Physical competition is a part of DeAndre Savage’s DNA.
Like both his siblings, the super-heavyweight boxer is driven by athletics, his eyes currently fixed on a vision of himself wearing an Olympic medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Though Savage spends the majority of his time living and training in Las Vegas, he says he’ll be fighting for his hometown Flint at every stage of the journey. Having recently competed at the USA National Championship tournament in Salt Lake City, he plans to prepare for the Western Qualifier Tournament next year, en route to a possible spot on the Olympics team.
DeAndre Savage cites his father and his family as motivation for his goal to compete in the Olympics and achieve boxing success.
“I’ve got a pretty high-percentage chance of winning,” he says. “I’m big-bodied, I’m strong, I’m fast, I’m tough,” he says. “I’m tougher than most of the guys.”
While fairly new to boxing, compared to many of his fellow aspiring Olympians, the 28-year-old says he has reasons to be confident. Just three years into the sport after having played college football for two different teams, he’s won seven fights, scoring three technical knockouts. Savage took second place in 2018’s national PAL tournament and advanced to regional competition in the prestigious Golden Gloves amateur bouts.
Not the least of his honors was being personally greeted by Michigan native and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. at an event this past fall. Mayweather maneuvered around his own security to shake hands with Savage and a fellow fighter, acknowledging Savage before fans and onlookers. The gesture was likely a form of recognition since Savage got the best of a heavyweight Mayweather recruited, during a sparring match.
“I’m pretty sure he heard what happened,” Savage laughs.
The encounter with Mayweather wasn’t the first time a Savage family member met the ring legend. Shujaa El-Amin, formerly Dion Savage Jr., came under Mayweather’s tutelage and professional guidance years ago when Savage was still focused mainly on football.
“I was just around all the time,” he recalls. “I was in the back room with Floyd Mayweather, Danny Garcia, the Money Team (Mayweather’s promoting company). I was just brought up around it.”
Savage’s younger brother Dionte, an offensive lineman, was part of a Sugar Bowl championship team in Oklahoma. The three siblings’ passion for sports might have revealed itself in different forms, but their love of competing became sort of a family trait.
Before returning to Flint after college, Savage spent time Nevada where his older brother boxed, and that’s where he found his new athletic calling.
“I started hitting the (punching) bag and started sparring and I said, ‘I believe I can do this.’”
Savage had his first official fight just last year, but invitations to compete in tournaments have helped him gain notice.
He realizes he’s got a lot to prove – and a slew of other boxers to defeat – before fulfilling his Olympic dream, but his hometown upbringing gives him an edge, he says.
“Especially coming out of Flint, Michigan and experiencing all the struggles we’ve been through, and are still going through…it goes through my mind all the time,” he says. “That is a big part of my motivation.
“The struggle is what made me today,” he adds. “Flint is what made me.”
Joining Claressa Shields as the next fighter from Flint to win an Olympic medal would be an honor, he adds. Shields was victorious at the Rio Games in 2016.
“I like what she’s doing for women boxers. She’s doing a terrific job.” Savage says. “She is the best female boxer of all time.”
But when he next steps into the ring it won’t only be with Shields’ example or his hometown’s challenges in mind. Savage says he’ll be thinking of his father: Dion Savage Sr. is serving a life sentence for a drug conviction in Illinois, and Savage hopes he can succeed in boxing, to help give his dad more legal support.
He’s debating whether he’ll come home to Michigan after leaving Utah to visit family during the holidays, or whether he’ll head directly to Barry’s Boxing, his base of operations in Nevada.
“My plan when I get back to Vegas is to get back to the gym and work harder, train harder, be consistent. That way I can’t be denied,” says Savage.
“I’m trying to make this happen.”