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Gary Russell Sr. has talent for naming sons 'Gary' and training boxing offspring


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(From left to right) Gary Antonio Russell, Gary Allen Russell Sr., Gary Allen Russell Jr. and Gary Antuanne Russell (Courtesy of Gary Russell Junior)

LAS VEGAS – It took a while for his sons to learn that Gary Allen Russell Sr. is a vastly different person when he is their boxing coach than he is when he is relaxing with the family and is just Dad.

The eldest Russell, who has spawned a plethora of boxing talent, is a tough, demanding, no-nonsense coach who doesn't tolerate errors or lack of effort.

A few minutes later, though, he's entirely different.

"You have to learn to differentiate the two, coach and father," says Gary Allen Russell Jr., one of the top prospects in the professional game. "If we're working on something new in the gym, he's going to break you down and make you feel like you're the worst fighter ever.

"A couple of minutes later, that same guy is on the couch watching TV and he's laughing and giggling and he's totally different."

Russell Sr. has trained his sons – most of whom he's named Gary – in the basement of their home in Capitol Heights, Md., outside of Washington, D.C. He named their boxing club Enigma.

He's estranged from his oldest son, who was a professional boxer nicknamed "Fast Hands" and was born Gary Antonio Jones. Jones boxed professionally as a super middleweight from 1996 through 2011, finishing his career with a 22-2 record and eight knockouts.

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Gary Russell Jr. will challenge Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBO featherweight title on June 21. (Getty Images)

A second son, Devaun Drayton, was a promising boxer who was murdered in an apparent dispute over a pistol in the parking lot behind the Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering School in Washington, D.C., in 2004.

The rest of his sons with wife Lawan are not only highly accomplished boxers, but are quality, respectful young men who have avoided the trouble that swallowed Devaun.

He has six children with Lawan, all sons with the first name "Gary."

"My wife had several miscarriages and it was a tough time," Russell Sr. said. "We made a pact and we agreed that if we ever had a boy, he'd be named after me, and if we had a little girl, she would be named [after] her."

It's one of his children not named Gary whom he thinks of often and misses tremendously. Russell Sr. takes a deep breath when he begins to speak of Devaun, who was 17 when he was tragically shot in the head on May 10, 2004.

"It's pretty much true" that most of his sons avoided trouble on the streets, Russell Sr. said.

The Gary Russell boys are as well known for their effusive personalities and being good, humble kids as they are for their prodigious boxing skills.

There's Gary Allen Russell Jr., who is 24-0 with 14 knockouts and will fight Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBO featherweight title on June 21.

There are also Gary Allen Russell III, Gary Antonio Russell and Gary Antuanne Russell, all of whom are boxers. There are two other Garys who don't box, but it's confusing enough keeping straight the ones who do.

Russell Sr. worked hard to make sure his sons avoided the trouble the streets can often bring, and he put them into boxing as a way to provide discipline and give them something important to do.

In the Russell family, there was always something to aspire to. Three of the Russell boys have won national Golden Gloves championships. Never before has a family had four brothers win a national Golden Gloves title, but Gary Antuanne Russell, a 17-year-old who is fighting for the national championship this week in Las Vegas at 141 pounds, could give the family that record.

Gary Russell Jr. won the 119-pound Golden Gloves title in 2005. Gary Russell III won the 141-pound Golden Gloves national championship in 2010. Gary Antonio Russell captured the 123-pound Golden Gloves crown last year and is back for another run this time around.

And now, he's joined by 17-year-old Gary Antuanne, who won his opening round match Monday.

Gary Antuanne says having successful brothers has made it easier as he attempts to earn the family the record.

"It's a luxury to have so many brothers who do this, too, and who are so good at it," Gary Antuanne said. "I've been able to look at them and see what they do, what works and see what doesn't work, and bring that to myself."

They're all similar, which isn't surprising considering their genes and that they were trained by the same man.

But each has come up with his own interpretation of the Russell fighting system.

"You know, it's kind of funny that we're trained by the same coach, but we all have our own particular swag," Gary Antonio said. "We have the basics and then we put our own groove into it."

Gary Sr. was a fighter, too, until his right knee was torn apart when it was shot during a hunting accident.

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In 2008, Gary Russell Sr., left, baked cakes to raise money for Gary Russell Jr.'s Olympic trip to Beijing. (Getty …

He originally got into boxing by watching the fights during ABC's classic sports anthology show, "Wide World of Sports," and he's never lost his love for it.

He has given back to the sport that did so much for him by raising good kids who are terrific fighters.

It's going to be a big month, with Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne striving for Golden Gloves titles this week, and Gary Jr. going after a world title next week.

The family was raised in and around Washington, D.C., where there is a high crime rate and little good happens to those who bum around on the streets.

The loss of Devaun still haunts Gary Sr. Devaun was the one child Gary Sr. couldn't keep from the streets. Gary Sr. tried mightily to get him away from that environment and was planning to send him to Miami to train.

He'd bought him a new suit and a plane ticket, and Devaun was schedule to leave a few days before he was murdered. He was wearing his suit and had the plane ticket inside his breast pocket when he was buried.

"There aren't a lot of good things happening for African-American kids on the streets in the inner city," Gary Sr. said. "My kids are good kids. They're mischievous and what not, but they avoid that kind of negative atmosphere, and I think it's because of what boxing gave them. But as a family, we're not immune to the tragedy of the urban market.

"That hurt us all. It still affects us. It's something you'll never forget."

He prefers, though, to consider fonder memories. And if Gary Antuanne can bring home the 141-pound Golden Gloves national title, that will be four Russells in the books as Golden Gloves champs.

That's a record that may never be broken.

"I take pride in their success," Gary Sr. said. "But I take pride in all of their achievements. I've given them the path and I think I've taught them as boxers, but they deserve the credit for learning and working hard and doing it themselves."

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