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Spong eyes WSOF in July, then likely a boxing career

5/5/2015
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Tyrone Spong talks recovery, fight plans

ESPN MMA reporter Brett Okamoto speaks with champion kick boxer Tyrone Spong about Spong's future in boxing and mixed martial arts.

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Early last week, a certain, unmistakable sound filled the Blackzilians' gym -- one that had been missing for a while.

It drew the attention of nearly everyone there. Tyrone Spong was kicking 100 percent -- for the first time, he says, since breaking his right leg during a kickboxing match in April 2014.

"My doctor cleared me today to kick full strength," Spong told ESPN.com. "I actually suffered a hairline fracture in the right leg months after having surgery, because I threw kicks before I was ready. The doctors told me I had to give it more time, but now everything is good."

Now that the 10-time world champion kickboxer is throwing kicks again, the question becomes: Where will he do so, competitively, moving forward?

Spong, 29, is currently a free agent in combat sports. He has held back from signing a multi-fight deal with GLORY, because he says the kickboxing promotion can no longer afford him. When asked what he believes he should be making for his services in a kickboxing ring at this point in his career, Spong smiles and only offers, "It's up there."

The Suriname native competed in two professional boxing matches in March (he won both) and admits there is a chance he will never compete in kickboxing again. He says it's bittersweet to say that, but is adamant that he won't return to the sport unless the money is right.

"I wouldn't say never, because never is a big word, but right now it doesn't look like it," Spong said. "They just can't afford me. I'm a true professional. I do everything to perfection and I think my career shows that. I deserve what's coming to me and right now, kickboxing promotions out there can't afford me."

Spong is still under contract with WSOF and expects to compete in a mixed martial arts contest sometime in July, in an event the promotion has yet to announce.

"Honestly speaking, I'm more focused on my boxing now. You never know. If the UFC makes me a good offer, why not? But the offer has to be good."

Tyrone Spong, on possibly making a full transition from mixed martial arts to boxing

Currently, that is about as long-term as Spong's plans are. He will continue to compete in one-off boxing appearances until a legitimate offer materializes from a major promoter. He currently trains under Blackzilians coach Pedro Diaz, who has cornered boxing world champions Miguel Cotto and Guillermo Rigondeaux.

If a promotion such as the UFC were to come calling for Spong's talents in MMA, he would consider that, as well. For now, it's about competing in both boxing and MMA and fielding the right offer. Spong says most likely, though, as of now, that will occur in the boxing ring.

"Honestly speaking, I'm more focused on my boxing now," Spong said. "You never know. If the UFC makes me a good offer, why not? But the offer has to be good.

"My story is great. I'm a 10-time world champion in six different weight classes. I'm pretty well spoken. I have the looks, the fighting style, all the ingredients of a successful boxing career."

Henri Hooft, Spong's coach since 2009, said the injury last year offered Spong a chance to step back and reflect on the next step of his career. He supports the transition away from kickboxing.

"It's difficult because Tyrone is now 29," Hooft said. "He's been fighting in the main events of kickboxing shows since he was 16. When he broke his leg, that was the first time something really bad happened and he was started to think more about the future.

"I think [boxing] is a good go for him," he said. "I support him all the way. I've always said to people, you give this guy a couple months or a year and he will beat everybody standing up. He's also very good at stopping takedowns. Standup is much more important than it was a couple years ago. It began with jiu-jitsu because nobody knew about that but now it's back to wrestling and standup again.

"I hope that his boxing career takes off but I know he still likes kicking. He likes MMA. It's very difficult for him to choose one thing. I would like to see in one year, when he is 30, a big fight in the UFC but you never know. I really have a lot of belief in him in boxing and you make a lot of money in boxing, man. It's a different game."