No two father-son relationships are the same. That holds especially true in boxing, where the relationship often includes a trainer-fighter bond, as well.
For Father’s Day, we take a look at some special father-son combinations that have experienced both the highs and lows, but also created memories that will last a lifetime.
Shawn and Kenny Porter
Shawn and Kenny Porter have found a perfect balance in terms of the father-son relationship in boxing, which traditionally has a low long-term success rate. Their synergy exists despite polar-opposite personalities. Kenny is aggressive and boisterous, while Shawn is laid back and restrained.
“I respect my dad,” Shawn said. “I don't call people out or say crazy stuff at press conferences. He doesn't push me to be someone I don't want to be.
“Trust between father and son is the most crucial component in sports, business and family. It’s something that should be solidified from the beginning. Trusting my dad has always come easy because of the results.”
Kenny's tough-love approach that started when Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs) was 4 years old led to a successful amateur career, a 147-pound world championship and now has him on the verge of another title shot.
Kenny was raised in a tough Cleveland neighborhood, and became a lifelong caretaker at an early age after losing his younger brother, James, in a hit-and-run car accident.
“I was always looking for and making somebody my brother throughout my life," says Kenny Porter, who became a father at age 18. “But as I got older, Shawn became that brother to me. Shawn and I have an unbreakable bond of trust, love and respect.”
David and Jose Benavidez
A 13-year-old David Benavidez stood 5-foot-4 and weighed 250 pounds. People told Jose Benavidez he was nuts believing his son could box, let alone become one of the sport's fastest-rising stars at 168 pounds.
“People asked my dad, ‘Why are you training him, he’s never going to be nothing. He’s fat,'" David said. "I had skills but didn’t think I’d ever lose weight. Dad encouraged me with a strict diet. He showed me anything's possible."
Now 20 years old, David Benavidez (18-0, 17 KOs) is on pace to possibly become the youngest 168-pound world champion in boxing history.
"When David became dedicated and lost weight, I started putting him in with good pros, but sometimes fathers want it more than the sons,” Jose said. “You've got to know your kid, your fighter and his abilities. Get into their head, try explaining things in different ways, involve him in the decision. Strong relationships are based on love and communication.”
Robert Easter Jr. and Sr.
It was June 6, 2016, his 48th birthday, when Robert Easter Sr. learned his son Robert Jr. was getting his first shot at a 135-pound title. He received another “blessing from God” the day he turned 49: the birth of grandson Robert Easter III.
“A year later, Robert's a world champion and his first child's born on my birthday," Easter Sr. said. "He looks like Robert when he was a baby and had his hands balled up.”
On the same day that “3Bunny” was born, Robert Easter Jr. (19-0, 14 KOs) was sparring 12 rounds in advance of his upcoming title defense June 30 in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, against Denis Shafikov.
“Little man’s been keeping me up, but it’s all good," Easter Jr. said. "Right after we had him, I still went to the boxing gym to work on my craft to train for this fight.”
After all, it's up to a father to set a good example for his son.
"I don’t think Robert wants his son feeling he has to follow his path," Robert Sr. said. "But he'll teach him to be respectful like I did him.”
Danny and Angel Garcia
No one is more adept at lighting the fuse in former two-division champion Danny Garcia than Angel Garcia.
His boasting leading up to Danny’s 140-pound world title fights with Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse proved it.
"I was making a name for myself, and those fights were make-or-break," Danny said. "He knows how to raise the bar, fire me up and push me to the limit.”
Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) made his father look prophetic, stopping Khan in the fourth round in July 2012, then flooring Matthysse in the 11th round of a unanimous decision victory in September 2013.
“When the stakes are high, my father knows me best," Danny said. "We have a friendship, but he knows how to separate between father and son to trainer and fighter.
“There will never be anyone better for me as a trainer than my dad. That’s just how it is, and how it’s always going to be.”
Mikey and Eduardo Garcia
Boxing is a family legacy for Eduardo Garcia, who co-trains his son, Mikey, along with elder son, Robert Sr., and his grandson, Robert Jr.
“I am proud of everything my kids have accomplished, but it wasn't easy,” Eduardo said. “Raising six kids in a one-bedroom mobile home and working the strawberry fields over 20 years was hard, but it has paid off.”
