- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
In pursuit of success also comes a chance to give back to that pursuit.
For professional boxer Dusty Hernandez Harrison, a 2012 Thomas Stone High School graduate, will do so by donating his entire purse this weekend to the Akinyanju family.
Abodunrin Akinyanju, a member of the Keystone Boxing family, died instantly in a head-on car collision on Aug. 17. Akinyanju, who had a record of 5-2 with three knockouts, leaves behind a wife and a baby boy who was born Aug.12.
There will be a number of tributes planned on Saturday as the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., hosts a boxing card full of talent, led by Harrison as he takes on Marqus Jackson in a scheduled six-round bout.
Harrison is now 7-0 with four knockouts.
Also on Saturday's card, which begins at 8 p.m. with doors opening at 7, is Charlotte Hall native Josh Rupard taking on Antonio Sadler from Columbia, S.C. Rupard is working toward making a household name for himself.
“Each time it gets a little bit harder. I have to push myself harder to get to the gym and work out,” Rupard said. “It's a battle with myself. Each time I do it, it makes me a better person.”
Rupard, a La Plata High School graduate, graduated from Salisbury University with a teaching degree of which he used for five years. He started teaching at Berry Elementary School in Waldorf after graduation.
Rupard started his professional career at age 32 and is now 2-0 with two knockouts.
Rupard defeated Mike Arnold on March 10 at the Convention Center in his pro debut. Rupard also took down Donnie Holden in just 36 seconds of the first round in his second professional fight.
Rupard said boxing is a way to get through the hard parts of life. After business endeavors went south, Rupard was offered a unique career opportunity in Jamaica. He took the offer and found himself returning to his first love: boxing.
He learned the way of life and the culture as well as a new boxing style when he trained with boxers from the Jamaican hit show, “Wray and Nephew Contender.” Boxers from the city were rivals with boxers from the rural areas and Rupard trained among both.
“That's where I got back into it seriously,” Rupard said. “They had a competition every year and we'd have fights there on the beach. I got into training with some of the guys and got into sparring with the guys that were on the show. You can only compete there actually on the show if you're Jamaican. I lived there among them. We didn't have electricity in our house. It's not an easy life. It's tough living in Jamaica. That's how I got back into it.”
Rupard had a desire to come back to the states and reunite with his family and longtime friend Buddy Harrison, owner of Old School Boxing a symbol of which is on Rupard's right arm. Harrison was instrumental in Rupard's professional debut.
“I went back to Buddy's gym in 2011 in Rosecroft and Buddy helped me get hooked up with Gene [Molovinsky].” Rupard said.
Rupard also has a tooth imbedded in that same right arm, which was a result of a stick-fight while in Jamaica.
“They have what's called stick fighting where they use bamboo sticks,” Rupard said. “Their fights aren't sanctioned like ours are here.”
Harrison said that Rupard has won some fights on heart alone.
“He wasn't and will never be the slickest boxer you see, but he has power in both hands and would fight a gorilla if we let him,” Buddy Harrison said. “It's hard not to like the young man; he listens well and will help around the gym anytime we ask. He's not like the others at my gym; he does not come from the mean streets of Washington D.C. He has family who cares about him; however, life wasn't easy for him.”
Rupard has his sights on the professional career that is taking off for him. Doors are opening and he's walking through them.
Rupard now gets up at 3 a.m. to work his union construction job in Washington, D.C. Immediately after working hours, he heads to the gym to train until 6 p.m. and heads home for a few hours of sleep.
“After training at Keystone [Boxing gym] I go to World Gym in Mechanicsville to run my three, four miles and then go home and go to bed and do it all again the next day,” Rupard said. “Things are coming along good. As long as I keep fighting once a month, I should be good. The one thing about me is I'll provide the action for the show. I'll either take a good beating or I'll give one. I've never been knocked down. I think I have a pretty hard head and can take a lot of punishment, which isn't good necessarily.”
When asked what it was like to fight in the Nation's Capitol, Rupard said, “It's great in D.C. It's a beautiful city and we always get a good turnout there [at the Convention Center].”
For tickets and more information, go to www.keystone-boxing.com.