The BYU-Utah rivalry is moving to the boxing ring Saturday.
As part of its Third Annual Executive Fight Night at FitCon on Saturday at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Lehi-based Legends Boxing is putting on a pair of bouts pitting former BYU and Utah football players.
Former BYU quarterback Riley Nelson will face off against former Utah kicker Andy Phillips and former BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl will fight former Utah linebacker Boo Anderson in three-round bouts which have been sanctioned by USA Boxing.
“Any opportunity you have to go toe-to-toe with somebody from the Team Down South, that is always exciting,” Phillips said. “That wasn’t my full motivation, but anything rivalry-related, there is always some extra energy, and it perked my ears up a little bit.”
A third Utah vs. BYU bout was to pit former Utah receiver DeVonte Christopher against former BYU defensive back Skye PoVey, but PoVey sustained an injury a few weeks ago and had to withdraw, so Christopher will fight a coach from Legends Boxing.
Bouts begin at approximately 7 p.m. and will held in conjunction with a dozen or so other bouts matching up executives, influencers and business owner. Ten percent of all ticket sales will go to benefit the Athlete Strong Foundation, a charity co-founded by former Utah football players Stevenson Sylvester, Matt Martinez and Dallin Rogers, who is also the owner of FitCon.
Like Phillips, Nelson, 30, jumped at the opportunity when he learned he could get eight weeks of free boxing training and then climb in the ring with a former Ute. Coincidentally, Nelson and Phillips, 29, have been friends since their college playing days.
Former BYU offensive lineman Braden Hansen, who played with Phillips at Alta High, got the rivals together for some golf and their friendship blossomed. Nelson said he has a lot of respect for what Phillips has done athletically — he was a member of the U.S. Ski Team before walking on to the Utah football team — but that won’t matter when they step in the ring.
“I want to score and the best way to score is to land power punches and control the ring and kind of hurt your opponent. I guess that’s your answer,” Nelson said with a laugh. “It is a friendly competition, but man, if he leaves his hands down and lets me land a good straight left or a nice hard upper cut, I am not going to pull that punch back, by any means.”
Neither has been in a real fight before, although Nelson has boxing in his heritage. Two of his great grandfathers were boxers: George “Doc” Nelson is in the Utah Sports Hall of Fame and Bert Danford opened the first boxing gym in the Cache Valley in the 1920s.
When they started training 8-10 weeks ago, Nelson weighed 190 pounds and Phillips was at 220, so the former has had to gain weight and the latter drop a few pounds so they are within eight pounds of each other to get USA Boxing sanctioning.
“We’re good friends, but when the lights are on and we are in the ring together, I won’t be thinking about our friendship,” Phillips said.
On Friday and Saturday at the Salt Palace, the Idaho-based Snake River Sumo Association (SRSA) will team up with FitCon to present the inaugural FitCon Sumo Cup, believed to be the first ever Sumo event in Salt Lake City.
The main event is Friday at 6 p.m. and will feature the biggest athletes, including Kelly Gneiting, who weighs more than 400 pounds but has ran three marathons and swam distances of more than 20 miles. A beginners clinic will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. and a women’s competition is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday.
At Salt Palace Convention Center
Friday — 2 to 10 p.m.
Saturday — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday’s Executive Fight Night Boxing: Former Utah kicker Andy Phillips vs. former BYU quarterback Riley Nelson and former Utah linebacker Boo Anderson vs. former BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl; Bouts begin at 7 p.m.
Boxing admission: $35 for general seating, $500-700 for tables for boxing
FitCon admission: $20 for a one-day pass ($25 at the door) and $30 for a two-day pass ($40 at the door).