There has always been an overt, nuanced dynamic to the combat sports term father-trainer. Every father trains their child for life in this cold world, yet some have armed their progeny with pugilism skills, guiding them through the unforgiving fight game.
The desire to put your sons in the danger zone happened naturally for some like Julian Jackson. The former three-time champion raised his sons John and Julius Jackson in his native Virgin Islands to conquer the world. And like it was for him, boxing was the vehicle.
(Photo Credit: the comeback.com)
“I think it caused a real bonding with us and we started to realize that we could go further with this,” said Jackson. “It was the proudest thing that a father could have two sons actually qualify for the Olympics at the same time.”
(The Fighting Bertos: Photo Credit: thefightgame.tv)
Dieuseul “Tiger” Berto, father to Andre Berto, encouraged his children similarly after leaving his native Haiti to chase a martial arts dream when he moved to Florida. The Shotokan karate black belt chased kickboxing glory and even competed in UFC 10 as a mixed martial artist, all while training his sons and daughters.
(Dieuseul Berto corners his son Edson Berto in MMA, Photo Credit: Martial Arts Entertainment Radio)
Andre would become a boxing sensation, while Edson Berto followed his father into professional MMA. As a fighting family, their only malcontent came from Mom, who like any caregiver, lived in perpetual fear.
“It was always a war,” laughed Berto. "She couldn’t stand seeing the kids getting hit. But she didn’t have a choice because I was so in love with martial arts and that was my life.”
(Photo Credit: Ed Diller / Premier Boxing Champions)
Single father Kenny Porter was drenched in the boxing culture of Cleveland, seeing Don King and Larry Holmes in local gyms before even starting elementary school. As a young football player that dabbled in boxing through the Police Athletic League, Porter knew the focus gained through routine would aid his two sons Kenny, Jr. and Shawn Porter and made it his household regime.
Shawn went on to be a two-sport athlete, excelling in both football and boxing. He was ranked number one nationally in the 165-pound boxing weight class while also receiving recruiting letters from college football programs.
However, at times, a father’s love and direction must subside to a son’s ambition and Kenny learned to adapt for the benefit of his youngest son.
(Photo Credit: Ryan Greene / Premier Boxing Champions)
“I never had a conversation with my son about becoming a professional boxer,” laughed Kenny. “I wanted him to take these scholarships, go somewhere, play football and get a degree.“
Shawn was dismayed at the requests for him to pack on a necessary 10-15 pounds for collegiate football, which he felt would be too big of a weight jump for him to cut from for boxing.
Walking and talking out his vision for boxing greatness with his father made Kenny understand and resist every parent’s natural urge to push the educational component any further.
“I don’t care about you being a great athlete, how fast you are or how strong you are," Kenny said. "You have to listen and work hard and he did. Now the rest has come together for him.“
When Julian Jackson was an amateur, he wanted merely for his mother to attend his fights without the threat of embarrassment by her alcoholism. At his first fight, the threat he dreaded manifested itself.
(Julian and John Jackson, Photo Credit: LargeUp.com)
For Jackson, who grew up without a father, connecting with your children is tantamount, regardless of a combat sports emphasis. He relishes the simplicity of the positive parental dynamic.
“Your desire to see them achieve and make something of themselves by you just being there makes all the difference,” said Jackson.
John “Dah Rock” Jackson (20-3) recently was knocked out by Jermell Charlo in the 8th round. It was not the first knockout or the first time he fought for and lost the opportunity for a title. His resilience comes from paternal insight.
(Jermell Charlo and John Jackson, Photo Credit: Stephanie Trapp/Mayweather Promotions)
“I’ve always taught my sons from the amateurs that win, lose or draw, you are a winner,” said Jackson. “I know you want to win and when you lose you don’t realize that your loss probably is setting you up to be the best in the world.”
Dieuseul Berto takes a more emotional approach to loss. And with Andre Berto having been in high profile losses like his first fight against Victor Ortiz and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s retirement fight, he is no stranger to the feeling.
(Dieuseul Berto and his children, Photo Credit: Ring TV)
“Every time that happened it hurts me for a couple months especially in competition,” Dieuseul laughed uneasily. “It hurts me so much because I am so passionate about winning. So whenever we have a defeat, that kind of shakes the house completely.”
When Shawn Porter received his only professional loss to Kell Brook, losing his IBF World welterweight title, Kenny Porter takes the opportunity to review and coach like a true patriarch.
(Photo Credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime)
“You learn from it and try to understand what’s going on,” said Porter. "I’m the worst critic that’s really going to look at the other side that says, 'Here’s where you’re getting hit, here’s where you’re getting beat, here’s where you’re not doing what your supposed to do.'”
Allowing your sons or daughters to fight can be a family passion project or a begrudged labor of love that can yield true developmental rewards. These fathers have seen their children follow their dreams into the biggest stages of sports and have been in their corners physically or spiritually the entire time.
This Father’s Day, keep up the fight for your legacies. And like these men, encourage their journeys in whatever ring that they find themselves in.