Super Bowl 50, as things shake out, is shaping up like a throwback. You’ve got two of the top defenses in the league banging it out in the trenches, like back in the day with the Steel Curtain, Doomsday Defense, Purple People Eaters and Fearsome Foursome.
And at the cornerstone of every good defense is a fundamental acuity for hitting the snot out of the other guy. Maybe if these guys weren’t so concerned with padding and helmets, they could have made decent boxers.
Of course, plenty of Premier Boxing Champions fighters spent their share of time on the gridiron as well, before ultimately choosing the sweet science over America's game. Then there are those fighters who never played football, but have intangibles and physical skills that would serve them well on the field.
To that end, as Carolina and Denver get set to kick off on Sunday, we present the all-PBC football team.
Quarterback—Dominic Breazeale. The 6-foot-7 Breazeale played quarterback at Northern Colorado, where he racked up 10 touchdowns and 2,468 yards in two years for the Bears before taking his talents to the heavyweight ranks. One thing’s for sure: Good luck batting down his passes at the line.
Running Back—Shawn Porter. If he didn’t get into the fight game, Porter could have played college football. He had offers after starring as an all-conference player at Stow-Munroe Falls High School outside of Akron, Ohio. While there, he broke the school rushing record set by Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka.
Running Back—Keith Thurman. Thurman, who comes from the football-rich state of Florida, was a punter when he played, but he has the kind of explosiveness that can get him through the hole and into the open field.
Wide Receiver—Adrien Broner. Slick and flashy with great hands, Broner has all the raw materials that go into making a great wideout, including attitude.
Wide Receiver—Daniel Jacobs. A rangy 6-footer, Jacobs offers a nice target for a quarterback. And as Peter Quillin can attest, his stiff-arm could be deadly.
Tight End—B.J. Flores. Brigham Young University saw fit to offer Flores a full scholarship after he was an all-state receiver in Missouri in high school. Add a few years and a lot more muscle on the frame, and you’ve got a custom-built tight end.
Tackle—Travis Kauffman. If there’s one thing the 237-pound Kauffman proved in his last fight against Chris Arreola, it’s that he can dish out—and take—plenty of punishment, a prerequisite for playing in the trenches.
Guard—Andrzej Fonfara. The Polish talent proved against Nathan Cleverly last year that he has quick hands and zero inclination toward tiring out.
Center—Artur Beterbiev. Anchoring this Eastern European line is Beterbiev, a fireplug in the middle who has the power to turn aside any blitz coming through the "A" gap.
Guard—Artur Szpilka. Going back to his days of fighting fellow soccer fans in the streets, Szpilka has the kind of mean streak you need to shut down the opposing rush. Think of a Polish Conrad Dobler.
Tackle—Charles Martin. A wingspan that clocks in at 80 inches? Go ahead. See about getting around the edge on the 6-foot-5 Martin.
Defensive End—Gerald Washington. Washington went to the University of Southern California as a tight end, but switched to defensive end during his junior year. He went to training camp with both the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks before committing to boxing, so, yeah, he made the team.
Nose Tackle—Chris Arreola. “The Nightmare” stands 6-foot-3, and he’s fought as high 262. If he wants push through the O-line, he’s going to push through the O-line.
Defensive End—Steve Cunningham. Sure, Cunningham will turn 40 this summer, but veteran savvy can be a difference-maker at end. The late Reggie White piled up 16 sacks at age 37.
Outside Linebacker—Deontay Wilder. Of course an Alabama native wanted to suit up for the Crimson Tide. Goes without saying. What doesn’t hurt at all? Standing 6-foot-7, just like Julius Peppers, who moved to linebacker last year after 11 seasons at defensive end.
Inside Linebacker—Julian Williams. If it weren’t for boxing, big-time Eagles fan Williams would have gone after it on the gridiron, where he played quarterback and linebacker growing up. The new player-safety rules be damned, J-Rock's knockout power will make receivers think twice before coming across the middle.
Inside Linebacker—Michael Seals. The 175-pounder they call “CannonHandz” played linebacker at Alabama A&M and had a shot at Auburn before he tore his ACL in a high school all-star game in 2000.
Outside Linebacker—Adonis Stevenson. We don’t think adjusting from CFL rules would be too much of a problem for Quebec resident Stevenson, whose nasty demeanor and physical gifts make him a perfect fit.
Cornerback—Jermall Charlo. One half of the dynamic duo of high school cornerbacks …
Cornerback—Jermell Charlo. … along with his twin brother. Jermell says he hauled in more interceptions back in the day, while Jermall was better at shutting down sweeps.
Safety—Errol Spence Jr. Spence played defensive back as a high school freshman before he turned his attention to the ring. This much is certain: He can deliver hits that would devastate any ballcarrier.
Safety—Lamont Peterson. A well-balanced blend of technical precision and whip-smart tactician, Peterson will pick apart a wideout’s route four steps before he commits to it.
Coming Friday: PBC fighters give their predictions for Super Bowl 50.
- Beyond the ring