The story started at Southside Boxing Academy, but not in the way one might expect. Growing up in Mobile, Michael Seals passed by the neighborhood boxing gym many times. However, as with many Alabama families, another sport took priority.
“I played football as a kid. I always wanted to box and the gym was a mile from my house. Football was the priority. In Alabama, football is a religion,” Seals explained.
Growing up, Seals never made it into the boxing gym he passed so often. Instead, Seals excelled at football. He was part of the Blount High School football team that won three consecutive state championships from 1996 to 1998, and continued on to play football at Alabama A&M.
Now undefeated as a boxer, he did not get introduced to the sport until his football days were over. Initially, he tried it to stay in shape.
“After the first day, I knew I loved the sport. The first time I sparred I gave the guy a run for his money. From there, I didn’t miss a day at the gym for three straight years,” Seals recalled.
Since, Seals has amassed 19 straight wins with 14 knockouts. He returns to the Gulf Coast Nov. 13 for a fight against Edwin Rodriguez at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.
“I can’t explain the feeling I had when I found out about the match,” Seals said about the marquee showcase so close to home. “Everything just fell into place.”
It will be one of the most challenging fights of his career. Rodriguez is 27-1 and enters as the favorite.
“I am a severe underdog against a world-class fighter, but I am out to prove that people from Alabama can fight,” Seals said.
Seals notes there are a lot of similarities between boxing and football.
“I watch a lot of film so I know every small detail about my opponent. The butterflies are the same. In both sports, after I get that first contact I’m settled in,” he said.
Despite his success, Seals has bigger dreams for the future. He wants to not just have more individual accomplishments, but to put the area on the map in the sport of boxing.
“I will be great and I’ll be in all the barbershop conversations in this area. My work ethic will get me there. I have the talent and drive to accomplish that. I want to be known as one of the greats,” he said.
As part of his training, Seals finally entered the Southside Boxing Academy just a few weeks ago, after it had eluded him so many years ago as an adolescent.
He has not fought since his March defeat of Carlos Reyes. Friday’s card gets underway in Biloxi at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Spike TV. An upset win against Rodriguez would go a long way toward helping Seals continue to advance in the sport.
Seals’ journey to this match reads like a movie script. The hometown football player returns to introduce the football-crazed Gulf Coast to an entirely different sport he has fallen in love with. This time, it is impossible for him to pass by a boxing gym without going in. He hopes to pass that feeling on to others in the area.
Whether or not Seals is victorious in the ring Friday night, he has been successful in proving there is more to this area than football. When asked what message he has for the people of Mobile, Seals kept it simple: “Come out and support the hometown guy. I will return the favor.”