The boxing world has lost one of its father-trainers, Gary Russell Sr., the patriarch of the fighting Russell family. The DMV-based boxing stalwart died on Monday, May 23, at 63.
Uniquely, the elder Russell named all of his sons after himself in the fashion of George Foreman. However, unlike Foreman, most of them went into professional boxing, with one becoming a world champion.
In 2015, “Mr.” Gary Russell Jr. became the WBC featherweight world champion. He held the title for five years, defeating former world champions like Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz under his father’s direction.
“Yesterday, we lost a soldier, husband, trainer, friend, mentor, and most of all a father. Gary Russell Sr. is one of the best to ever do boxing,” the Russell family said in a statement.
Additionally, he steered his younger sons, super bantamweight Gary Antonio Russell and super lightweight Gary Antuanne Russell, into their undefeated careers close to world championship contention.
“Any man can make a baby — any animal, a dog or a wolf — can make babies. But it doesn’t make them a parent,” Gary Antuanne Russell told Ring Magazine.
“My father has always been a parent, and my father not only groomed us to be well-rounded, but he’s given us this fantasy of order how things should be, and it’s become our reality. It started through his actions.”
— Melissa St-vil (@Melissastvil8) May 24, 2022
Russell Sr. helped keep the Washington, D.C., area on the map from Capital Heights, Maryland, in the Washington suburbs. Along with trainer Barry Hunter of the Headbangers gym in southeast Washington, trainer of former champion Lamont Peterson, Russell Sr., kept the DMV region on the championship level.
Four of his sons won the Golden Gloves national championships, with Gary Antuanne Russell making it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
However, Russell Sr.’s diabetes caused him health complications, including strokes. In December, his left foot was amputated; however, his dedication to his children still pushed him to work his son’s corners.
“My father, he’s a warrior at heart. He’s a warrior at heart,” Russell Jr. said in January. “He felt like he missed enough time in the training camp, and he wants to dedicate the rest of whatever he do have to me and to the rest of this camp. You know, I’m grateful for that. It means a lot to me. And once again, we use it all as fuel.”
Russell and his sons have fought professionally under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, the trailblazing promotional brand led by boxing advisor Al Haymon.
“The PBC Family mourns the loss of the patriarch of the esteemed Russell family, Mr. Gary Russell Sr. Rest in Peace,” Premier Boxing Champions said in a statement.
The World Boxing Council, the banner under which his son Gary Russell Jr. held the featherweight belt, also paid its respects.
“The President of the World Boxing Council, Mauricio Sulaimán Saldívar, and the entire WBC Family worldwide mourn the death of Gary Russell Sr. due to complications from diabetes.
“Mr. Russell was the trainer of his son Gary, former WBC featherweight champion, as well as his other sons throughout his amateur and professional career. With his love, care, help, his sons became champions. The zenith of achievement and one of the many things he’ll forever be remembered for. A great father and a great man.
“The entire WBC family mourns this irreparable loss, and we send our deepest condolences to the Russell family. Rest in peace.”