Father's Day: A Celebration of Life

Robert Guerrero, Caleb Plant, Shawn Porter, Joey Spencer, and each of their fathers, celebrate their bond in and outside of the ring.

On this Father’s Day, four fighters and their respective fathers discuss what makes their bond so strong, in and outside of the ring. 

RUBEN & ROBERT GUERRERO

After taking a two-story fall during a roofing accident in November 2017, Ruben Guerrero, father and trainer of former world champion Robert Guerrero, wasn’t sure if he would live, let alone, ever walk again.

“I broke my whole body,” said Ruben. “It’s a good thing Robert walked in and found me, or else, I might be dead. I was in the hospital for six or seven months. I broke all of my ribs, which tore my liver and my lung. I broke both of my pelvic bones, and they took me to Stanford.

“Their doctors told me I wasn’t going to be able to walk, that I would be crippled on my right side. They were ready to pull the plug on me, but I started getting better and the doctors were amazed. They said, ‘We didn’t think you were going to make it. You’re a miracle.’ As soon as I got out of the hospital in a wheelchair.

There was only one place Ruben wanted to go. “I told my kids, ‘Take me to my gym.’

“Robert was retired, but he looked at me and he goes, ’Dad, I’ve seen all of the willpower that you’ve got, and you’re back. I see all of the energy that you’ve got, and if you’re going to continue to train fighters, then I’m going to continue to fight. If you can do it, then I can do it, and I’m not done. I’m going to make a comeback.’”

A rejuvenated Robert has since won three in a row.  

“My dad's been there through thick and thin,” said Robert, a 37-year-old native of Gilroy, California. “It’s God, family and everything after that. I'm grateful for all he's done."

It is among the numerous highs and lows experienced by the Guerreros, and a bit of a turnabout for Robert to repay his Ruben’s loyalty. 

Ruben guided Robert throughout his career, helping his son earn world titles at 126 and 130 pounds, and interim titles at 135 and 147 pounds.

He also supported Robert in February 2010, when he withdrew from a fight with Michael Katsidis to support his wife, Casey, during her recovery from a bone marrow transplant. And he was there when Robert had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in August 2011.

“Robert says he wants to be a world champion again, and I’ve said, ‘son, I have the confidence in you that you can do it,’” said Ruben Guerrero. “I’m feeling like a 35-year-old myself, and with the Lord on our side, we feel like we can accomplish anything. God has given us our lives back.” 

And for Robert, that’s the ultimate gift. 

“When my Dad suffered a brutal fall a few years ago it really scared me because he was in critical condition. We didn’t know if would ever walk again, but by the grace of God he healed up and has fully recovered. When I reflect back on that situation, it always reminds me of how much I love him and I cherish every moment I spend with him. It’s motivated me to train harder in my comeback and I’m going to shock the world when I land that big fight.  

“He’s still in my corner and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve been through a lot together, a lot of ups and downs but we stood strong through all the trials and tribulations.  I’m very grateful for all that he’s done, for not only me, but all my brothers and family.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Love you.”

RICHIE & CALEB PLANT

Caleb Plant grew up in the impoverished town of Ashland City, Tennessee. At nine-years-old, Plant says he “asked God, ‘Please send me something I can use to change my life and the world.’ God answered my prayers, sent me boxing and saved my life.”

Today, Plant (20-0, 12 KOs) is the undefeated IBF World Super Middleweight Champion. 

“The night that Caleb won the title was the culmination of all of the things we’ve been through. Then he was able to defend against Mike Lee in Las Vegas, which is Caleb’s home, now,” said Plant’s father, Richie. 

Richie, 57, is a former amateur kickboxer who introduced Caleb to the sport in a gym he struggled to fund. Last February, Caleb made the second defense of his belt with an impressive 10-round TKO win over Vincent Feigenbutz in front of adoring hometown fans in Nashville. 

“Fighting [Feigenbutz] in Nashville, we had a great turnout,” said Richie. “So many of our family, friends and acquaintances were able to come and everybody was behind Caleb. There was just a super amount of energy. In life, you just have a handful of magic moments that mean so much to you. I don’t know what to compare it to in life.”

The Plants have persevered despite the passing of Caleb’s 19-month-old daughter, Alia, in January 2015 from a rare medical condition, and that of his mother, Beth, in March 2019 at age 51.

