By Scoop Malinowski
Rising NBA force Kristaps Porzingis has lofty ambitions for his basketball career and has shown a willingness to pay any price to achieve his optimum performance. The diligent, hard-working Latvian super talent even sought out to learn and train in boxing earlier this year with the undefeated WBC Cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis in May.
The towering seven-foot, three inch, 240 pound Porzingis, currently in his third year as a New York Knick after averaging 18.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds last season, is widely considered to have the potential to become one of the very best and perhaps even the best player in the NBA in the future.
Porzingis is supremely fit and possesses stunning natural athletic talent and movement, and also a burning desire to reach the top. Always looking to improve himself, Porzingis connected with another Latvian star athlete Briedis for some lessons in boxing and boxing training.
“I love boxing and I wanted to learn about the sport more,” Porzingis told Marc Berman of the New York Post in the Nov. 19 edition of the newspaper. “I worked with (Briedis) for two weeks straight , (I did) everything a boxer does, boxing workouts, lifting weights, neck drills, strengthen my neck, then running and cardio. In two weeks I did everything a boxer does.”
Besides the added athleticism and confidence boxing offers to any athlete, it can also serve as a deterrent to any NBA bully who tries to intimidate Porzingis or resort to cheap shots to try to knock his concentration off. If say, certain NBA players are jealous or envious of the success of Porzingis and try to start a fight with him, he is prepared for that possible situation of having to protect his territory and his honor.
“I wasn’t sure if boxing would help my strength,” Porzingis said. “It might, but that wasn’t my goal. But I wanted to learn how to box and use my hands. You never know what situation you’ll be in.”
Porzingis is ready to throw down with the likes of Lebron James or anyone, if such a confrontation arises. “Cardio, strength, hands…you got to be able to be precise when you hit something. Not that I use that in basketball [smiles]. And you see how different muscles work. Basketball you do one thing but in boxing I used muscles I never used before. That’s what can get you stronger.”
The 32 year old Briedis, who boxes in the 200 pound cruiserweight division, is a noted expert in the boxing field, having won all 23 of his pro fights (18 by KO), including a one punch, fifth round, 2015 KO of former world heavyweight title challenger Manuel Charr, who had previously lost to former WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko in 2012 in four rounds.
Briedis mentored the boxing curiosity of Porzingis in May of this year, one month after winning the world title vs Marco Huck in April in Dortmund, Germany. Briedis recently made a successful first title defense in Riga, Latvia, a unanimous decision win against Cuba’s Mike Perez in September.
Porzingis pursuing boxing training and education is not the first time an elite athlete from another sport has dedicated their energies to the pugilistic arts. Other notable sports champions who have spent many hours in the boxing gym and boxing ring include tennis players Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt and Caroline Wozniacki, former NHL star Bob Probert, race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, among others.