By the second round, Edward “EJ” Hood Jr. started breaking down his opponent’s body. Hood’s endurance, evidence of the intense dedication he’s recommitted to the sport of boxing since April, began to govern the contest.
As his eyes fixed on each flinch and feign of his competitor, Hood listened for the lead trainer in his corner.
“Relax — you’re too tense…. Double jab…. Break down the body, then go for the head….”
Hood knew to trust the advised combinations that came from decades of boxing savvy, from a heavyweight title winner, from a member of the Boxing Legends Hall of Fame.
From his mother.
Carlette “The Truth” Ewell commanded her son’s corner during his heavyweight boxing Pro Debut on July 1 at the Bee Hive Center in Greensboro. Since winning her own professional debut in the Gate City in 2002, Ewell has won five boxing titles, and she currently holds the crowns of Universal Boxing Council female cruiserweight and Universal National Boxing Council female heavyweight champion.
In the months ahead of the fight, she trained Hood at the Triad Boxing & Fitness Club in their hometown of Winston-Salem. Ewell introduced her son to boxing at a young age, but his renewed pursuit originated from the horrifying circumstances of his mother’s most recent match in the ring.
Ewell, 45, faced Alejandra Jiménez, 29, for the World Boxing Council’s female heavyweight title in front of thousands of fans in Mexico City on April 1. Less than a minute into the first round, Ewell suffered a crushed right fibula, ending the fight in a technical knockout (TKO) in favor of Jiménez. Ewell was carried out of the ring in a stretcher. When she returned to Winston-Salem, she couldn’t walk.
“I had been waiting about 10 years for that title,” Ewell said in an interview. “It’s been a mental challenge for me to be able to hang in there.”
The 23-year-old Hood played semi-pro football before his mother’s world championship fight, but her injury kept him at home while she recovered. Not wanting to travel outside of Winston-Salem and leave his mother behind, Hood chose to stay local and pursue boxing instead.
“When I returned home… it was just him and I basically,” Ewell said. “I had to depend on him and he had to depend on me. His whole attitude about life just changed.”
Hood began working out at Triad Boxing twice a day. Aside from physically sparring, Ewell became involved in every aspect of her son’s training, including cardio exercises and basic boxing regimens.
While she strives to improve her son’s future as a boxer, it’s his dedication that has carried her through a challenging time.
“With this ankle injury, it has been very tiresome for me physically and at same time mentally — to not get back into what I know: Being in shape, doing what I love, working with other fighters,” Ewell said. “I’ve watched him on the heavy bag, I’ve watched him spar, and I’ve watched him against [other boxers]. He’s the baby of the crew, and to see him put forth that effort is inspiration for me.”
Not surprisingly, the feeling goes both ways. Ewell spoke of the admiration that her son has expressed to her. He reminded her of nights that he would hear her cry, and he told his mother that making the effort to do what she wanted him to do allowed him to feel as though he had already won a world title.
Hood carried the inspiration into the ring on July 1.
“He watched me; he knew I was hurting Saturday,” Ewell explained. “He said, ‘There’s no way I could be out there and disappoint you.’”
After an even first round, Hood’s body shots wore down his opponent in the second. Partway through the third, his opponent exhausted, Hood hooked once off the jab and then threw another short left hook. His opponent ultimately got back up, but not in time for the count. Hood won by TKO.
Ewell sees the potential in her son’s chance to contend as a boxer, and her personal rehabilitation might allow her to return to the ring by late spring. Regardless of where their boxing careers take them, Hood and Ewell have found strength and success in depending on one another.