“Trust, love, faith and friendship,” said Richie. “Caleb is very successful with a lot of knowledgeable people around him who have his best interest at heart, but when it’s time to make a decision, he’ll call me for my opinion. I give him my heartfelt advice.

“But I say, ‘You have to make your own decision. To this day, I don’t think it has taken a lot of effort for Caleb and I to maintain where other [father-son boxing] relationships fall apart. We expected to be winners. When that came, we weren’t shocked, amazed or caught off guard by that. We’ve remained trusting and loving people who have faith in each other.”

“I feel like me and my father have overcome a lot,” said Caleb. “He’s always been someone I could come to for whatever it may be, he’s always pointed me in the right direction and through those hard times that we overcame he never once lost sight of what was most important and that’s being a father to me and my sisters and that’s why I know that with whatever it is I know I can count on him. That’s where we get our trust with each other.”

Trust, love, faith and friendship. Richie Plant - Father of undefeated IBF World Super Middleweight Champion, Caleb Plant

KENNY & SHAWN PORTER

To say Kenny and Shawn Porter are close would be a massive understatement. 

Their homes are less than 100 yards from each other in Las Vegas, where father and son will spend Father’s Day at a local amusement park with the two-time world champion’s wife of six months and their 2-year-old son, Shaddai. 

“Not a lot of fathers and sons double date, jump out of airplanes together, race each other in Corvettes or ride camels in the Sahara desert,” said Kenny Porter, who has trained Shawn since he was four. “I learned at a very young age, due to my upbringing, not to trust most people. Shawn and I have an unbreakable bond of trust, love and respect.”

Kenny Porter became a father at the age of 18 and has two other children, Kenneth II, 33, and daughter, Nique, 28. He instilled a structure born from having to overcome a fatherless childhood in a drug-infested Cleveland-area neighborhood, wherein he was raised by a mother whose illicit lifestyle often meant that her two young boys were left unattended. 

On one of those occasions, 4-year-old Kenny and 3-year-old James went searching for her, resulting in his sibling’s death as a result of a hit-and-run car accident.

“That was always in my mind and a big part of the way I approached raising my sons and how I cultivated their relationship toward caring for each other,” said Kenny. “One of the first things I wanted to teach my kids is that I loved them. I would say that to them every day and I would kiss them. 

“I would always make them hug and kiss each other, look each other in the eyes and hold hands. This would occur all day long. Always love and take care of your brother. They may have stopped when they were six or seven years old, but I haven’t stopped to this day. So I’ll echo Shawn’s sentiments when he says that what we have is love. That’s how he describes it.”

Shawn Porter recalls all of the above.

“At a young age, I didn’t understand holding my brother’s hand, kissing him, kissing my Dad and telling my brother I loved him. My brother and I didn’t get it. We hated it, didn’t wanna do it and tried to avoid doing it. We’d say I love you so quickly that it sounded like a rap lyric.

“But now, I realize that who I am is really because of my Dad due to the beliefs that he’s instilled in me. I understand who my Dad is, where he comes from and where we’ve come from. I understand the patience that I have being a Dad, and I understand why I love my Dad to the extent that I do. I’ve seen so many people come and go from my Dad’s life, and I understand that God made me who I am because he knew that my Dad needed me.”

JASON & JOEY SPENCER

A native of Linden, Michigan, Joey Spencer first became interested in boxing interests by slap-boxing younger brother, Mickel, and watching his father Jason compete in amateur fights. 

Spencer began attending his Dad’s matches at age five. He won his first amateur bout at eight and his first national tournament as an 11-year-old.

Following Spencer's successful pro debut in February 2018, Jason sold his US diesel remanufacturing company – which rebuilds old diesel engines – to his nephew in order to devote more time to his son.

“Boxing is always something that brought us closer, whether it was me and my Dad or me and my brother,” said Spencer. “We’ve done it love, and we’ve done it as a family.”

Naturally, Jason agrees. 

“Our jobs as fathers is to first and foremost prepare our children for adulthood, and Joey’s becoming a man of his own, which is giving us more of an opportunity to create more of a balance as he takes more responsibility for himself,” said Jason. 

“Boxing has been our lives for so many years, and we saw that as a gift that he’s had and a calling for what he was supposed to do. We both have similarly stubborn personalities, so we’ve had some battles and it was often a work in progress to humble ourselves and put one another in the others’ shoes. But we did a tremendous amount of praying, did everything we could and we made a lot of sacrifices, but we did it together in love and friendship.”

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