For PBC Fighters, Every Day is Mother's Day

Keith Thurman, Abner Mares, Mario Barrios and Marcus Browne explain what their mothers mean to them on this special day.

Former unified world welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman will spend this Sunday like he has just about every other one: At the home of his mother, Deborah Thoresen.

“I don’t need a holiday for Mother’s Day because I visit her every Sunday. Every birthday, my Momma’s birthday cakes and her baking were phenomenal,” said Thurman. “She had some old-school recipes that had sugar in everything. I’ve been trying to outgrow my sweet tooth during my entire life thanks to my mother. Looking back, my mother’s a saint who has always been there. I wouldn’t have this amazing life without her.

“She’s always been a caring giver who believes in the goodness of man, has wanted the best for people, and the heart I have comes from being raised by her.  It’s only a 30-minute trip before my wife [Priyana] and I along with my mother will be together once again at her house in my hometown of Clearwater, Florida. So we’ll be back at it again this Sunday, when yet another Sunday is my Mother’s Day.”

Born in Clearwater, Florida, Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) is the product of a Caucasian mother former volleyball player in Thoresen, and an African-American father, Keith Thurman Sr., who played football and wrestled.

Thurman was discovered by renowned Boxing trainer Ben Getty, who had previously worked with Sugar Ray Leonard, among others. 

“I originally started boxing at the age of seven, and I was looking over some childhood photos of me and Ben Getty, and I know that every one of those photos was taken by my mother," said Thurman. 

"She was an avid photographer and was always around the boxing gym. Looking back over all of those memories, I have seen my first competition at nine-years-old as well as my first and second losses, which are both in that photo album. That’s not to mention all of the birthdays and all of the other ones that I know Momma’s got.”

Thurman met his wife Priyana during a trip to Tokyo in late 2016, and after unifying the WBA and WBC 147-pound titles against Danny Garcia in March 2017, asked her to marry him. Their union was forged in Kathmandu, Nepal.

On Sunday, Thurman is looking forward to once again enjoying precious time with the two most important women in his life.

“If I had to go through my entire childhood – from all of the rebellious, emotional stages and every time I’ve gotten into trouble – everything was a life experience, I don’t regret anything and wouldn’t leave anything out. I could live in California, New York or any other state, but I’ve always stayed around Florida to be around my mother. Florida’s home, and this is where Momma’s at,” said Thurman. 

“We have a lot going on with all of this quarantine stuff [due to the Coronavirus], but life is a blessing. My Momma’s always been there, and I’m glad we’ve maintained communication and we’re where we are today. So life is going to be good on Sunday, and it’s going to be great having my wife with me. We’re going to be doing it at home like we normally do every week. I’m sure that we’ll bust out the old photo albums and be looking over some of those memories. It will be our own Mother’s Day.”

Three-division world champion Abner Mares & his mother, Belen Martinez

Three-division world champion Abner Mares will spend Mother’s Day with his four queens -- his mother, Belen Martinez, childhood sweetheart and wife of 15 years, Nathalie, and daughters, Emily, 14, and Amber, 9.

“Every day is Mother’s Day for all of us,” said Mares, 34. “We all love my Mom, and I let her know that every day.”

Nearly three decades ago, Belen Martinez made a tumultuous trek with her children — including a 7-year-old Abner Mares — from their native Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to Los Angeles.

“My Mom is my rock and my hero. I still remember taking the three-day bus ride from Guadalajara to Tijuana, and then getting there, and my mom not having a single cent,” said Mares, whose father, Ismael, still was in Mexico at the time, selling watches to make money. 

“My mom brought a lot of [Ismael’s] merchandise with us and would have my older brother start selling it at the bus station so we could get enough money to get to the U.S. She worked three jobs to support us...I tell everybody that I get my strength, my character — all of that — from my mom. She’s my superhero.”

Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs) credits Belen Martinez as “the reason I’ve always shown the courage and heart of a lion.” adding, “I’ve gotten all of that from her.” As for Nathalie, “I grew up with her, dating her at the age of 18 and being married a year later.”

“For my wife, the girls and I are excited about some things we have planned for her. My youngest, Amber, made her a teddy bear out of a towel, and my oldest wrote a song that she will sing for her," said Mares.

"My wife loves cherries, so I bought her some shoes that are custom made with cherries all over them. As for my Mom, obviously, since we’re maintaining the social-distancing, that means that all of us won’t be with my Mom due to the circumstances. But I will be dropping by her house, delivering some flowers and letting her know that she is loved.”

