Books, Boxing and Basketball For Antonio Russell

By Kevin Wilson
Updated: April 17, 2006

Antonio Russell<br>Photo by Robert Eubanks

Antonio Russell
Photo by Robert Eubanks

MARYLAND—Antonio Russell rides a moped for relaxation. He wrote and recited a fabulous poem at his deceased brother’s funeral. He researches history makers on the computer. The 13 year-old, who attend John Eager Howard Elementary School in Capitol Heights, Maryland, is creating his own history in style.

Proudly, wearing a yellow and blue school uniform, Antonio started school late. He has been an honor roll student since the first grade. Math, Reading and Social Studies, he loves. Antonio completes all class work and homework in a timely fashion. “ I want to study, but sometimes, the test are open book,” he shares with Black Athlete Sports Network.

Attending Bowie State University is a long-term goal. Antonio commends his parents and teachers for the early academic success. At 7:30am he arises to start his weekday. When necessary, he’ll awake his brothers for school, and depart home around 7:55am. Dawn Scott, who has seen the best and worst students, teaches Math and Science at John Eager Howard. “ He’s not your average sixth grader, he’s more mature,” says the educator. “Being sick for three days, Antonio walked to school and picked up his spring packet. He has the drive in all aspects and that’s hard to come by.” Once he arrives home, the first thing Antonio accomplishes is the academic obligation.

Boxing is his first passion. The well- mannered teenager loves the physical contact, and the fact that his father is a former pugilist. The third oldest child of Gary and Lawan Russell has compiled a 44-5 record. The spectators observing his ringmanship, the traveling and the accolades fascinate Antonio. Following the homework completion, he’ll lift weights. When he arrives at the gym, Antonio will shadow box, dance and do slips. Hitting the punching bag and sparring, along with jumping rope is part of the six-day routine, for approximately four to five hours. Doing push-ups, sit-ups and hitting the speed bag concludes the training agenda.

When Coach Derrick Smith started the 2005-2006-hoop season, the Lions of John Eager Howard didn’t have a floor general. For three months, Antonio Russell placed boxing on hold. The two-dimensional athlete represented and ran the offense superbly. “ We knew Antonio was a good athlete as a boxer, so we moved him to the point, he brought leadership and heart to our team, and I wish I had him coming back another year,” says Coach Smith, the Interscholastic Basketball League Commissioner.

The school’s six annual sports banquet was held recently. In the Lions Den, there are five boy’s blue, yellow and white basketball banners on the wall. Waiting patiently for the program to start, soft jazz music filled the air. Minutes later, each basketball player and cheerleader walked into the gym to the unification of a well-deserved applause. The rookie playmaker acquired the coaches’ award. I feel great getting the award, Coach Smith has taught me a lot, and I’ll probably play in college, but boxing is number one,” Antonio confessed. Dressed like a dapper executive, Javonte Watford, averaged 10 rebounds per game, and received the Most Improved Player Award. Playing with Antonio, he says, was awesome and that the duo encourages one another. The Lions who finished 8-4 with ten players are the 2006 division champs for an athletic program that is not funded.

In the ring, Antonio toughest bout occurred during his boxing debut against Ricky Sanoveyo. He was nervous, but he bounced back by training harder, and studying tapes to correct my mistakes. Gary Russell, Sr., the head trainer breaks down the fundamentals of boxing so that Antonio can understand. The son admits, that his father also provides good information to keep him out of trouble, socially. Before the sound of the bell, he feels the opponent out and works towards out boxing every foe.

The relationship with younger brother, Antuanne, 17 – 0 is inseparable. “He helps me to get my school clothes out, with Math and to be around good people, says Antuanne, 9. Right before dinner, Antonio feeds Isaiah, another younger brother his medication for an ear infection. Antonio is highly motivated when seeing his two oldest brothers, Gary, Jr. and Allen knocking people out and getting outstanding trophies.

The home structure from both parents is what keeps him on track. “ Antonio sees things differently and his level of responsibility exceeds most,” said his father. In 2004, Antonio performed exceptionally well to earn a victory at the Julius “ Juice” Gatling Amateur Boxing Tournament. On December 3, 2005 at Sugar Ray Leonard’s gym, he fought in the 75-pound local Silver Gloves title against fourth ranked Maurice Adams, from Fit 2 Fight Gym. In the second and third round, he threw multiple left and right hooks to Adams face, as the crowd uttered, ooh! Being the victor, Antonio said, “he could’ve done better and the power of Adams meant nothing to him.” In March, the two fought again for the 2006 local Golden Gloves Title. In a flawless win, Antonio delivered a number of thunderous body shots to out point Adams. “ They will be bumping heads for a long time,” former middleweight champ and trainer, Andrew Council said.

The rematch Antonio really desire is with Devin Matos, who defeated him, but moved up to the 80 -pound weight division. On the road to greatness, Antonio sees himself in the boxing gym as a pro boxer or coach, years from now. Nice legacy plan!