Gary Russell Sr., a respected trainer who guided his son, Gary Jr., to the 2008 Summer Olympics and the WBC featherweight title, has died.
BoxingScene.com confirmed that Russell, 63, died Monday.
The elder Russell struggled in recent years with complications related to Type 2 diabetes and also suffered several minor strokes. He had his left foot amputated in December, which limited his ability to train Gary Russell Jr. and his younger sons, junior welterweight contender Gary Antuanne Russell and bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell, toward the end of his life.
Russell Sr., himself a former boxer, took to training his sons after he brought the oldest of his 11 children, Gary Antonio Jones, to a recreation center in Capitol Heights, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., that the Russell family has long called home. The patriarch of the close-knit Russell family began training many of his sons thereafter.
Determined to work alongside his three professional sons even as his condition worsened, Gary Russell Sr. worked their corners as recently as late in February.
Confined to a wheelchair due to losing his foot, Russell Sr. gave instructions from the arena floor when Gary Antuanne Russell (15-0, 15 KOs) stopped Ukrainian contender Viktor Postol (31-4, 12 KOs) late in the 10th round of their February 26 fight at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. A month earlier, Russell was ringside when Gary Russell Jr. (31-2, 18 KOs) lost a debatable 12-round majority decision to the Philippines’ Mark Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) at Borgata Events Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Gary Russell Jr. was the longest-reigning champion in boxing and hadn’t lost in 7½ years before Magsayo won the WBC 126-pound championship from him.
Gary Russell Sr. was predeceased by two of his sons.
Devaun Drayton, who was a promising amateur boxer, was just 17 when he was murdered in March 2004 in Washington, D.C. Russell Sr. had high hopes for Drayton’s boxing career before tragedy struck the Russell family 18 years ago.
Another of Russell Sr.’s sons, Gary “Boosa” Russell, was just 25 when he died from a heart attack in December 2020.
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Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.