On this special day, the fathers of Keith Thurman, Caleb Plant, Shawn Porter and Mike Lee share what they’ve instilled in their children.
KEITH THURMAN SR.
Keith Thurman Jr.’s introduction to boxing had his father, Keith Sr., concerned for his safety. Thurman Sr. and the late trainer Ben Getty watched a 7-year-old Thurman being hammered by an athletically more mature rival.
“That was his first exhibition. He was getting rocked. I’m looking at my baby boy thinking, ‘We’ve gotta stop this contest,’” recalled Keith Sr. “But Ben Getty’s on the other side of the ring motioning for me to look at Keith's eyes. Then I saw what Ben saw: No matter how hard Keith got hit, he’d step forward. Even at that age, he had the heart of a champion.”
More than two decades later, Keith Sr.’s “baby” is an undefeated, 30-year-old WBA welterweight champion known as “One Time.” Thurman (29-0, 22 KOs) makes his ninth title defense against legendary eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-1, 39 KOs) on Saturday, July 20, on FOX PPV from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“I see Keith as a world class athlete, developing a rhythm and stopping Manny Pacquiao in the fifth round,” said Keith Sr., who will nevertheless be “nervous as always” from ringside.
“As a father I’m proud of how Keith’s handled adversity, but I still see him as that loving and caring 3-year-old who used to get soaking wet washing my car.”
A 9-year-old Caleb Plant, living in impoverished Ashland City, Tennessee, “asked God, ‘Please send me something I can use to change my life and the world.’ God answered my prayers, sent me boxing and saved my life.”
His father, Richie, a former amateur kickboxer, introduced him to the sport in a gym he struggled to fund. Since then, the Plants have found solace in boxing as father and son, co-trainer and fighter.
“It was sacrifice with very little resources. You got tired every single day,” said Richie Plant. “But just like any Dad who is involved with their kid – you’re in it with them. It’s just life.”
“Life” for the Plants has included a pair of unspeakable tragedies: The passing of Caleb’s 19-month-old daughter, Alia, in January 2015 from a rare medical condition, and that of his mother, Beth, in March at age 51.
Through it all, the Plants have transformed calamity into serenity.
In January, “Sweethands” Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) scored two knockdowns to dethrone IBF Super Middleweight Champion Jose Uzcategui by upset unanimous decision. Afterward, the 26-year-old proposed to his fiancee, Jordan Hardy.
Plant makes his inaugural defense against Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs) on July 20 in the main event of FOX PBC Fight Night on from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, which precedes Pacquiao-Thurman.
“I’ve always told [Caleb] to be a man of integrity, do what you say you’re gonna do,” said Richie Plant, an assistant to head trainer Justin Gamber.
“As soon as you roll out of bed in the morning, you know everything that you have to do that day so just go on and get it knocked out.”
“ “I’ve always told [Caleb] to be a man of integrity, do what you say you’re gonna do." ” Richie Plant - Father of IBF World Super Middleweight Champion, Caleb Plant
Kenny Porter and his 31-year-old, two-time world welterweight champion son, Shawn, move seamlessly from being buddies to trainer and fighter.
"The girl Shawn took to the prom, I actually took her mother out. On other occasions we've double-dated," said Kenny of Shawn, the current WBC titleholder with whom he runs the Porter Hy Performance boxing gym in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip, where they live.
"We’ve gone on the highest roller coasters and jumped from planes together. When Shawn got his first big check, he rode past me in a Cadillac with a Corvette engine in it, holding the check from the window. I was in my Corvette. He challenged me to a race. It's a very competitive, supportive relationship."
The younger Porter juggles training with fathering 16-month-old son, Shaddai, his relationship with fiancee, Leticia, and serving as a lead analyst on the Premier Boxing Champions’ studio show as well as one at ringside for FOX and FS1.
By contrast, Kenny Porter spent his early childhood being raised by a single-mother in a drug-infested Cleveland-area neighborhood. When Kenny was four, His three-year-old younger brother, James, was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run.
“Losing my brother and having children at a young age, Shawn and [older sibling Kenneth II] felt like little brothers to me. I started taking them to the gym with me when Shawn was four-years-old," said Kenny Porter, who became a father at the age of 18.
"I've always been proud of Shawn as the person he is and continues to be and the young man he has become. Now, he's the consummate professional. All the boxing success that he's had is just an added bonus for me."
Super middleweight contender Mike Lee “grew up differently than I did,” his father, John Lee, insisted.
“I’ve been on my own since I was 15, never had a father, my mother died at 42 years old and I was in 15 schools and 15 homes before I was 16," said John Lee, whose 31-year-old son graduated from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business with a 3.8 average but chose boxing over job offers on Wall Street.
"The only thing that I’ve really wanted to be was a great father,” said John. “Mike was raised and encouraged to be whoever he wanted to be. He was good at whatever sport he tried, was a leader on whatever team he was on, and graduated in the top of his class from the No. 1 business school in the country.”
Trained by Jamal Abdullah, Mike (21-0, 11 KOs) challenges IBF World Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) on July 20 in the main event of FOX PBC Fight Night on from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas preceding Pacquiao-Thurman.
“Mike says ‘Nothing feels better than hitting a guy so hard, you see his eyes roll,'" said John Lee. “Mike is going to win this world title, and after he does, he’ll go and chase a different dream.”