"The Boxing Juniors" - Following In Dad's Footsteps Can Be Tough!

by James Slater - One of the latest trends in boxing over the last few years has been "boxing juniors." Sons, and indeed daughters, attempting to keep boxing in the family by following in the footsteps of their fathers. Men like Ronald Hearns, Julio Cesar Chavez Junior, Wilford Scypion Junior, Carlos DeLeon Junior and female fighters like Jacqui Frazier-Lyde and Laila Ali are some of the more famous of the boxing offspring who have recently taken it upon themselves to try and do what their parents did before them, but at the same time try and make a name for themselves in their own right..

Of course, boxing has seen the children of great fighters trying to earn a living by fighting long before now. Men like Marvis Frazier, and, even further back, Marcel Cerdan Junior and Randolph Turpin Junior have done so, to varying degrees of success. It just seems the practice has grown in both popularity and frequency as of late. And being the son or daughter of a former big name fighter can be a double edged sword. On one hand, the young boxer gets notice and attention a whole lot quicker than the average prospect, but on the other, the pressure to try and live up to the exploits of his or her pop can be extremely hard.

The aforementioned Ronald Hearns is one fighter going through this right now. His father, Thomas, was one of the most beloved and incredibly exciting, not to mention fearless, fighters of the 1980s and early '90s. Talk about a huge act to follow for 29-year-old Ronald. To make things even harder for the young Hearns - who calls himself "The Chosen One" these days, after deciding not to keep his father's original moniker of "Motor City Cobra" alive and kicking - is the fact that his famous dad only gave in and let his son take up boxing at a relatively late age.

"My dad didn't want me to box at first," Ronald told this writer earlier this year. "But finally, when I graduated college, he said I could if I really wanted to. He told me how tough the sport can be, but that if I really had my heart set on being a boxer I could do so. I feel it is my destiny to become a world champion and a great fighter like my dad. That's one of the reasons I changed my nickname to "The Chosen One." I believe I have been chosen by God. Like the bible says, many are called but few are chosen."

Though he isn't exactly angry when interviewers inevitably ask him about his father and his ring accomplishments as opposed to his own, Ronald makes it clear one of his primary goals is to make it as his own man, out from his father's enormous shadow. He is proud of his dad and loves him very much, but he wants to make it as someone other than merely Thomas Hearns' son.

"There is enormous pressure," Ronald admitted. "My dad was such an exciting fighter, known for his devastating right hand and stuff, so everyone is looking for me to reach those expectations. But I'm not looking for that. I want to show what I can do, not what he did."

And light-middleweight Ronald has been doing just this in his last few fights. Boxing on the under-card of some big shows, Hearns has won each and every fight comfortably enough so far. Most encouraging, along with the fact that he's inherited at least a good portion of his father's long-limbed boxing skills and punching power, was the way his chin stood up to everything the aggressive and determined Jose Luis Gonzalez could hit him with in his bout in June of 2008. Could Ronald have a better set of whiskers than his dad had? If he has, he's really going to be something. And Ronald is ambitious all right, very much so.

"I want to win at least two world titles at light-middleweight, before moving up to middleweight and winning a belt there. I feel I'm at my peak now and will be a world champion next year. I consider myself a boxer/puncher and I don't go looking for a KO when I fight like my dad did, but if one comes, then great."

Ronald didn't call out any names when I spoke to him. Soft-spoken and extremely polite, that's just not in his nature. However, when I mentioned the possibility that he and another boxing junior may be hooking up in the near future, Hearns said he'd love a fight with Julio Cesar Chaves's son.

Julio Junior is a son of a legend who also acknowledges the pressure in attempting to follow a father who happens to be an all-time great.

"There is a lot of pressure because of my name, because of who I am, but the expectations have been there the whole time. People expect me to be great every time out. I just expect to do my best," Chavez Junior told USA Today newspaper a while back.

It seems, however, that though the pressure is there for the 22-year-old, he has got used to it. His father has complete faith in him, too.

"He inherited everything I have," Senior told the paper.

If this is true - and to be fair, he's not shown it yet - the unbeaten light-middleweight will be able to match anything Hearns Junior can do. Indeed, the two of them facing one another could result in a fight worth seeing, and more than a few whispers have indicated that such a match-up may well take place.

