HOOVER — Boxing was originally meant to be part of Joe Webb’s training for football.
Webb, the former UAB football standout and 11-year NFL veteran, tagged along with a teammate to a boxing workout at Round 1 Boxing in Hoover during the offseason before the 2021 season. He enjoyed the workout and decided to come back.
At the time, it was all about cardio. It’s turned into much more. At some point this summer, it will turn into a new professional athletic career.
“It’s been unique,” Webb said, punctuating his thoughts with a hearty laugh. “I’d been searching for what I might do. Once you get done playing, you kind of get in that mind of what am I going to do? Do I want to coach? Do I want to get into the business side? I’m 36 now. I still have a lot of competitiveness in me. I feel like I have a lot in the tank. It’s not saying I couldn’t have gone back and done football. I’d done that so much, it was a good switch-up for me. It just grew on me. I fell in love with it.”
Webb had seven amateur fights. He won six of them, with five ending in a first-round knockout victory. Early August is the projected date for his professional debut, according to Webb. He said details need to be ironed out, but he wants his first professional fight to take place in Birmingham, preferably, he added, at UAB.
It all started with the invitation from former Samford defensive lineman Nick Williams, an NFL teammate of Webb.
“I was with the New York Giants, still, at the time,” Webb said. “It was like March or April. I was training football. I came one day with (Williams), in the evening. We were both doing it for extra cardio a couple of days a week. Coach (Dave Godbar) taught me how to punch and all that stuff. I was using it as a workout. Things didn’t work out with New York in like May.”
Godber is one of the most accomplished amateur boxing coaches in the country. He coached Deontay Wilder at times during the former heavyweight champion’s amateur career and was in Wilder’s corner during the Olympic trials. He’s trained many other champions and contenders. He suggested that Webb take a fight when his time with the Giants ended.
“Coach said, ‘Hey, I got my Golden Gloves coming up,’” Webb said. “My mind was still focused on football. I was like, ‘OK, I’m not on contract, so I could do a fight.’ Golden Gloves was July of that summer. The next day when I said I was doing the boxing thing, he threw me in with some pros, he threw me in with the top amateurs of the gym. I got my head beat in. I got hit hard. At the same time, I was still moving. I was kind of stiff, but I was still doing stuff where he said, ‘You might be able to do something here.’”
His first fight lasted about a minute, ending with a TKO victory. And off he went toward a new athletic venture.
“Coming in here working with the guys, learning a new sport,” Webb said while sitting in a folding chair inside a ring at Round 1 Boxing. “I tried to translate it, football-wise. I try to keep it to similar thoughts. Same thing when you throw – step and throw. You got different movements around the ring. It’s not like planting and cutting in football; it’s more so moving inches. A step here, changing an angle, movement around the ring, moving more laterally. It’s not just running straight ahead and making a cut. It’s hand placement, defense, working the jab.”
Godber plays the biggest role in teaching him the nuances of the sport. But Webb soaks up knowledge from everyone. He spent time at Wilder’s camp while the former champ was getting ready to fight Tyson Fury. He’s traveled to spar with experienced fighters and learn from being in different settings. He calls the whole process “a whirlwind.”
His experience on the football field, although much different, helps.
"I feel like it creates a great transition, as far as knowing about work ethic and coach teaching me stuff in practice," said Webb. "In football, you run the play; you got a 40-second play clock to readjust, relax, get the next play and get lined up. In the ring, you go for three minutes, and you got to listen while you're fighting. That's different, because (in football) you've got to tune everything out. In boxing, you hear everything. You hear the crowd, the referee, your opponent talking crap to you. I've got to deal with that and listen to my coach. You got all this stuff you're trying to process while you are under duress."
Webb said he's not sure how long he will box. He had begun working as the offensive coordinator at Jackson-Olin High before deciding to put his time and energy into boxing. At some point, he wants to go back into high school coaching again. Perhaps it will be when his son, Joseph Webb IV, who is already an outstanding all-around athlete at 11 years old, reaches that level. Webb said he wants to spend as much time as possible around the UAB football program, mentoring the players and helping however he can. He also has a real estate business.
"I'm doing homes and am starting into commercial real estate," said Webb, who grew up in Ensley and attended high school at Wenonah High. "I have my own company. I have my contractors, my guys who work for me. We fix it up, to rent or sell. I try to fix up my neighborhood, where I grew up. I'm back home on the West side. I find houses over there, fixing them up and rent or sell to a family. That's really what I was going to do until I jumped in this world."
One thing he is not doing, though, is cutting weight to fit into a certain weight class. Webb is fighting in the heavyweight division, which means he has some flexibility. Webb, who played in the NFL around 230 pounds, generally carries 250 pounds into the ring. He said he'd fought somebody as big as 320 pounds.
"Most of the time, I'm fighting o-linemen; they can't move as quick," Webb said, laughing again.
But they also pack a punch when they catch up with you.
"It's like in football, when I first started a game, I was kind of nervous, timid," Webb said. "I just needed that first hit. I don't get a lot of clean shots on me. It translates a lot to what I did in football. In football, you got to break all 11 guys down. In the ring, you only got one person to break down. If coach says his left hand is down when he throws his right hand, I know to counter. If I'm dodging one person, being the athlete that I once was, that I still am, not say it's easy, but I can get it done."
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