Following in his older brothers’ footsteps, there’s another Gary Russell ready to step into the spotlight.
The Russells are among six brothers named after their father, Gary Russell Sr., four of whom went on to win the National Golden Gloves.
Besides Gary Jr. and Antuanne, who, like most of his brothers, goes by his middle name, Gary Sr. and wife Lawan are also the parents of 25-year-old Gary Allan III, 23-year-old Gary Antonio, 21-year-old Gary Darreke and 15-year-old Gary Isaiah.
While Gary Jr., 28, reigns supreme atop the 126-pound division, Gary Antonio (7-0, 5 KOs) is a rising 118-pound pro prospect, and Gary Allan III won the 2010 Golden Gloves title and now works in Gary Jr.’s corner. There is also 38-year-old half brother Gary Antonio Jones, who went 22-2 with eight KOs as a professional from 1996 to 2011.
But the stage now belongs to Gary Antuanne, who will make his Olympic debut Wednesday against Haiti’s Richardson Hitchins in a 141-pound preliminary bout. The 18-year-old Hitchins, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is representing Haiti, the birthplace of his parents, after failing to qualify for the U.S. team.
“Antuanne has a chance to do something truly special in these Olympic Games, but I don't want him to magnify the event beyond the opponent in front of him," Gary Jr. said.
“He should go out and perform like a Russell, meaning whatever the challenge, he’s 100 percent confident in his game. Antuanne has to know and believe that he has the mental capacity to make the necessary adjustments for anything that comes along.”
Gary Antuanne, who was valedictorian of his high school class, is the second Russell to reach the Olympics. Gary Jr. qualified for the 2008 Beijing Games but was unable to compete after his collapsed trying to make the 119-pound weight limit before his opening bout.
“Antuanne can learn from the mistakes that his brother made now that he’s in Rio,” Gary Sr. said. “I’ve already seen that he’s become the beneficiary of the things his siblings have done in boxing.”
To help his brother prepare for Rio, Gary Jr. spent two weeks working with Antuanne at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“First and foremost, I love my little brothers, regardless of boxing or anything else, and I want them to have their own identities and enjoy their careers,” said Gary Jr., who has his brothers’ names tattooed on his left arm.
“The bar's definitely set high based on what I’ve accomplished, but on the flip side, they have the same abilities if not more than I have. I’m my brothers’ keeper, and we believe in the dynasty and passing information down from generation to generation.”
Gary Antuanne, a southpaw like most of his brothers, joined Gary Jr., Gary Allan III and Gary Antonio in 2014 as Golden Gloves champions, an unprecedented accomplishment for one family.
“With Antuanne being the youngest of [the boxing Russells], I feel he has the ability to achieve much more than we all have,” Gary Jr. said. “Antuanne has the opportunity to look at all of the mistakes that I've made, take the meat and leave the bone.”
With his brother now a long ways from their hometown of Capitol Heights, Maryland, Gary Jr. can only watch as another Russell pursues his Olympic dream.
“There’s a part of me that wants to be there, constantly drilling things into his head,” Gary Jr. said, “but I realize I have to sit back and let him become a man and deal with this situation on his own.”