One showdown between two sons of 1980's boxing legends that has already happened was the clash between super-middleweights Carlos De Leon Junior and James "Buddy" McGirt Junior. They met in April of this year and the son of the former WBC cruiserweight king got off the floor to win in the 7th round of an entertaining fight. The bout undeniably got more notice than it would have done had they merely been two relatively unknown prospects, simply because of the surnames of the two men. McGirt Junior, though he lost, is still looked at as a fighter who may go places.

Indeed, James Junior has gone on record as saying he and his father are on a mission to make boxing history as the first father and son to have both reigned as world champions. McGirt Senior, of course, was a WBC welterweight champion in the '80s and is now an accomplished trainer. It seems, somewhat ironically as he has lost when other boxing juniors have not, that James Junior isn't feeling the pressure in following dad's footsteps as much as Hearns and Chavez have said they are.

"We're working hard to make history," 25-year-old McGirt told a number of boxing websites earlier this year.

"My father was a world champion and I've sparred with many world champions. Those experiences have helped me so much - I feed off it. I've loved boxing since I was a little kid. By me becoming a world champion, my father and I are going to make history."

Following the De Leon setback, McGirt Junior dropped down to middleweight, where he and his father feel their dream will be realised. As for De Leon, he hasn't capitalised on his career-best win; not yet anyway.

Another young fighter whose dad made a name for himself in the 1980s is Wilford Scypion Junior. Though his father was never a world champion, he did become a very popular T.V fighter in the'80s. He also battled the legendary Marvellous Marvin Hagler for the world middleweight title in 1983 - losing in 4 rounds. Wilford Junior says he hopes to go one better than his dad and, as James "Buster" Douglas famously did in 1990, bring a world title home to the family name (Billy Douglas was a top-class middleweight in the '60's and '70s).

A 28-year-old light-middleweight who may one day drop down to welterweight, Scypion Junior dreams of a big fight with the likes of Antonio Margarito or, should he come back, Floyd Mayweather Junior (yet another one, but in this case a boxer who has pretty much dwarfed his father's ring accomplishments!).

Scypion Junior told this writer a few months back that he does feel the pressure of following his dad.

"It can be hard [following my dad] and it can be distracting at times," Wilford Confessed. "I try to tell people me and my dad are two different fighters. My dad had punch power - I have it too - but I'm more of a boxer/puncher type. I am proud of my father and proud to be following his accomplishments. I always bragged about my dad [when he was fighting]."

There is, however, one thing about his dad's career that Wilford doesn't like; the tragic death of former foe Willie Classen, who sadly died after his 1979 bout with Scypion Senior. This tragedy serves to warn the 28-year-old of how dangerous boxing can be.

"I don't like talking about or watching my dad's fight with Willie Classen," was all Wilford would say on the matter. It was clear in his voice, though, how upset that event's happening makes him. None of the other boxing juniors fighting today have to deal with a factor like a bereavement. But Scypion Junior is determined to capture a world title in tribute to both his father and the late Classen.

"I'm not going to fight anybody like a Margarito before I'm ready, though," Wilford told me. "that can ruin a fighter."

There's no doubt, Scypion Junior has his feet on the ground.

Also attempting to carry on the family torch in boxing are a number of less successful and/or less publicised Juniors. Hector Camacho's son eventually became a major disappointment of a once highly touted fighter, as did Michael Olajide's son, Tokunbo. The same goes for Jorge Paez Junior. While Chazz Witherspoon, though he says he can regroup, was badly exposed in his fight with Chris Arreola (by the way, yes, Chazz isn't actually a boxing junior, he is Tim Witherspoon's cousin - Tim's son, Tim Junior, saw his career stall after one solitary fight, a loss). While it's still way too early to say whether or not Willie Monroe Junior, Wilfredo Vazquez Junior or Aaron Pryor Junior will amount to anything - Roberto Duran Junior certainly never did.

One thing that has been noticed is the fact that there are precious few British fighters who have taken it upon themselves to box like their fathers. Ross Minter's name springs to mind as a current operator, and the aforementioned Randy Turpin Junior did it back in the 1970s, while former British heavyweight champ Brian London achieved what his father Jack did in the 1940s. But these few aside, there haven't been too many British boxing juniors.

It does seem to be more of an American and Mexican thing, but wherever the fighter is from, most (Floyd Mayweather Junior and Cory Spinks aside) would definitely agree; it's tough following in your old man's shoes!

Article posted on 11.11.2008

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