LYNDHURST, New Jersey – Hindsight has taught Vito Mielnicki Jr. that haste can cost you dearly.
If he had it to do over again, Mielnicki would’ve passed on returning to the ring April 17 in Los Angeles. The welterweight prospect, then just 18 years old, fought February 27 and although he won by third-round knockout, his handlers informed him that he could’ve come back later than April 17 if he wanted more time to rest and train.
Mielnicki, completely confident after starting his career 8-0, accepted an eight-round fight against James Martin for that night. The contract weight for their bout was 152 pounds, five above the welterweight limit at which Mielnicki is best suited to compete.
Martin fought February 20, just one week before Mielnicki knocked out Noe Lopez. He lost a six-round unanimous decision to another highly touted, teenage welterweight prospect, Xander Zayas (9-0, 7 KOs).
Philadelphia’s Martin reminded Mielnicki that preparing improperly can have disastrous consequences. A determined Martin bloodied Mielnicki’s nose in the second round and out-boxed him on his way to winning an eight-round majority decision in a fight FOX televised from Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall.
“It sucked,” Mielnicki told BoxingScene.com before a recent training session at Lyndhurst Boxing Gym. “It definitely sucked. But, I mean, everything happens for a reason. We went back to the drawing board. We watched the fight plenty of times. We learned a lot, obviously. I would just say we took a lot from it. We’re only gonna get better from it. I think everyone has their own path and everything happens for a reason.”
Mielnicki (8-1, 5 KOs), who will meet Martin (7-2, 0 KOs) in an immediate rematch Saturday night at Prudential Center in nearby Newark, limited himself to a four-week training camp prior to their first fight. Mielnicki, who has since turned 19, has completed an eight-week training to ensure he is better prepared for his shot at redemption.
“Our bodies aren’t meant to be getting beat up on going into a fight,” Mielnicki said. “You’ve gotta prepare right to go into a fight, to go into a war like that. So, I think knowing preparation is the most important thing leading up to a fight is what we learned.”
In addition to scheduling a real training camp, Mielnicki added former junior welterweight and welterweight champion Lamont Peterson to his training team for his rematch with Martin. He sparred several times with WBA interim super featherweight champ Chris Colbert as well.
The Roseland resident and his team hope this intense training camp helps him avenge his first professional defeat before what will be an overwhelmingly pro-Mielnicki crowd at the home arena of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Mielnicki’s team has sold more than 3,000 tickets to his first fight at Prudential Center since he knocked Tamarcus Smith unconscious in the first round of his pro debut in July 2019.
Mielnicki, then 17, had not yet started his senior year at West Essex High School in North Caldwell when he demolished Smith.
A second straight defeat to Martin would be a significant setback, but Mielnicki wasn’t interested in facing anyone else after Martin upset him on national television.
“I think my whole team as soon as I got out of the ring knew what was next, just cuz we know what kind of person I am,” Mielnicki said. “And our whole team, none of us, accept losing. We take accountability for something like that. So, that’s the first thing that was in my mind as soon as I stepped out of the ring that night. I guess people can take [my loss] how they wanna take it, but I’m definitely gonna be putting on a dominant performance in the rematch.”
Mielnicki stopped short of predicting a knockout against a 24-year-old opponent who beat him on two scorecards three months ago.
Martin was the more active, accurate puncher in their first fight, which he won by scores of 79-73, 77-75 and 76-76. He also took Mielnicki past the sixth round for the first time in his career.
Muhammad Abdul Salaam, Mielnicki’s head trainer, expects a much sharper performance from Mielnicki in the eight-round co-feature of FOX’s tripleheader Saturday night. Heavyweights Michael Coffie (12-0, 9 KOs) and Jonathan Rice (13-6-1, 9 KOs) will meet in the 10-round main event of a telecast set to start at 8 p.m. EDT.
“I think if he had the proper preparation for the last fight, you would’ve seen him a lot better,” Salaam said. “You seen him stuck in the mud. He couldn’t pull the trigger the way he wanted to pull the trigger. So, I expect him to be Vito, do what he’s supposed to do and get the victory [Saturday] night.”
Salaam would take satisfaction from Mielnicki redeeming himself, yet he’d also consider it the result they should’ve produced April 17.
“You’re always gonna be happy with a victory and then try to get better as you go along in his career, but he’s supposed to win,” Salaam said. “So, I mean, I’m gonna feel good, but I won’t be overly ecstatic or anything like that. It’s something he’s supposed to do. But I do want him to handle his business and avenge that loss. That would be big for him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.