Eduardo, 72, was an amateur champion who later trained world champions Fernando Vargas and son Robert Garcia Sr. Now, he co-trains his son Mikey, a 135-pound world champion with Robert Sr. and his grandson, Robert Jr.
What Eduardo has passed down are uncompromising principles.
“My father's very strict,” Robert Sr. said. “It's made us very close and my father better, not only in the training aspect but also in the business.”
Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs) is the one currently carrying the family’s name in the ring, and has done it with astounding results.
"My Dad’s always wanted a three-division champion,” Mikey said. “I've given that to him.”
Robert and Ruben Guerrero
Robert and Ruben Guerrero have experienced plenty of highs and lows together in the fight game.
Ruben guided Robert through a 7½-year, 15-fight unbeaten streak, helping his son earn world titles at 126 and 130 pounds, and interim titles at 135 and 147 pounds.
He also supported Robert in February 2010, when he withdrew from a fight with Michael Katsidis to support his wife, Casey, during her recovery from a bone marrow transplant. And he was there when Robert had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in August 2011.
“My dad's been there through thick and thin,” Robert said. “It’s God, family and everything after that. I'm grateful for all he's done."
Robert Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 KOs) now enters a 147-pound clash against fellow former world champion Omar Figueroa Jr. on July 15 at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, out to prove that he still has plenty of gas in his tank in the latter stages of a decorated career.
"Figueroa's the favorite, but [Robert] is gonna prove to the world he's not done," Ruben said. "When my son can't do it anymore, I'll tell him to retire.”
Said Robert: "We've kept a strong relationship. I wouldn't want it any other way but having my Pops in my corner during the final run of my career.”
The Gary Russell family
It’s already been a pretty fulfilling year for Gary Russell Sr.
Five days after celebrating his 31st wedding anniversary last month, he spent his 58th birthday in the corner guiding three of his nine sons to knockout victories just 20 minutes from their hometown of Capitol Heights, Maryland.
Russell has helped raise a 126-pound world champion in Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs), two Olympians, four Golden Gloves champions and seven sons who are also named Gary.
“I’m just glad that they’re all alive—I lost one son at the age of 17,” he said. “I’m glad they won, but I expected them to win. There’s no guidebook. Parenting can be hit or miss.”
In the ring, the family hasn’t had many misses over the years.
On May 20, three Russell brothers thrilled a sell-out crowd at MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Gary Jr. defended his crown for the second time with a seventh-round TKO of Oscar Escandon, while younger siblings Gary Antuanne Russell, a 2016 U.S. Olympian who was making his pro debut at 140 pounds, and 122-pound prospect Gary Antonio Russell (8-0, 6 KOs) registered first- and third-round knockouts, respectively, all with brother Gary Allan Russell in their corner as an assistant trainer.
“On my parents’ anniversary, we were in the gym working," Gary Jr. said. "I’ve watched him put his entire life on hold for me, my brothers and my family. He’s my favorite superhero.”
Leo and Jose Santa Cruz
This Father’s Day is extra special for 126-pound world champion Leo Santa Cruz simply because he can celebrate the day with his dad.
Being together wasn’t guaranteed this time last year, as Jose Santa Cruz was diagnosed with stage III multiple myeloma and renal failure in April 2016. A disc had collapsed in Jose’s back, requiring spinal surgery. Even after a successful procedure in May, Jose’s life was still in jeopardy and he faced intense rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
Meanwhile in the ring, Leo was preparing for the biggest fight of his life—a showdown with unbeaten world champion Carl Frampton—without the only trainer he’d ever known.
“My father was always on my mind,” Leo said. “I don’t want to admit it, but there were times I was more focused on his health than my fight. I think not having him in the gym everyday pushing me definitely affected me and my training.”
Despite Jose being in his corner on fight night in Brooklyn, Santa Cruz suffered the first loss of his career via majority decision.
While obviously disappointed by the judge’s decision, Santa Cruz took much comfort in the fact that his dad was responding positively to his treatments.
A few months later, Leo received more good news when a rematch with Frampton was scheduled for earlier this year.
This time—with Jose training him every day, despite being weak from his continuing cancer treatments—Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KO) regained his world title in a majority decision in Las Vegas on January 28.
“I feel truly blessed to have him here today, because there was a real chance that he would not make it,” Leo said of his father, who is now in remission. “Having the chance to spend this Father’s Day, and really every day with him, is the best victory of my life.”