Fighters from the PBC family explain why their mothers are the true warriors—and the inspiration for everything they do.
When Jarrett Hurd quit his job and dropped out of college to begin his professional career, his mother, Brenda, and father, Fred, allowed him to remain in their home in Accokeek, Maryland, while supporting him financially.
“My mother gave me until age 25 to determine if the sport was going to take me anywhere, and when I was 26, I won the world title and accomplished my goal basically in that time frame,” said Hurd, 28, referring to a ninth-round TKO of current world 154-pound champion Tony Harrison for the IBF version in February 2017.
“My mother didn’t initially like my choosing boxing, but once she saw I was good at it, she accepted it and doesn’t miss a fight. My mother raised me to be a leader. Now, I’m at the top of my division."
Deontay Wilder was a young boy in his native Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when he received an inspirational banner from his mother, Debra.
“I remember my mother giving me a poster when I was around six or eight-years-old of a bear wearing a red bandanna and crossing the finish line after winning a race,” said the 33-year- old Wilder.
“Across the top of the poster it read, ‘You never know what you can do until you try.’ It motivated me and I keep that within my mind, still today.”
Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) will make the ninth defense of his WBC world heavyweight title against Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs) on May 18 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, live on SHOWTIME (9:00p.m. ET/6:00p.m. PT).
Wilder’s achievements were prophesied by his church-going grandmother and minister, Evelyn Loggins, who called him “anointed” and “ordained” before passing in 2010 at age 76. Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who once guided Wladimir Klitschko, named Wilder as Klitschko’s successor.
Not long after his daughter, Naieya, was born on March 20, 2005 with the congenital disorder spina bifida and told she might never walk, Wilder promised her he’d one day become a world champion.
But Wilder was initially incentivized by Debra Wilder.
“Every day is Mother’s Day for her,” said Wilder. "I’m a leader, trend-setter and not a trend-follower. I owe that to my mother."
Lawan Russell experienced “a precious” night on May 20, 2017, at the MGM Grand National Harbor in Oxon Hill Maryland, where three of her six sons from nearby Capitol Heights knocked out their opponents on the 58th birthday of their father and trainer, Gary Sr.
The eldest sibling, Gary Russell Jr., 30, who, like his brothers, is a southpaw who shares his Dad’s first name, defended his WBC 126-pound world championship by seventh-round stoppage of former title-holder Oscar Escandon. Gary Antuanne “the last” and Gary Antonio “Another” similarly won their respective 140- and 118-pound bouts.
“It was really a special night for me to watch as my boys fought on Gary Sr.’s birthday,” said Lawan, a grandmother of 23. “That was a most precious moment not just for me, but for them to do what they did for their Dad.”
The scenario was repeated last May at the MGM a day prior to Gary Sr.’s 59th birthday as Antonio, 26, and Antuanne, 22, once again earned stoppages and “Mr. Russell” won a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Joseph Diaz Jr.
Lawan will again be ringside May 18 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, when Gary Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) faces Spain’s Kiko Martinez (39-8-2, 28 KOs) in the co-feature to Wilder-Breazeale, and Antonio (13-0, 11 KOs) and Antuanne (8-0, 8 KOs) also on the card.
The brothers’ natural aggression “came from my Mom, who was always in the background supporting and pushing us," said Gary Jr. "You don’t want to get caught in the wilderness with a grizzly bear and her cubs. She’s going to do everything in her power to defend and protect them. None of this would be possible if not for her.”
As a 16-year-old in the summer of his high school junior year, Tony Harrison awakened to a standoff in his living room. His family was dug in to prevent being evicted, and the police were outside of their home on Detroit’s west side.
“My dad was at the door with a shotgun in his hand,” said Harrison. “My mom had a rifle in her hand. They were willing to die for that house.”
The event ended without violence, but Harrison gained a newfound respect for his family, and, in particular, his mother, Aisha, who steered him into boxing to quell his suspensions from school for fighting.
“My mother’s the strongest and toughest woman that I know,” said Harrison, who is the second youngest of eight children and trained by his father, Ali Salaam. “You’ll never see her fold or break or bend.”
Neither has Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs), who will defend his WBC 154-pound world title against Jermell Charlo (31-1, 15 KOs) on June 23 at The Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas on FOX (8:00p.m. ET/5:00p.m. PT)
Harrison dethroned Charlo by unanimous decision in their last fight in December. Harrison had previously suffered losses to Jarrett Hurd and Willie Nelson.
“My mother was a big motivation in my comebacks,” said Harrison. “As a kid, if you fell and cried, she told you to get up, wipe your face and get back in there. I definitely get my fire, fight and anger that’s within me all from my mother.”
As undefeated 140-pound contender Mario Barrios pursues a world title, the 23-year-old does so with the consent of his mother, Isabel.
“My Mom comes from a rough upbringing and actually started and encouraged me and my sister in boxing. She’s at all my fights. If I’m getting a little homesick, she’ll be available for a quick chat and giving me that motherly advice,” said Barrios, of San Antonio, Texas.
“A lot of my intensity came about from her mentality. She understands the boxing game is a dog eat dog world and always gives me the right advice whether it’s the mentality of fighting or making the right decisions outside the ring.”
“She’s been my rock my whole life,” she definitely made me the man I am today.”
A teenage Chordale Booker was once “a complete monster” his mother, Sheryl Morrison, felt she no longer knew after he was arrested for selling drugs on high school property.
But a decade later, the 28-year-old Booker is a rising 154-pound southpaw boxer, a part-time model and full-time mentor and trainer of youth within the same Stamford, Connecticut neighborhood where he trafficked illegal substances.
“Chordale has become an inspiration to me,” said Morrison. “It’s like our positions have been reversed.”
Nicknamed, “The Gift,” Booker (14-0, 7 KOs) meets perhaps his most difficult foe in Nigeria’s Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KOs) on May 25 at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, live on FS1 (8:00p.m. ET/5:00p.m. PT).
“I’ve been given a second chance at life. That’s why my nickname is ‘The Gift,’” said Booker, who was arrested in July 2009 and eventually bailed out by his mother.
“My Mom was a gift to me because I didn’t have the funds to have good lawyer, and she put all of her money into keeping me out of jail. That was an investment into me, so doing what I am able to do right now is a payback for her.”