PBC fighters may be stars inside the ring, but they all agree that when it comes to declaring who the true champions are—it's the women who raised them.
World champion Adonis Stevenson’s message to Badou Jack: Momma said knock you out.
“My mother loves knockouts,” said Stevenson, who, at age 40, is boxing’s oldest reigning champion. “And on May 19, my late Mother’s Day gift will be another win by knockout against Badou Jack.”
Stevenson will be looking for his fourth-straight KO next Saturday night when he defends his WBC 175-pound title against Jack on a Showtime-televised card (10 p.m. ET/10 PT) at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Like many mother-son relationships in boxing, Stevenson’s bond with his mother, Claudette, had to endure her protective instincts. But the Haitian-born southpaw has made it less stressful since a second-round stoppage loss to Darnell Boone in April 2010. Since then he has gone 16-0 with 14 knockouts.
“When I first got into boxing, she had a problem with her son getting punched in the head and didn’t always want to attend my fights,” Stevenson said.
“But now that I’m winning all the time, that’s made it much easier for her to accept so she comes to the majority of my fights. Plus, she doesn’t have to work any more because I provide for her and give her money to buy anything she wants.”
Badou Jack, who was born in Sweden, shares a similar experience. “The Ripper” is 6-0-1 since being stopped in 61 seconds by Derek Edwards in 2014. Jack, 34, relinquished his 168-pound world championship to challenge Nathan Cleverly for a 175-pound title that he won by fifth-round knockout in August. He relinquished that belt to fight Stevenson for his title.
“My Mom is from Sweden, and she’s mentally very tough,” said Jack, whose father is from Gambia. “She watches all of my fights from home, and she is one of my biggest supporters. She means everything to me, and my cerebral strength definitely comes from her.”
Three-division champion Abner Mares has encountered many tough battles in the ring throughout his career. But nothing he’s faced matches what his mother, Belen Martinez, overcame 25 years ago during her tumultuous trek with her children — including a 7-year-old Mares — from their native Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to Los Angeles.
“She didn’t have an easy life in Mexico. She immigrated with seven of us to the United States,” said Mares, who challenges fellow 126-pound title Leo Santa Cruz in a rematch of their thrilling 2015 title fight on June 9 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I still remember taking the three-day bus ride from Guadalajara to Tijuana, and then getting there, and my mom not having a single cent. She worked three jobs to support us. She did so much for my brothers, my sisters and myself. I tell everybody that I get my strength, my character — all of that — from my mom. She’s my superhero.”
WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz praised his mother’s similar plight from Mexico, as she helped moved the family along with Santa Cruz’s, father, Jose, from Huetamo, Michoacán de Ocampo to Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
While Elodia was busy taking care of four sons and a daughter at home, Jose, was working whatever jobs he could to provide food and shelter. But growing up in a tough area in Compton that provided few opportunities, and plenty of crime—Jose knew he had to do something different. He got all four of his sons involved in boxing with Jose Armando transforming into a world title contender prior to Leo’s meteoric-rise to becoming a three-division champion.
Leo might be the most famous member of the family, but make no mistake about who is the real star of the Santa Cruz clan is.
“My mother is the true champion. She’s always been there for us whenever we needed anything,” said Leo, of Elodia—who over the last year has had to become an even bigger caregiver, aiding Jose as his battle with cancer has intensified.
“While I can never truly pay her back for everything she’s done for all of us over the year, I try to show her how appreciative I am every chance I get.”
WBC 126-pound champion Gary Rusell Jr., 29, is among six brothers from Capital Heights, Maryland, all of whom are named after father and trainer Gary Sr. There’s Gary Allan III, 27, Gary Antonio, 25, Gary Antuanne, 21, Gary Darreke, 23, and Gary Isaiah, 18.
“We were six boys, all naturally aggressive, and a lot of that came from my Mom,” said Gary Russsell Jr., whose mother, Lawan, created the boys’ uniforms early on. “We all loved to fight, and my father figured a way to channel it into something productive. But my Mom was always in the background, always supporting us, always pushing us.”
Gary, Jr. will defend his featherweight title against Joseph Diaz at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland next Saturday, May 19. Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne will also appear on the undercard and it’s the day before their father’s 59th birthday.
A former boxer whose career was cut short by a hunting accident, and who began training his sons in the family’s basement, Gary Sr. continues to handle his brood out of the family-owned Enigma Boxing Gym in Capitol Heights, with support from Lawan.
“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,” said Gary Jr. “It wasn’t always easy for her to see us come home with bruises and scratches, yet she persevered, standing strong, understanding the process to get us where we are today, and I appreciate her for that. None of this would be possible if not for her.”
Born a minute apart and standing a nearly identical 6-foot, Jermell and Jermall Charlo have been virtually inseparable since their mother, Terrie, gave birth to them 27 years ago. They had the distinction of being the first twins to simultaneously hold world titles in the same weight class (154 pounds).
“Probably like every other fighter’s mother, our Mom didn’t like us boxing at first. She doesn’t want to see us get hurt,” said Jermall. “But she’s definitely gotten used to seeing us go at it and she really enjoys it, being supportive and wanting to see us do our best.”
“I’ve noticed that a lot of things that I do as a father for my children are the same things that my Mom did for me,” said Jermall, who became the WBC’s interim 160-pound champion and the mandatory challenger for Gennady Golovkin’s crown by defeating Hugo Centeno on April 21.
“Being a parent is very important to us, and it’s good to see that I’m handling parenting the way that she handled me, which is continuing our family’s legacy. My Mom means more to us than any fight, any belt or anything that boxing has to offer.”
Jarrett Hurd was 15 years old when he first entered a boxing gym at the urging of his father, Fred and support of his mother, Brenda. Once he turned pro they both promised to support Hurd through the early portion of his career.
Hurd can handle the financial part of his life just fine now, considering he has leaped into the 154-pound championship ranks. He appears to be at the head of the class in the division after defeating Erislandy Lara in a title unification match last month. But his mother is still there offering support.
“It’s unreal that my mother was supportive with a great deal of faith when I told her I wanted to quit my job and drop out of college for a dream of becoming a professional boxer without having a laid out plan,” said Hurd, a native of Accokeek, Maryland.
“She allowed me to chase that dream without knowing for sure whether or not I would be successful, giving me that unconditional loving support. No one has your back like Momma has your back. Thank God I was able to achieve my goal of becoming a world champion.”
Austin Trout's mother, Minnesa, was ringside for her son’s most definitive victory in December 2012—a unanimous decision over four-division champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“She’s the one who really instilled the love of boxing in me. She was a fan of boxing and I would watch the fights with her, which is something that most boys do with their fathers. She would say, ‘Look at those muscles,’ and, ‘That’s how a man should fight,’” said Trout, 32, who made his fourth and last 154-pound title defense against Cotto.
Trout will get another shot at a world title when he takes on Jermell Charlo for the 154-pound championship at Staples Center on June 9.
“I always had it in my head that a little boy wants to be a man that their Mom admires. She taught me how to carry myself as a gentleman, how to be a man, a husband to my wife, Taylor, and a father. One of the reasons I dress like a million bucks when I go to press conferences is that I don’t want to do anything to embarrass my mother. She means the world to me. I’m a big ole ‘Momma’s Boy.’”