His father sits in a jail cell in Alabama.
Several of his cousins also are locked up, including one gang member who is serving three life sentences for three murders and a kidnapping.
Bobby Hornsby saw crime, and alcohol and drug use everywhere he turned growing up in DeKalb County, but did not succumb to peer pressure. Hornsby credits boxing and strong guidance from his mother for leading him down a path different from that of his relatives.
“There was a lot of peer pressure but I always had an excuse not to do something,” Hornsby said. “I would say ‘I gotta go run, gotta practice’ or something like that.”
Hornsby’s biological father has been in jail since Hornsby was 4 years old. He rarely sees him but keeps in touch by phone.
Hornsby’s mother, Temeka Stevens, has since remarried and has created a stable environment for her son. Hornsby credits his mother for finding him a gym and he joined Atlanta Art of Boxing at 15. Before he started boxing in the ring, Hornsby would box in the streets with his friends.
“My mom is a big inspiration, said the 21-year-old Hornsby, a DeKalb resident. “She’s always there for me and she keeps me from getting into trouble. I’ve learned my lesson. She always encourages me and moved me to Grady (High School) from Cedar Grove to keep me away from problems. I just stay focused and I don’t want to let her down. That’s extra motivation for me.”
More than a way to stay out of trouble, Hornsby saw boxing as a career.
“I always knew I could fight and knew I wanted to be a professional boxer,” he said.
But there’s one more thing Hornsby wants to accomplish before turning pro. He is competing July 4-8 in the U.S. Olympic Trials Last Chance Qualifier in Cincinnati. Hornsby is competing in the 132-pound lightweight division and needs to place in the top three to earn a spot in the Olympic Trials boxing tournament later this summer in Mobile, Ala.
He first heard about boxing in the Olympics when it was announced at his school in eighth or ninth grade that one of the students was on the Olympic boxing team.
“I looked at it as important,” Hornsby said. “Until then I didn’t know boxing was an Olympic sport.”
Hornsby has come a long way since his street boxing days and his early days at Art of Atlanta. He trains every day and even runs Stone Mountain “up and down twice, or around it twice” a day or two times a week.
In addition, Hornsby does all the typical boxing training, including endless situps, pushups, pullups, hitting the heavy bag, sparring, shadow boxing and jumping rope.
Hornsby spends most of his time training at Metro Fitness in Atlanta and at Granite City Boxing in Lithonia.
“I had to come a long way to get where I am,” Hornsby said. “From the outside people make it look so easy. But there is so much mental and physical training that goes into it. It took me four or five years to know what I have to do to be successful.”
To earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team would be the crowning amateur accomplishment for Hornsby. He is the reigning Georgia Golden Gloves champion in his weight class and has won that title three other times—2007, 2008 and 2010. Hornsby also was the Southeast Regional Golden Gloves champion in 2010 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the national tournament that year.
His mother has seen the difference boxing has made in her son’s life.
“He’s very passionate and dedicated, and such a role model for up and coming kids,” Stevens said. “Boxing has kept him away from fighting in the streets. Before boxing, he was quick-tempered and would get in fights. Now he has a much better temperament.”
Hornsby also has other interests that have kept him away from a life of crime or drugs. As a teenager he volunteered at ZooAtlanta, helping clean out the animal enclosures and handing out information about the animal exhibits. He also was accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008.
“I raised him to focus on what he was doing and not what everyone else was doing,” Stevens said. “The gym has kept him away from everything and out of trouble.”