up.

“I want to build my way towards the championship. I want to fight the big guys – Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury.

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Bob Arum wants Tyson Fury to fight in the UK early next year

“Fury is just amazing – I am a big fan of his style. He is so big but moves so well and is so effective. Wilder has more power than Mike Tyson had.

“I want to do big fights. If, on my way, I have to do entertaining fights against Mike Tyson, for example? I will do that too. It would be great. It would be a unique opportunity and I wouldn’t miss it.

“I want to fight the best guys. Whatever I have to do to get there, I will do it.”

Dos Santos had a brief insight into Joshua’s training when they worked out side-by-side on a Brazilian beach.

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Dillian Whyte says Anthony Joshua needs to change his mindset if he is to defeat Oleksandr Usyk

He remembers: “Joshua was teaching me some things, some of his moves. It was a great experience. He is a great fighter but I want to fight him, at some point.”

Adam Moralee from SJAM said: “He wants to develop as a boxer so we don’t plan just a couple of fights against YouTubers. We want to develop him into a top-level heavyweight that can compete for titles. We will look to fight him in the US and the UK.”

The Brazilian is training in Miami under Pedro Diaz, where he spars Bryant Jennings and Trevor Bryan.

He has set himself targets much higher than any previous MMA fighter has done. Dos Santos is a totally unknown quantity.

“I am having an amazing experience with the highest level of boxing,” he says. “I am ready to show my boxing skills.

“By the end of next year I will have had some great wins and some news about bigger fights.”

Sky Sports Boxing schedule

November 6 – Top Rank in Las Vegas
Mikaela Mayer vs Maiva Hamadouche – IBF and WBO super-featherweight titles

November 6 – BOXXER in Liverpool
Super-lightweight tournament

November 20 – BOXXER in London
Richard Riakporhe vs Olanrewaju Durodola
Caroline Dubois professional debut
Florian Marku vs Jorick Luisetto
Hosea Burton vs Dan Azeez – British light-heavyweight title

November 20 – Top Rank in Las Vegas
Terence Crawford vs Shawn Porter – WBO welterweight title

December 11 – BOXXER
Savannah Marshall
Claressa Shields

December 11 – Top Rank in New York
Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Richard Commey
Jared Anderson vs Oleksandr Teslenko
Nico Ali Walsh
Xander Zayas

December 17 – Top Rank in Montreal
Artur Beterbiev vs Marcus Browne – IBF and WBC light-heavyweight titles

February 26 – Top Rank in Glasgow
Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall – undisputed super-lightweight title

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