Michael Seals discovered boxing much like a lot of young boys do: by watching fights alongside his father. Infatuated by the sport almost instantly, Seals informed his dad that he wanted to become a boxer.
There was just one problem: The Seals family was based in Alabama, where the only sport that matters is football.
“I always told him I wanted to box,” Seals says of his father. “He personally knew the guy at the local gym, but he never took me, because growing up in Alabama, it’s all about football. My father didn’t want boxing to interfere with that.”
Abiding by his father’s wishes, Seals headed for the gridiron, eventually landing at Alabama A&M. While there, Seals says he endured an injury-plagued collegiate career as an undersized linebacker.
“Usually a linebacker is around 240 [pounds]. I was about 215 or 220,” Seals says. “But I’ve always been a physical person, so I wasn’t scared to stick my nose into anything.”
Eventually, that nose found its way into a boxing gym in Decatur, Alabama, where a then-23-year-old Seals discovered a new athletic love—this, despite taking a beating the first time he jumped into the ring.
“I was sparring a guy who had been boxing for like 15 years. I got hit in the face a lot, so my nose was bloodied,” Seals recalls. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I gave him a run for his money off toughness, strength and athleticism. I loved every second of it.
“[Afterward], I said ‘Man, I should have been doing this my whole life.’”
Michael Seals (19-0, 14 KOs) has since blossomed into a promising 175-pound prospect, one who will face the stiffest test of his career Friday night when he takes on title contender Edwin Rodriguez (27-1, 18 KOs). The scheduled 10-round clash headlines a Premier Boxing Champions card from Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
After five amateur fights, Seals turned pro in November 2008 at the age of 26, earning a second-round technical knockout over Ousman McClain in his debut. He would go on to score knockouts in five of his first six fights, including four consecutive first-round stoppages from May 2009 to March 2010.
Then during a 10½-month span starting in mid-2012, Seals stopped six of seven opponents in the first round. The only exception? A second-round TKO win.
Overall, 13 of Seals’ 19 victories have come inside of two rounds.
Of course, the objective of any fighter is to finish things as quickly as possible, but the 33-year-old Seals has an added incentive for wanting to keep his pearly white teeth and square-jawed features intact: When he’s not working to perfect his jab and footwork in the gym, the chisled 6-foot-3 Atlanta resident moonlights as a part-time model.
“I’ve done some runway modeling, worked for Abercrombie & Fitch,” he says. “I got away from it after I started boxing, but once I make a name for myself, it’ll be easier to get endorsements and modeling jobs.”
At least one professional photographer likes what she sees when looking through the lens at Seals.
“Michael’s a natural with great spirit in front of the camera,” says Atlanta-based photographer Emilee Ramsier, whose clients include Adidas and Under Armour. “His charisma, energy, confidence and swagger projects in his images. He’s a well-put-together man.
“There’s a new subcategory of everyday models and influencers of different products and categories. Michael could be a brand ambassador for boxing with, say, Nike or Under Armour.”
For that to happen, though, Seals knows he needs to continue to succeed in the ring—not that building his brand to land modeling gigs is his primary concern. Rather, he says he’s most interested in following in the footsteps of two of his idols: former world champs James Toney and Bernard Hopkins.
“I’ve barely scratched the surface, talent-wise,” says Seals, who trains out of the Paul Murphy Boxing Club in Doraville, Georgia. “I’ve sacrificed everything for the vision of becoming a world champion.”
And if that means taking some shots that bloody and bruise the aspiring model’s face, so be it.
"The object is to hit and not get hit, but I’m a totally different person in the ring. I don’t think about my face or anything,” he says. “Whatever it takes to get the ‘W,’ I’ll do it.
“I was wasting my time with football. I could have been world champion three or four times over by now.”
For complete coverage of Rodriguez vs Seals, check out our fight page.