From world champions to top contenders, the one constant motivation in training or inside the ring is to give their all for their sons and daughters.
Fatherhood imbues fighting spirit within many boxers. In honor of Father’s Day, Premier Boxing Champions examines how some boxers balance patriarchal parenting and punishing pugilism.
On top of being a full-time fighter 147-pound champion, Errol Spence is a full-time father with two young daughters. Spence defended his welterweight world title win a first-round KO of mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo last night at Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas.
Even while going through the rigors of training camp in advance of his title-winning 11th-round knockout of Kell Brook in May 2017, “The Truth” Spence kept his family close by, whether feeding bottles to his then-infant daughter Violet or doing push-ups in his living room with then-18-month-old Ivy sitting on his back.
“They’re who I do it for. They eat whatever they want, they have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs,” said Spence. “It’s a constant reminder. If I’m sore, or I don’t want to go work out or don’t want to go run, just looking at them and seeing how comfortable they are, it makes me grind harder.”
Since the fight was only a few miles away from his home in DeSoto, Texas, Spence got a change to spend fight week at home.
Super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, who trains in Dallas with Spence and trainer Derrick James, is a single father of a son. His twin brother, Jermall, is married with four sons.
“My son (Elijah) was born during the weigh-ins (for Vito Gasparyan fight in 2009), ‘’ Jermell Charlo said. “So I had to make weight, and then go and be with my son after the weigh-ins.’’
“My father cut the umbilical cord for my son because I wasn’t actually there. So he was born, then, I went and won the fight. That was a situation where there could have been a lot of adversity.”
Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder dreamed of playing either basketball or football for the University of Alabama. But those plans were dashed when he became a father at the age of 19. To compound matters his daughter, Naieya, who was born with spina bifida, a congenital spine defect.
“The Bronze Bomber” began boxing as a last resort to pay medical expenses of Naieya.
Naieya, now 13, is among Wilder’s four girls and two boys, the youngest being three months old. Among his many tattoos are the names of his children.
Deontay Jr., 3, wants to be a fighter like his Daddy, whose assortment of tattoos includes the names of his offspring.
“I definitely wouldn’t be in boxing if it wasn’t for Naieya, who bravely endured several surgeries when she was young, motiving me. I have a tattoo on my right arm of she and I walking the road to success, hand-in-hand,” said Wilder.
“Being the right type of loving, caring and protective father is of utmost importance. Father’s Day is every day for me. They understand that everything I do -- particularly knocking people out -- is for my children.”
Four-division champion Mikey Garcia wears many instructing hats with his three children. For three-year old Django he is a boxing coach. For Reyu, 7, he is a gun-shooting and driving instructor and a father-daughter dance date for 11-year-old Annjie, who is into ballet.
“Boxing’s a normal part of the Garcia lifestyle. I appreciate seeing my children throughout camp,” said Garcia.
His father, Eduardo, trained his brother, Robert, and is co-training him and a grandson, Robert Jr.
“One day, they’ll surprise me a the gym, watching me spar. The little one shows interests in boxing, and he’ll actually come to the gym and put on his own wraps, gloves and wear a mouthpiece,’’ Mikey said. “I’ll see them in the stands or at ringside waving to me before the fight. That’s motivational and makes me feel good, but right before and throughout the fight, I’m focused on my opponent in the ring.”
Garcia will meet Robert Easter in a lightweight unification fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 28.
As a little boy, Easter watched footage of Robert Sr.’s fights, often wearing his father’s over-sized boxing trunks and mimicking his moves with bathroom tissue on his fists and Vaseline on his face.
“I would go to the gym with my father and run around. That’s when I was like 4 or 5 years old,” said Robert Jr., whose father retired in 1999 with a record of 9-3-2 (six KO) after campaigning at weights between 159-and-171 pounds.
It was June 6, 2016, Robert Easter Sr.’s 48th birthday, when he learned that Robert Jr. was getting his first shot at a 135-pound title. Robert Sr. received another “blessing from God” the day he turned 49: the birth of grandson Robert Easter III.
It was April 2014, and Omar Figueroa Jr. had just completed his first of two defenses of the 135-pound championship he had earned with the help of trainer Joel Diaz. But as Diaz helped lead “El Panterita” to the pinnacle of his profession, there was a pain in the pit of Figueroa’s stomach that the then-24-year-old fighter could no longer endure.
Training with Diaz meant Figueroa, a native of Weslaco, Texas, would have to spend long stretches of time in Indio, California. Being away from Weslaco also meant being away from his then-newborn daughter, Sofia. So as Sofia neared her first birthday, Figueroa chose his baby girl over Diaz, handing over training duties to his father, Omar Sr.
“I have three kids, now, with a daughter, 5, a boy, 3, and a 1-year-old daughter. I try not to have them involved in my pre-fight rituals because they’re my soft side,” said Figueroa.
“My oldest has been at ringside for every fight since she’s been born. She understands the general concept of what I do but not necessarily the health risk. The other two are too young to really grasp it, so I make sure to spend precious moments with them before I leave to train in California. After that, I can flip the switch and become that pit-bull from the first bell until the last. But after being gone for two, three months, all they wanna do is hang with their Daddy.”
“ It’s a constant reminder. If I’m sore, or I don’t want to go work out or don’t want to go run, just looking at them and seeing how comfortable they are, it makes me grind harder. ” Welterweight World Champ Errol Spence Jr., on fighting for his young daughters
Following the death of his mother, Christina Breazeale, on New Years Eve 2016, heavyweight title challenger Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs), learned that his father, Harold Lee Breazeale, was an amateur boxer. The elder Breazeale was incarcerated for much of Dominic’s childhood, and died eight years ago.
“He was never a part of my life because he was in and out of prison,” said Breazeale. “To come across boxing memorabilia of my biological father was huge, because people are always saying that heavyweight champions are born, not created. So here I am, born to do this and carry the torch.”
Breazeale and his wife, Christina, are raising three sons of their own, DeAngelo, 9, Devin, 6, and Dominic, 5.
“DeAngelo is my charismatic star and loves sports. Devin’s very athletic and motivated and he’s the fastest of the three. But it’s my youngest who wants to box. He’s the aggressive one who is not taking anything from anybody, always ready to fight at the drop of a dime,” said Breazeale.
Luis “God’s Way” Collazo has endured a tumultuous career. But the 37-year-old former 147-pound world champion has always overcome obstacles. His 16-year-old daughter, Kayla, being a major inspiration in a journey illustrated in the Brooklyn, New York native’s assortment of tattoos.
“I have one on my chest that asks The Lord to treat my daughter right,” said Collazo. “I also have my daughter’s name, Kayla, on my right side on my ribs. She is playing school softball and she’s a 90-average student. I’m truly a proud Dad. I’m grateful. Now, I’m serving The Lord, so you never know what God has planned for you.”
Tony “Superbad” Harrison, a 154-pound title challenger, is motivated by his 2-year-old son, Tony Jr.
“My son is my walk partner, coming with me everywhere. He’s like my shadow – putting on the biggest gloves available in the gym. When I’m hitting the bag, he’s doing it right next to me, moving his head like his Daddy,” said Harrison.
“I’d allow him to box, although that’s probably the last sport that I would choose to put him in. But whatever he chooses to do, I wanna sit back and watch him develop. My goal is to become a world champion, but I want to be a champion father, first.”