Hearns, McGirt, Pryor . . . . names that make real boxing fans yearn for the past.
They belong, however, to boxers of the present, who dream of a duplicating, perhaps even surpassing, their fathers’ careers.
“We’re truly honored to have fathers who paved the way for us,” said Ronald Hearns, son of Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, champion in four weight classes from welterweight to light heavyweight. He is one of four sons of world champions, who will fight on the same card Saturday night.
The others are James McGirt Jr., son of a former super lightweight and welterweight champion, now a top trainer; Stephan Pryor, son of Aaron Pryor, a former super lightweight champion, and Jorge Paez Jr, whose father was a featherweight champion.
Also on the Showtime card from the Little River Casino Resort at Manistee, Mich., will be Chazz Witherspoon, cousin of former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon.
“Now is the time to showcase our talents,” said the 27-year-old Hearns, a super lightweight.
The most intriguing pairing matches the 23-year-old McGirt (11-0-0) against the 31-year-old Pryor (10-1-0) in an eight-round super middleweight bout. John Cirillo, publicist for the promoter DiBella Entertainment, said Pryor previously fought as Stephan Mitchell.
There is another side of the coin in trying to follow in a fighting father’s footsteps. “Sometimes when you are son of a fighter it’s a long hard road,” McGirt said.
The risk of the son being compared to the father is inevitable. Criticism comes swiftly, but at the beginning the road usually is smooth, the obstacles do not look too high to youthful eyes, and the challenges are exciting.
Perhaps it is the name and fame of the father that attracts a son to boxing. Perhaps it is the challenge of walking on the edge.
“Boxing is life or death; it can put you on a street you’ve never been on before,” said Larry Holmes Jr., who thinking about becoming a boxer. He has been working but he has yet to spar.
“To be honest with you, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said the son of the world’s premier heavyweight from 1978 to 1985. The 23-year-old Holmes, who works in marketing, also said, “I haven’t been training lately.”
“In other words, I don’t think he will fight,” said Larry Sr. “But if he does, you know, he makes his bed and he has to sleep in it.”
That comment reminded me of the warning reply Buster Mathis Jr., a football and baseball player in high school, got when he told his father he wanted to be a fighter. “You play football and basketball, but you don’t play boxing,” said the father, who fought and lost Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Buster Jr., who did not challenge for a title, only lost twice in 23 pro fights – getting stopped in the third round by Mike Tyson and in the seventh round by Lou Savarese in his last fight on Nov. 1, 1996.
One son of a former champion, who also won a title, is Cory Spinks. The son of heavyweight champion Leon and nephew of former light heavyweight-heavyweight champion Michael, has been welterweight champion.
A son of former champion who got a title shot he did not earn was Marvis Frazier. It seems to me Marvis, who was a good amateur, fought to please his father. He did not possess Smokin’ Joe’s power or his ferocity, and was only 10-0 when was stopped in the first round by Holmes on Nov. 25, 1983. Adding pathos to the situation was the fact that Marvis wore a robe and trunks similar in design to those worn by his father when he beat Muhammad Ali in The Fight in 1971. On July 26, 1986, Marvis was thrown into the pit against a young Mike Tyson and was devoured in 30 seconds.
Marcel Cerdan Jr. was 47-1-1, with one fight in Germany and the rest in France, when he fought Donato Paduano (18-0-0) in a 10-round welterweight fight on May 11, 1970, in Madison Square Garden. The son of the former middleweight champion killed in plane crash in 1949 resembled his father to a remarkable degree. Then the bell rang. Junior lost a decision and went back to France where he boxed until 1977. He never fought for a world title.
Roberto Duran Jr. also tested the boxing waters, but barely got his feet wet. The son of the flamboyant Hands of Stone posted a 5-0-1 record in five four-round bouts and one six-rounder. He last fought in 2004.
Randolph Turpin Jr. also took a brief fling at boxing, compiling a 5-1-1 record in six-round and eight-round bouts as a light heavyweight in 1973. His father pulled off one of boxing greatest upsets when he won the middleweight title from Sugar Ray Robinson on a referee’s decision in 1951.
Boxing’s greatest upset was achieved by the heavyweight son of a man who had been a fiery light heavyweight. James “Buster” Douglas, who had a lot of ability but whooften demonstrated a lack of desire, won the heavyweight championship on 10th round knockout of Mike Tyson on Feb. 11, 1990. Douglas said he won the title for his mother, who had died not long before the fight. Winning it was enough for Douglas, who was out of shape when he was knocked out by Evander Holyfield in the third round of his first defense on Oct. 25. 1990. Buster’s father, Billy “Dynamite” Douglas, did not have his son’s ability and never got a title shot, but if he had won a championship, he would have worked much harder to keep it than his son did.
Two sons whose boxing achievements have far overshadowed their fathers’ careers are Chris Byrd and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Byrd, who won a silver medal as middleweight at the 1992 Olympics, became a heavyweight champion. He is trained by his father Joe, who was 13-20-1 as a heavyweight in 1964-72. Chris’ brothers also fought. Pat is 16-11-0 as a welterweight, who last fought this past January. Joe Jr. was 11-5-0 as a heavyweight in 1980-86.
Floyd Mayweather was a good welterweight and a top trainer and his brother Roger was a super lightweight champion, but neither came close to the success achieved by Floyd Jr. Trained by Roger, Floyd Jr. has won titles in four divisions from super featherweight to welterweight and just might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
In the other fights on Saturday night’s show, Chazz Witherspoon (12-0-0) will meet Mike Alexander (12-0-0) in a 10-round heavyweight bout, Ronald Hearns (8-0-0) will box Hector Hernandez (8-1-2) in an eight-round middleweight match, and Jorge Paez Jr. will meet Armand Horn (13-1-0) in a six-round featherweight bout.