Patience is a virtue that is often rewarded, and Philadelphia boxing prospect Paul Kroll is about to have his moment.
It wasn’t easy getting here, but it’s where you’re supposed to be when you were one of the top amateurs in boxing out of the fighting-rich city of Philadelphia. You’re supposed to be here when you make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
But Kroll’s journey took a detour. His involvement in a 2016 altercation resulted in an attempted- murder charge for himself and two friends. Kroll didn’t fire a weapon, so he was placed on probation, but the incident overshadowed his once-bright boxing future.
Now he’s back in the spotlight.
Kroll (7-0, 6 KOs) is heading into the biggest bout of his young career. He will fight Luke Santamaria (11-1-1, 7 KOs) Saturday in a 10-round welterweight match in the co-main event of FS1′s PBC Fight Night. The fight will be held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, and the telecast begins at 8 p.m.
“I just can’t wait to fight,” Kroll said. “Everything I went through helped make me into the person I am now. I got so much more to fight for, and I know what I want.”
A total of just seven career professional fights at the age of 25 puts the North Philly native a little behind the competition, but he doesn’t look at it that way. Everything that happened was meant to happen.
Kroll’s trainers compliment his growth and maturity. He has a daughter now, and that’s enough motivation, but he also talks to his friend Cardell Hellams daily. Hellams was sentenced to 10 years in prison after those events of August 2016. He’s reminding Kroll to stay focused every day leading up to Saturday night.
“He knows I’m great,” Kroll said. “He pushes me. If he calls me and I’m not in the gym around the same time, he’s like, ‘Yo, what’s going on? Why you ain’t in the gym?’”
Kroll didn’t turn pro until 2018, after he spent time in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia upon being charged. He knows those days will often be discussed in his career, but he’s not afraid to openly talk about it.
“It showed me one bad decision can mess up six years of work,” Kroll. “I was an honor-roll student. I never got in trouble before that.”
A delay doesn’t mean denial. Kroll’s moment in the spotlight is here.
He’s sparred against notable Philly fighters like Danny Garcia and Julian Williams. Those sparring sessions gave him confidence that he can eventually enter that tier. He also sparred with top welterweight contender Shawn Porter, who was complimentary of Kroll’s work.
“This guy just has that hunger, desire and determination,” Fox ring announcer Ray Flores said. “I think that Paul Kroll is really going to try to get things going if he’s successful on Saturday night and start to move up a little bit quicker than most guys that are 7-0.”
Kroll’s fighting style is all about the fundamentals. He brings the flash, but not purposely. He believes it comes naturally when you’re taking care of business. The fundamentals and defense are what Kroll talks about the most, but his trainers know there’s a reason he has six knockouts in seven fights and has earned the nickname “The Punisher.”
“Paul can actually hurt you with any punch, so what we want Paul to do is ... anywhere there’s a legal shot, get there,” co-trainer Greg Hackett said. “He’s going to punch you anywhere he’s allowed to.”
“He’s a naturally aggressive fighter,” co-trainer Myke Melvin added. “He’s going to come and try to get to your ass.”
Santamaria will be Kroll’s best opponent yet. He hails from the Los Angeles area, which is traditionally known for strong boxers. Santamaria lost his third career bout in a four-round decision, but he’s unbeaten in his last 10 fights.
“I think it’s an even fight,” Flores said. “The one thing about Luke Santamaria is he’s going to give Paul Kroll all he can handle. I think much like Paul Kroll, he likes to take challenges, and this is a very high-risk, high-reward fight for both men.”
Kroll wants to be the best defensive fighter in boxing. One guy who was known for elite defense was Floyd Mayweather Jr.
One of Mayweather’s most dominant performances was against Arturo Gatti, when he outpunched Gatti, 168-41, through six rounds, leading to Gatti’s trainer stopping the fight. That’s the type of performance Kroll expects to put on.
“It’s going to be a boxing lesson, but I’m going to embarrass him in his hometown on TV,” Kroll said. “And either it’s going to be a long butt-whupping, or the refs, him, or his corner are going to throw in the towel.”