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Antonio Esfandiari On Kevin Hart Boxing Match: "I Hope To Catch Him With A Hook"

Antonio Esfandiari Looks To Exploit Reach Advantage In Upcoming Fight Against Kevin Hart


There’s a reason that poker pro Antonio Esfandiari is getting such long odds to defeat comedian/actor Kevin Hart in their upcoming boxing match. Esfandiari isn’t even close to the type of athlete that Hart is and it’s reflected in his strategy for the match that’s only a few weeks away from taking place.

“The only advantage I really have is reach and height,” said Esfandiari. “So my only chance of winning is to use that to my advantage. I’ll probably take a more defensive approach. I’ll just try and keep my distance and hope that he leaves something open and I catch him with a dirty hook or something.”

Esfandiari is receiving 35:1 odds from Hart and the stakes of the bet, much like the fight itself, have not and will not be disclosed to the public. It will take place within the next couple of weeks at a venue in Los Angeles that has yet to be determined.

The duo decided that by closing the fight to the public they will keep the fight closer to what it was originally intended to be.

“There’s no way that anybody can see it, unfortunately,” Esfandiari said. “We just decided it was better to kind of keep it how it started as a bet between two friends. We’re not really trying to publicize it. We thought at some point we might air it because everybody wanted to see it, but at the end of the day, we decided it was better if it just kind of stayed between us and our friends that are there.”

Hart will have a film crew there, but it is still undecided if the footage will be released in the future.

If Esfandiari goes the distance, the fight will be three, three-minute rounds. Conditioning has been Esfandiari’s Achilles’ heel since he accepted the fight.

“When I first started, my biggest weakness was cardio,” he said. “The last 1 years of my life, I’ve been doing a lot of weights and yoga. Not a lot of cardio. I hated running.”

He’s improved immensely in his cardiovascular conditioning since his training began, however. Several months ago, there was no chance he could box for nine minutes. At the end of his latest session, he was able to spar for the duration of the match.

“I just did three rounds, three minutes,” said the three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner shortly after his latest workout. “Obviously I struggled, but I got through it. Whereas six months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do 20 seconds.”

As far as Hart’s training goes, he is taking it much more seriously than Esfandiari anticipated.

“In the beginning, I didn’t think he was taking it that seriously,” said Esfandiari about Hart’s training. “But in the last few months, I know he’s been training really hard and he’s been sparring as well. I saw a bunch of sparring equipment in his room and I was like ‘Oh crap.’”

He’s got a good reason to be nervous. As Mike Tyson famously said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’

Esfandiari doesn’t have much experience with being punched in the mouth.

“Before sparring? No.,” said Esfandiari. “But now I’ve gotten decked a bunch of times. A bunch of bruised ribs, my jaw got knocked out of place a couple times. Several bloody noses.”

His injury concerns are centered around his face and ribs. The gear that he has been sparring with gives some protection to his face. When he steps into the ring with Hart, they will be using the same headgear used in amateur boxing, which protects the head, but not his face.

“I’m really worried about breaking my nose,” said Esfandiari. “As we know, I’ve got a bigger than average nose. I’m definitely worried about breaking my nose and I’m also worried about breaking my ribs because he keeps joking about coming after my ribs.”

The fight is taking place about a month before the WSOP starts. Even with the recovery time, Esfandiari doesn’t see this interfering with his summer poker schedule.

“The World Series is still a few months away, so I don’t really see it having an effect on that,” he said. “Plus, I don’t see myself playing as many events as I used to back in the day. Last year, I cut down a lot. This year, I’ll probably only play a few big ones. I kind of just want to be with my kids.”

He noted that between cardio workouts and boxing training sessions, Esfandiari is working out between seven and nine times a week. Despite the immense amount of time focused on his workouts, he still finds time to grind some cash game sessions.

He has some extra energy at the table thanks to his recent training, but this will be the last time that he steps in the ring.

“I figure this is kind of a one and done,” said Esfandiari. “And at the end of it, I don’t want to say that I didn’t give it my all. I also don’t want to get my ass kicked in 30 seconds and be like ‘Oh, that was cool.’”



3 years ago