After trying to catch on as a running back, Harris Jr. soon joined his father in the gym when it became clear he would not start for his football team. Harris Sr. began teaching his son how to fight, and the boy also was able to gain pointers from his father’s brother-in-law, who then was training for the Olympic trials.
In the nearly one decade since, Harris Jr. has become a USA Boxing national champion and regional Golden Gloves winner. Uncle Lamont Peterson, meantime, is the International Boxing Federation’s junior welterweight champion of the world.
Harris Jr., 18, trains at Bald Eagle gym in Southwest and is part of the Headbangers team that includes his father, who is an assistant to head trainer Barry Hunter, as well as Peterson and his brother Anthony. Hunter serves as the trainer for both Peterson brothers.
“I guess it’s in the bloodline,” Lamont Peterson said. “It’s a family thing. It’s a trait. We are fighters. I am so excited for him and very proud as well. I try to make it to every one of his fights.”
Peterson has been training for Saturday’s non-title bout against hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse in Atlantic City, so he won’t be able to attend his nephew’s next tournament. The senior at C.H. Flowers High will compete this week at the national Golden Gloves championships in Salt Lake City.
Coincidentally, Harris Jr. won both his amateur titles at 141 pounds. That’s the catch weight at which Peterson and Matthysse will be fighting at Boardwalk Hall as the main event of a card that will be televised on Showtime.
“There’s no quit in him,” Harris Jr. said of what he admires most about his uncle, who went from homeless on the streets of his native Washington to national boxing prominence. “He tells me when a fight gets hard, just keep pushing through it.”
Harris Jr.’s Golden Gloves title came earlier this month at the District regionals in Waldorf, where he defeated Ashburn’s Seth Billups. In early April in Spokane, Wash., the self-described counterpunching specialist won his USA Boxing trophy in the senior men’s division when Denver-based opponent Robert O’Quinn was disqualified.
Kareem Martin, another member of the Headbangers team, also participated in the USA Boxing national championships. Martin won the title in the 152-pound youth men’s division with a three-round sweep over Las Vegas’s Timothy Lee and will be joining Harris Jr. at the national Golden Gloves.
“I can’t say enough about the kid,” Harris Sr. said of Martin, who he also helps train. “Very respectful, a hard worker. Anything you tell him, he listens to everything. Just a great kid, and very talented, too.”
Martin learned to fight as a youngster, but his indoctrination came outside the ring. He would get into fisticuffs with neighborhood children, so when he was roughly 9, his father encouraged him to take up boxing.
Martin, 17, has channeled that aggressive energy to become a pressure fighter with a wealth of punching power. The senior at Wise High said he has plans to turn professional in the near future, perhaps at the end of the year.
Harris Jr. also has discussed becoming a professional after high school, and both fighters are drawing inspiration from Peterson, whose quest to be included in the conversation as best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is on their agenda, too.
“I want to be a pro,” Martin said. “I want to go pro and be a world champion, pound-for-pound king.”