Kimbo Slice, the viral video backyard-fighting sensation turned mixed martial artist, is gearing up for a foray into the sweet science.
Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, told ESPNNewYork.com that he's eager to see how he fares in the boxing world, after spending almost three years in MMA.
"I feel like a baby all over again," said the 36-year-old Florida resident. "I'm thinking about this at night. I'm gonna be a problem in the heavyweight division. I'm going to be coming in with a bad demeanor. I want to see what it's like to break some ribs, break a jaw with one punch."
At Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, New Jersey-based promoter Gary Shaw recently told ESPNNewYork.com that he was confident he would soon have a deal signed with Slice. After weeks of negotiations with Slice's advisor "Icy" Mike Imber, Shaw told ESPN that he'd inked a deal and that Slice would debut sometime between October and December, depending on how much progress he makes with trainer Clemente Medina, a California-based tutor.
Slice said he wouldn't close the door on MMA and that he greatly enjoyed his tenure with the UFC, and appreciated the opportunity UFC chief Dana White gave him.
"This is a career move," he said. "I love fighting. I like to knock people the [expletive] out. I love engaging. Maybe some people think I'm crazy."
Slice signed on with the UFC and earned a win over Houston Alexander on Dec. 5, 2009, after taking part in the "The Ultimate Fighter 10" Spike TV reality show. He lost his lone bout on the show, an exhibition tussle with eventual victor Roy Nelson. He was stopped by Matt Mitrione at UFC 113 on May 8, however, and parted ways with the company.
In a boxing division dominated by the cerebral, caution-first Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, Shaw says that if his hunch is right, that time with strength and conditioning coach Darryl Hudson kicks Slice's cardio into a new zone, the fighter could be challenging for a title after six or so fights.
"He could easily be at the same level as guys the Klitschkos have been fighting," said Shaw, who gave a shout-out to son Jared, who turned him on to the much-downloaded backyard brawler several years ago. "Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he's coming to boxing too late, but I don't think so. He's not a beaten-up athlete. He's a natural, with that bob and weave like Mike Tyson."
Slice has had issues with balky knees, but says he's squatting 315 pounds and running with no problems. No one, he said, will question his dedication, or have cause to dismiss him as a hyped-up product of skilled viral video marketing. He promised to bring a closing mentality to the ring, in contrast to some of the heavyweights who prefer to peck away at their foes, rather than bludgeon them into submission.
"I'm safety-first driving, wear my seatbelt," Slice said. "Not in the ring. These fighters these days, they're complacent, lazy. I'm hungry. I just dropped three of my kids off at tutoring. It's expensive!"
A Floyd Mayweather-level payday would be something to look forward to, he said, but Slice showed some of the humility that made many MMAers believers in his respect for their sport. "That'd be nice," he said. "But unfortunately I'm still a little squirrel, in a big [expletive] world, looking for my nut."
Shaw thinks Slice will find success as a boxer.
"I've always said he could be a world champion," said Shaw, who was an executive at Elite XC, the promotional outlet which staged Slice's first four MMA bouts. "I believe in that more than ever. This is not the era of Tyson, Holyfield and Lennox Lewis."