Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Gary Antonio Russell could view the boxing success of his older brothers as a burden.
Not only do they all share the same first name with their father, but both of his older brothers own national amateur titles, as well as impressive professional records.
In fact, Gary Antonio's second-oldest brother, Gary Russell Jr., owns a perfect professional record of 22-0 with 13 knockouts.
But instead of feeling like their success is a shadow from which the 20-year-old cannot escape, he chooses to bask in the warmth of their success.
“There are big shoes to fill, but I believe I can fill them,” Antonio Russell said after defeating Misael Reyes of Kansas City, Mo., to earn a shot at a Golden Gloves national title Saturday night at the Salt Palace.
In fact, the 20-year-old said he appreciates being compared to his brothers — both of whom own national Golden Gloves championships. And he believes their success pushes him to be better.
“It’s kind of cool because we compete,” he said smiling. “We’re all very competitive with everything — video games, bowling, Gary (Russell Jr.) has this thing where he likes to go to the range and we compete at the range. We just have fun competing as brothers. But it’s a good spirit.”
Russell’s father doesn’t regret naming all of his seven sons Gary. Only Gary Russell Jr. goes by Gary as Gary Sr. is simply know as “Dad” — even to friends and neighbors. The other boys all go by their middle names.
Gary Sr. said he believes it gives the boys a unique bond, and it hasn’t prevented them from carving out their own identity.
“It makes them kind of responsible to each other,” said Gary Sr. “One could always (dishonor) the other one’s name. ... I think they all formulated their own personality.”
Gary Jr. said his younger brothers don’t hesitate to take advice from him. It was Gary Sr. and one of his sons who worked Gary Antonio's corner Friday night in the semifinal win.
“It’s a fool who rejects knowledge,” Gary Antonio said.
Dad believes the boys take care of each other, and their competitive nature just pushes them all to be their best. Gary Jr. agrees.
“We’re very family-oriented,” he said. “We always talk and we believe in order. I kind of made my own niche, but they listen. A lot of people say they feel bad for my younger brothers because I set the bar really high. I need them to shoot for the sky. Then, even if they miss, they land with the stars. A lot of young kids are hard-headed, very stubborn. But they understand that anything I tell them would be for their benefit.”
Gary Jr. said he feels that responsibility to his brothers that his father hoped for when he gave them the same name.
“I told my brothers, my worst fear is for me to be a disappointment to my family, my friends and my loved ones,” he said.
Gary Sr. got his boys involved in boxing because he believed it would teach them critical life skills, while keeping them off the dangerous Washington, D.C., streets.
“It’s something I like,” he said, explaining how many years he has trained his sons and many of their friends in his basement. “It keeps them off the streets, and I like the discipline. Everybody can’t be a champion, but they can learn to be disciplined. Boxing discipline is a different type of discipline. It builds character, makes them feel confident in themselves.”
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