ANTHONY TAYLOR was stripping for cash and sleeping rough before turning to MMA… now he is a star of influencer boxing.
Taylor was 25 when he began training for MMA in 2013, going on to have over ten amateur bouts in two years.
But after moving to Los Angeles, the American fell on hard times and took a job stripping to earn money.
Taylor, 34, told SunSport: “I was a stripper, I had nothing.
“I wasn’t doing nothing with my life, I was homeless, nowhere to go and I was stripping. I was just enjoying life as a bum who had no goals, nothing.”
Taylor relocated from Alameda in California to LA to train with coach Antonio McKeee and his champion son AJ.
It was AJ – working security at a gentleman’s club – who got Taylor the male stripping job through a bartender who also worked there.
He revealed: “It was all men who danced and nothing but women who came in.
“It was kind of like Magic Mike. And that’s how I got into it, I did it for a couple months, made really good money and kept at it.”
Taylor earned up to $300 a night (£230) to take his kit off and also drove Uber but still he was without a home.
He went from sleeping on benches, sofa surfing and even staying in one of his coach’s gyms to get by.
Taylor remembered: “Those times were low, the lowest times of my life.
“Having to endure that for such a long period of time really moulded the person I am now.
“I was able to go through that experience and live it and understand it. Now in my life, I can say, I don’t ever wanna be there again.
“That low, no friends, no family, nothing. I don’t want to experience that again, so I’ll build my own family, build my own friends. I build my foundation and talent.”
Eventually, Taylor’s MMA career picked up and by 2018 he was fighting regularly enough and living with his trainer Antonio.
Taylor notched five wins in a row in the cage, which caught the attention of the UFC.
He was told should he win twice more, a deal with MMA’s premier promotion would be on the table.
But then, a phone call would change the course Taylor’s life and career forever.
He said: “Jake Paul’s coach BJ Flores calls me, ‘Hey, you wanna be Jake’s sparring partner, great opportunity, you’ll make some good money, invest it. Get you in the scene.’
“That’s how I got into the scene with Jake Paul.”
Taylor left behind his UFC ambitions to join Paul’s camp, as the YouTuber-turned boxer made his mark in the sport.
He was a sparring partner before Paul beat ex-MMA champions Ben Askren, 38, and Tyron Woodley, 41.
From there, Taylor also got the chance to fight on Paul’s undercard twice, losing to Tommy Fury, 24, and Chris Avila, 30.
But his time in the camp pushed his profile to new heights and saw him feature on several influencer boxing shows.
Taylor said: “Coming into the scene, Jake helped put me on.
“But from there on I was able to use my own platform and make myself grow self efficiently. I give Jake credit for getting me into the game and I appreciate it.
“But also, I have to give myself credit because, yeah he can put you on but you have to keep doing what you’re doing so you can stay on.”
Life could have been so much different had Taylor focussed on the UFC instead of crossover boxing – but does he feel he made the correct call?
Taylor responded: “I wouldn’t say I made the right choice, I just stumbled into it at the right time.
“And I manifested this. I said I’d be one of the biggest influencers in the world and now I am, baby.”
Taylor returns on Saturday night in Nashville on a Misfits Boxing card, promoted by superstar KSI.
And he faces rival Paul Bamba, 33, known for his cancelled bout with Fury last year and recent loss to Avila.
The stakes are high for Taylor, who is coming off a win over TikTok sensation Salt Papi, but he insists 5-3 Bamba is no match for him.
He said: “I stop him. He doesn’t have anything that poses a threat to me in the ring.
“It’s not like he’s going to show me something I haven’t seen before.”