David Morrell Jr. defected from his native Cuba in June 2018. He left his family behind and escaped to Mexico via speedboat under the cover of darkness. He spent more than a year there waiting for a work visa to legally enter the United States with hopes of starting a professional boxing career.
Then he settled in the Twin Cities, of all places.
Now a rising star at 168 pounds, Morrell got his start fighting out of The Armory in Minneapolis, and he will forever be grateful for that. He proudly reps the Twin Cities as home, and while he much prefers the summers to the winters, he still has vivid memories of running around the frozen lakes to stay in shape.
Not only has Morrell gone undefeated since making his professional debut, he has flashed his generational skill set, demolishing anybody who dares to stand across from him.
Everything will come full circle on Saturday night when Morrell (9-0-0, 8 KOs) returns to The Armory to defend his WBA Super Middleweight title against challenger Sena Agbeko (28-2-0, 22 KOs). Though the fight itself should be nothing more than a stepping stone for Morrell on his continued path to greatness, it will be symbolic of how much his life has changed since the last time he fought in his adopted hometown more than a year ago.
Nowadays, Morrell has a newfound purpose, as he and his girlfriend Isis Rodriguez are proud parents to their 3-month-old son Gabriel David.
“I feel like fatherhood has really changed my life,” Morrell said. “Everything I do is for my family.”
That includes his parents, Rafael and Betty, who have emigrated from Cuba to the United States. They hadn’t seen their son since he left in June 2018, and thus, this will be the first time in his professional boxing career that they get to watch him fight in person.
“I have everybody together for the first time,” Morrell said “This moment is going to be so special.”
If everything goes according to plan this weekend, Morrell might not be back at The Armory anytime soon. His trajectory in the 168-pound division has him on the precipice of main events usually reserved for Las Vegas. Fittingly, Morrell got a taste of the glitz and glam earlier this year, stopping Yamaguchi Falcao (24-2-1, 10 KOs) in emphatic fashion at a sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I’m feeling great right now,” Morrell said. “I’m in the prime of my career, and I’m hitting my stride.”
As of right now, Morrell has his eyes set on David Benavidez (28-0-0, 24 KOs) and the No. 1 contender in the weight class headlined by the legendary Canelo Alvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs). The only issue for Morrell is he’s such a big threat that many of the top names in his weight class won’t take the fight.
How is he navigating that?
“It’s actually pretty simple,” Morrell said. “I’ve got to stay focused and the good things will come. I know if I keep working, eventually I’ll become a legend. That’s the bottom line.”
Though that might take him away away from the Twin Cities along the way, Morrell vows to never forget his roots.
“To me, fighting in Minneapolis at The Armory is the same as fighting in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s my hometown. It’s always going to be special for me. I love it there.”
He can’t wait to show off the Twin Cities to his family this weekend. He’s hoping to put on a show in the process.
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