For boxers, the gym is a sanctuary. It’s also a place where a father and son have formed a unique bond.
Kevin Benford trains his son Adrian “Playtime” Benton, who also goes by A.J.
"I stopped boxing when I was 27 years old, and I started coaching football, and every day after practice my son would be playing with the gloves with the kids," Benford said. “After football season was over with, when he was 8 years old, we took him to the gym and the first day in the gym he sparred. I said, well this might be your new sport.”
Benton is a boxing prodigy, who trains at Real Deal Boxing Gym in Mount Healthy and enjoys training with his dad, even though it can be tough.
“Anything you can think of, he's probably made me do it,” Benton said. "It's a cool relationship. He's my dad first but he's also like my best friend. He knows what he's talking about because he's done it before so it'll be easier for him to show me how to do it than some other coach."
Benford said he never lets up on his son.
"You got to press him a little harder," Benford said. "When you look at him and see that he wants to quit, as a parent you want to lighten up but as a coach, the competitive nature kicks in. I don't like to lose and he doesn't like to lose either."
Benford said he thinks he was a better boxer than his son, but the structure around Benton gives him a greater advantage to be successful.
"There's nothing like that stability,” Benford said. "He's had an easier path than I had because he had me, but he was willing to put the work in, no doubt."
The 20-year-old Benton went 287-16 as an amateur, with multiple national championship belts to show for it.
“We’d go out of town and it'd be a week-long trip," Benford said. "I never had a problem about worrying about coming home early because AJ was going to get knocked out the tournament. We always were either winning the tournament or we were there in the finals.”
Benton's performance caught the eye of one of the best to ever do it: Floyd Mayweather Junior.
“He went out there to Las Vegas and sparred a couple of Floyd's guys and we traveled around a couple other states and did some more sparring and word got back to Floyd,” Benford said.
Mayweather liked what he saw after seeing Benton in person and signed him to a lucrative multi-year deal as the newest member of his brand, The Money Team.
“I never thought it would’ve happened," Benton said. “He said I'm an excellent fighter. He actually told me that I'm going to be a future world champion. He's the best boxer to ever put on a pair of gloves, to me. So, it was like, 'for real, that's what you think about me?'"
Benton turned pro in March of 2019. He's 4-0 with three knockouts.
Now he wants to turn it up a notch.
"I want to set an example for my little brothers in the gym, take care of my family and become a World Champion," Benton said.
Benford hopes Mayweather's backing helps his son become a star, but also wants to make sure he stays humble.
“Floyd’s made his money. He's going to the Hall of Fame and we’re just hoping we could use his platform to get us there also," Benford said. "We want people to know there's a talented kid out of Cincinnati named 'AB' but not Adrien Broner. It's Adrian Benton."