Ex-Rebel Kambala to make pro boxing debut

Two years ago, Kaspars Kambala was making seven figures playing pro basketball in Turkey.

When he fights Alvaro Morales in a four-round heavyweight bout tonight at The Orleans to start his professional boxing career, Kambala will make $1,000. After taxes and other expenses, he probably will take home about half that amount.

“It’s not about the money. It’s not about (disproving) those who doubt I can do it. It’s about proving to myself that I can do it,” said Kambala, a standout UNLV basketball player from 1997 to 2001.

Carlos Barnett will meet journeyman Willie Chapman in a six-round heavyweight match for the International Boxing Association’s Continental title, but Kambala might be the reason a larger-than-normal crowd is expected.

“I’ve been an athlete all my life, and to do this after playing basketball for so many years, it’s like being rejuvenated,” Kambala said.

Richard Steele, who is helping train Kambala, said his 6-foot-9-inch, 270-pound fighter’s work ethic is better than that of any other fighter he has worked with.

“His skill level has grown tremendously,” Steele said of Kambala, who had two amateur fights before turning pro.

Kambala’s basketball career forced him to go pro as a fighter. Amateur boxing rules state a fighter who was a professional athlete in one sport cannot compete in boxing as an amateur.

Kambala, 29, said his career on the court helped prepare him to compete in the ring.

“My experience as a professional basketball player has been huge for me in getting me ready to do this,” he said. “You learn to work hard, to be on time, to listen to what’s important.”

The first bell is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2913.

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