This article is dedicated to all the real fathers out there. If you’re a real one, Happy Father’s Day to you.
(June 18, 2017) - Whenever we cover sports stories we often find a story within a story. Such was the case when we attended the final press conference leading up to the May 20, 2017 bout featuring Maryland’s Gary Russell, Jr. v Oscar Escandon at the MGM National Harbor. Russell saw himself defeating his opponent (he did). We saw something else: the special relationship between a father, and his sons. Gary Sr. has four sons, all named Gary Russell (think George Foreman). This article was inspired by the interview (exactly one month ago today) I had with Gary Russell Sr. and his son Gary Antuanne Russell (who made is boxing debut at the May, 20 event) in which the father dispels myths perpetrated about the African American father, and a son who honors the man he calls his “best friend.”
|Left to right: Gary Antuanne Russell, father and trainer Gary Russell, Sr., Gary Russell, Jr., and Gary Antonio Russell. |
Photo CD Brown/DC UrbanSports
Let me start by saying that I (yes, I’m talking in first-person – because it matters here) was encouraged (and impressed) by a father having not just one professional athlete in the family, but three. Gary Russell, Sr. has trained (and groomed) all his sons (he has six total) to be winners, not just in the field of boxing, but in life.
I wanted to know what is in the Russell family ‘formula’ that has made each son a success, each in his own individual right. So, I asked.
DCUS: You’ve groomed three of your sons to be boxers. What’s that like when a lot of times fathers, Black fathers in particular, are seen negatively, whether the narrative is that they're not raising their kids, not doing what they’re supposed to do, not taking care of their kids or their family. You’re countering that [stereotype] on so many levels.
Gary Russell, Sr. (GRSR) – “Main-line media, they like to endorse the negative of Afro Americans, or melanated people. I’m 100% here to teach my kids - not just boxing - but who they are historically. They are kings. That’s where they come from and they live up to that. So, I’m proud of that.
DCUS: (to Gary Antuanne Russell / GAR) – You want to say anything about your dad?
GAR - “Best friend I ever had. He’s very special. He teaches us life rules and that’s something money can’t give you. He’s the best I can ask for.”
GAR - “No, it’s true. What you see in me and my brothers is what you get. We are the canvas and he is the painter.”
At the time of our interview (May 18th) Gary, Sr. was about to celebrate his 58th birthday. The family was not going to accept a loss, at any cost. Gary, Jr. is 28-1, 16 KOs. His brother Gary Antonio Russell has a record of 8-0.
DCUS: So, when you win this weekend that’s going to be a nice, early Father’s Day gift, right?
GRSR: And, it will be a nice birthday gift.
During the presser Gary, Sr. was presented with a birthday cake in the form of a boxing ring.
When it came to the birthday gift for his father, Gary Antuanne said, “We try to give him something that will be unforgettable and has a lifetime value, and I believe that is three knock-outs – from each son.”
When team Russell isn’t focusing on boxing the family is working their real estate businesses, information I found out when I asked what they’d be doing if they weren’t boxers. The Russell real estate business is being done for a greater purpose than you might imagine.
DCUS: What would you be doing if you weren’t boxing?
GAR – “I’d be selling houses. Flippin' houses."
DCUS – Tell me about that.
GAR - “We have a family business. We renovate houses. We have a couple houses in our name and we tend to rent all of them out. I’ve been taught that our flaws as a whole, as a people – two flaws, mainly two flaws, is that we don’t have unity and we always start our off-springs or children from zero. We don’t ever give them nothing to pass on and by that happening so frequently the whole entire generation gets the blunt end of it when you got them starting out at zero so you got them working for other people doing stuff they have no business doing because they have nothing that was passed down to them.”
Pop Russell piggybacked on what his son said.
DCUS – Pop, did you want to say anything else?
GRSR – “He kind of spoke on it. Boxing is what they do; it doesn’t define who they are.”
DCUS – Who are they?
GRSR – “Who are they? They’re kings. They’re gods. They’re their ancestor's offsprings. In their DNA, in their lineage they have queens…
GAR - “Kings, architects, scientists, mathematicians. We come from an extraordinary background.”
Kudos to the Russell fam for carrying on a family business legacy (FBL). We did some research and found several family-owned businesses that are definitely being passed down generationally. Check out these African American family owned businesses leaving their own legacies: click here and here.
Gary Russell, Sr. joins a multitude of African American fathers doing right by their families. Love them, or not, the most celebrated African American fathers in recent history are (and have been) dads to top athletes like Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Keep watch for boxer DeMarcus ’Chop-Chop’ Corley who frequently post pics and videos of his kids on his Facebook page. Who knows what we'll see in the future from his kids.
Before I end, I’d also like to wish Gary Russell, Jr. a Happy Father’s Day – early. At the time of our interview, Gary shared with DC UrbanSports that he and his wife are eight months pregnant. Here's a Happy Father’s Day to Gary Russell, Jr., your dad, and to all real fathers of the DMV.
We color you father.
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