Veteran NFL running back Le’Veon Bell recently announced his intention to skip the 2022 season to focus on his boxing career. Bell will make his ring debut on July 30 against Adrian Peterson in a battle of the backs. You have to wonder about Bell’s decision to forgo this NFL season. Is it because he’s focused on boxing, or has the phone just stopped ringing?
While Le’Veon hasn’t officially announced his retirement from football, it sure sounds like he’s all in on boxing. Bell spoke about his transition to the squared circle during a press conference to promote his bout with Peterson.
“It’s definitely been a grind. It’s been a challenge I’ve been willing to accept, something I took on,” he said. “Boxing is something that they always say it’s something you can’t play boxing. Last year, I almost sat out the whole year to try to focus on boxing because I kind of knew that was what I wanted to transition to.
“This year, I know I’m not going to be playing this year because I want to focus on boxing. So this transition for me has kind of been like another opportunity for me. I’m just ready to showcase what I’m about.”
Boxing is a grind, as Bell states, but a different one from that on the gridiron. In football, you have support on the field and are reliant on others to be successful. Most running backs need at least a decent offensive line to be considered one of the best in the sport. Unless you’re Barry Sanders, you’re relying on multiple other pieces falling into place to reach greatness.
Le’Veon also spoke with TMZ Sports about the fight, and his decision to not play football this season. Bell talks about getting offers from teams last year and this year in the offseason. It feels like he’s leaving the door open for a return that probably won’t be there if he misses another season.
Bell rushed for over 1,360 yards during his peak in Pittsburgh and caught over 80 balls out of the backfield twice. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection. After five years in the league, Bell looked to be on a Hall-of-Fame path. Then the contract dispute happened in Pittsburgh, which led to Le’Veon sitting out the entire 2018 campaign.
Since then, Bell hasn’t really come close to rushing for 1,000 yards in a season, and has bounced around from team to team over the last couple of seasons. He has played for four teams in the past two seasons, and rushed for a total of 429 yards. That’s even a far cry from what he did his first year back with the Jets in 2019, when he rushed for 789 yards. It sounds more like his ride in the NFL might be over.
Bell talks about being as great in the ring as he was on the field. For a couple of years, he was arguably the best all-around back in the NFL. He can’t do the hopscotch thing between sports if he genuinely wants to make it to that level in boxing.
Bell hasn’t used the “R-word” yet, but it feels like it’s come to that. If Bell loses to Peterson at the end of the month, we’ll soon find out how serious he is about boxing. NFL training camps will be starting up around that time. I’m not predicting he’ll ditch the gloves; all I’m saying is to keep an eye on how the Bell boxing story develops.