When Jake Smith first saw former wrestler Jerome Featherstone Jr. working out six months ago at the Baltimore Boxing Club, the veteran trainer and promoter spotted his talent immediately.
"The way he trained was unbelievable," Smith said. "I saw him and I was like, 'Holy hell, this kid's got something.'"
The two began working together, and three months ago Featherstone won his debut amateur fight. In his second bout, on the March 23 "Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh" card at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, the Boys' Latin alumnus won the East Coast Championship middleweight belt, nearly scoring a third-round knockout.
Now, Featherstone, 27, is getting in shape for Friday's "Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh: The Rematch," a card of 10 Olympic-style bouts at Du Burns Arena in Canton.
"I'm looking to put on a show," said Featherstone, who will face Maurice Stokes of UMAR Boxing in the main event. "I'd like to knock him out."
Smith could see it happening.
"It's going to be one heck of a fight," the trainer said. "He's in the best shape of anyone in the gym. He has a desire to win, [and his] training is phenomenal. … We feel very confident. We'd really like to score that knockout. That would tear down the house."
Inside Featherstone's own house, however, you rarely find a ruckus. The boxer is soft-spoken and family-oriented. His mom, Pamela, calls him her "dynamo … [because ] for such a quiet guy, he really shows his talent in the ring."
Featherstone inherited his Christian faith and his passion for wrestling from his father, Jerome Sr., who led his own successful wrestling career before joining the Marines. While competing for Mervo, Featherstone's father became the only Maryland wrestler to ever beat future NCAA champion Rico Chiapparelli in high school.
Featherstone followed in his father's footsteps and started wrestling when he was about 4 years old. His father was his first coach at the McKim Center.
That dedication followed him to Boys' Latin, where he played football and lacrosse and wrestled. He was a four time state place-winner before his graduation in 2003. After high school, Featherstone wrestled for Oklahoma State and followed in his father's footsteps again when he joined the Marines.
Then, in January 2004, Featherstone's father died in a car crash while he was driving home from work in icy conditions. Jerome Jr. returned home to be with his mother and his younger sister, Crystal.
"He's a great son. … He's our protector," Pamela Featherstone said.
This year, Featherstone decided to turn from wrestling to boxing. Ultimately, he wants to be able to participate in mixed martial arts but doesn't feel that he's ready for that switch yet.
"I've got a competitive drive to me [and I] didn't like that guys were hitting me and I wasn't touching them," Featherstone said of MMA. "I wanted to work on my hands. I want to be proficient in boxing before moving on to anything else. … I was always curious about boxing, but I never thought about trying it until [now]. … I fell in love with it."
Smith is impressed by the pace of Featherstone's progress and believes his athletic future lies not in MMA, but "in boxing — no question, in boxing."
"He learns so fast. He's getting better every time he comes in," Smith said. "We're working on snapping his punches and getting his hands up a little quicker and his head movement."
They need to work less on conditioning because Featherstone's wrestling experience has taught him how to get in shape for competition. Smith has worked with other former wrestlers but "nothing like [Jerome]. … He's incredible."
Featherstone's fitness has been sharpened, too, by practicing with the athletes he helps coach: those on the Boys' Latin football team and St. Paul's wrestling team.
"He'll go into a wrestling room and help any kid that he can," Pamela Featherstone said.
Her son also helps kids in his full-time job at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, instructing autistic children on important life skills, such as brushing their teeth.
"I teach them every day to become independent and to be able to be active in society," Featherstone said. "I love working with the kids."
According to his mom, Featherstone "is awesome with those kids. He's so good with them. He's powerful, but he's strength under control. … It takes a special person to deal with an autistic child. I admire him for that.
"He's all around a good guy. His dad would be proud of him."
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh II: The Rematch
Du Burns Arena
1301 S. Ellwood Ave., Canton
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Information: baltimoreboxing.com, 410-375-9175