Unbeaten super middleweight David Morrell Jr. is proof that the future is now. The well-schooled, heavy-handed Morrell is closing in on a world title just two fights into his professional career.
The Street Fighter
Osvary David Morrell Gutierrez Jr. learned to fight in the streets of Santa Clara, Cuba, where he and other youth battled one another in makeshift boxing rings they crafted.
“I had to prove myself doing that up until the time I was about eight years old,” said Morrell, who was born into poverty before he began to use pugilism as an escape. “If you couldn’t fight in the streets, you couldn’t go into any boxing gym. I was able to do that starting at the age of 9.
A 6-foot-1 southpaw, Morrell cemented himself as an international star with an exemplary 135-2 amateur record. His lone setbacks were to countryman Julio Cesar la Cruz, who won an Olympic gold medal, and Canada’s Harley-David O’Reilly, a loss which was later avenged.
Morrell earned Cuban National School Games titles in 2012 and 2014 at 112 and 154 pounds in the under-14 and under-16 categories. He was third and first in the Cuban National Youth Championships in 2015 and 2016 at 165 and 178 pounds as well as a 178-pound Gold Medalist in the 2016 World Youth Under-19 Youth Championships.
Morrell was a 178-pound runner-up at the Cuban National Championships in 2016, a champion in the same weight in that event in 2017, and a Gold Medalist at 178 pounds in the 2018 India Open International Tournament.
Morrell recalled the most painful day of his life: It was three years ago at 5 a.m. that he kissed his mother, Betty, goodbye prior to boarding a boat from Santa Clara, Cuba, for his defection to America.
“The worst thing for me was leaving my family, my mom, she was everything and did everything for me. I was very babied by her. Once I left her, I had to grow up real fast. It was not easy leaving her and my family. I never even got a chance to say goodbye to my little brother, Rafael,” said Morrell, who was wearing only a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers and a light windbreaker.
A New Home, The Same Results
Morrell began working with the father-son tandem of Sankara and Adonis Frazier, who have trained Minneapolis-based welterweight contender Jamal James. But his ambition hasn’t changed: Family remains the priority. Morrell’s goal is to make enough money boxing so he can legally be reunited with them in the U.S.
“I am very fortunate here in Minnesota, because I have people here who take care of me and I have a sense of family. That I was able to travel internationally opened my eyes to what life was like outside of Cuba,” said Morrell.
Morrell weighed 171 ¼ pounds for his pro debut on August 31, 2019 at the Minneapolis Armory -- a 65-second TKO of Yendris Rodriguez Valdez.
The 22-year-old followed that up in November on FS1, knocking out an opponent in southpaw Quinton Rankin who entered the fight with a 15-6-2 record and had most recently gone the eight-round distance with left-handed former champion Chad Dawson five months before facing Morrell.
“I would describe my style as a mixture of my four favorite fighters,” said Morrell, who was nicknamed, “O.D.” by a trainer perhaps for the initials of the first two of his names. “I’m talking about Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.”
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