Both of his parents are now dead. His mother he never forgave. “She lived a few miles down the road, and she never came to check on us,” Suggs says bitterly. His father he idolized. “He ran a lot in the streets with other women, but he was a real family man,” Suggs says. “I know that sounds like a contradiction.”
Suggs remembers that when he was 4, his uncle showed him a yellowed newspaper photo of his father in silk boxing trunks standing before an enormous trophy. He was too young to read the caption: “North Carolina State Penitentiary Boxing Champion.” But that photo is what made Tony Suggs want to be a boxer.
It would take Suggs years before he could see that he was angry with his father, too. Once they lost the big house and the boys moved into their father’s rowhouse in Alexandria, his father didn’t help him learn to read, something Suggs struggles with still, or tell him to do his homework. Instead, his father showed Suggs how to box and how to pack the baggies of dope he sold on the street.
Suggs married his girlfriend just out of high school and quickly had two children, Little Anthony and a girl named Ashley. When he trained, Suggs would go running past the big houses on Russell Road and Mansion Drive in Alexandria, dreaming of how boxing would take him up and out of his life.
“In 1986, I just had a vision that I was going to make the 1988 Olympics,” he says. “I felt like God was going to make it easier for me through my boxing career. So I could provide for my family. So they wouldn’t have to go through the things I went through as a child.”
That plan was first the 1988 Olympic gold medal in Seoul. Then big pro fights, TV, sponsorships, endorsements. Maybe even a shoe named for him. “He was on a road to glory,” says one of Suggs’s old coaches and managers, Troy Stone, now a used-car salesman at E-Z Ride Autos in Stafford. “He coulda been one of the best fighters in the United States. He wasn’t afraid of anything in the ring.” In Stone’s estimation, if all had gone according to plan, Suggs — and his entourage of sponsors, trainers and coaches — stood to earn millions.