WBA World Super Lightweight Champion Mario Barrios & his mother, Isabel Soto

Isabel Soto grew up watching boxing on TV in the 1980s and ’90s alongside her father, but given the barriers faced by women at the time, she had few opportunities to participate in the sport. 

“I watched boxing with my father. I remember watching Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, all the great fighters,” said Soto. “And I watched Christy Martin and thought, ‘I want to do that.’ I wanted to be a boxer. The problem was that I lived in Wisconsin and there were no opportunities for me to box there.”

So after becoming a mother in San Antonio, Texas, Soto introduced her children, Mario and Selina, to boxing. 

Once a scrawny 117-pound high school senior who stood 5-foot-7, the nearly 6-foot, 24-year-old Mario Barrios has transformed into a WBA 140-pound champion who is 25-0 with 16 knockouts who attributes his competitive drive, intensity, spirit and slayer instinct to Soto and older sister.

“Being that my mom grew up in a tough environment, there was never a time where she was going to baby me even though there were times when I wanted to break down,” said Barrios, 24, who was six and Selina eight when taken by Soto to the Eastside Boys and Girls Club in their native San Antonio.

“I can’t say I was interested in boxing at the time. [Selina] had that killer instinct. My sister and I would go to tournaments and she would literally win each one...When I was a kid, I just toughed it out. Her gritty toughness has definitely rubbed off on me, and when things get tough in the ring, I dig deep.  Deep down inside I’m a true warrior and that comes from my mom.”

“A lot of my intensity came about from my Mom’s mentality. She’s at all my fights. If I’m getting a little homesick, she’ll be available for a quick chat and giving me that motherly advice,” said Barrios, whose nickname, El Azteca, pays homage to his Mexican heritage.

“She understands the boxing game is a dog eat dog world and always gives me the right advice whether it’s the mentality of fighting or making the right decisions outside the ring. She’s been my rock my whole life,” she definitely made me the man I am today.”

Light Heavyweight Contender Marcus Browne & his mother, Dorris Jeffrey

Marcus Browne was an unbeaten, 6-foot-2, 175-pound contender in his mid-20s with no fear of any man, yet the former 2012 U.S. Olympian still lived with his tough-love mother, Dorris Jeffrey, for whom he has mad respect. 

Jeffrey, 48, arrived in Staten Island from Liberia as a 12-year-old, married young, had her first of six children at the age of 14, and raised all of them, Browne included, with a fierce discipline and work ethic starting out in the Park Hill Projects of Staten Island, New York.

Jeffrey worked as a hairstylist, nurse, housekeeper, and, ultimately, by cooking in restaurants before opening her own diner, Mona's Cuisine, featuring Caribbean food, is located on Targee St., and moving her family out of the projects. Brown still was living in Jeffrey’s one-bedroom in Staten Island in May 2015 one year after she had lost her restaurant when the landlord raised the rent.

"At that time, I was a young and up and coming professional fighter trying to grind my way up and gain my man space. It was a humbling experience you know, because what 24- or 25-year-old man wants to be living at home with their Mom?" said Browne, 29, who navigated a difficult schedule as fighter with paying rent and household chores that included cooking, cleaning stoves, scrubbing bathrooms and taking out the garbage. 

 "But on the positive side, my Mom was an inspiration to me by demonstrating that hard work to me by getting up early to go to the restaurant and to work. That motivated me to continue to grind by waking up to go running or to engage in strength and conditioning or sparring, depending on what day it was. Fortunately, thanks to people like Al Haymon, I was able to make my dreams happen and to become a recognized world champion last year."

A southpaw, Browne (23-1, 16 KOs) earned the WBA and WBC 175-pound titles with a unanimous decision over Badou Jack in January 2019 before losing both to Jean Pascal in August by technical decision -- success that allowed him to financially supplement the re-opening of Jeffrey's restaurant and a new home for her as well. 

"My Mom has her own apartment, a new car, her restaurant is open in Staten Island once again and it's kicking. Even though I try to tell her to relax, my Mom doesn't take any days off. She's taking precautions [due to the Coronavirus] but she wants her coins," said Browne, who has a 5-year-old daughter, 4- and 2-year-old sons and lives in New Jersey. 

"My Mom had her first child when she was 14 and came up with the cards stacked against her. But she's the epitome of hard work, a strong Black woman. My Mom would whoop dat ass for any wrong-doing, but I appreciate her for the woman she is and for raising me the way that she did. She means everything to me." 

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