By Thomas Gerbasi

Junior welterweight prospect Mykquan Williams may get in some sparring with UFC veteran Matt Bessette at the Manchester Ring of Champions Society (ROCS) gym in Connecticut, but his appearance on UFC Fight Pass tonight doesn’t mean he’s made the leap to mixed martial arts.

It’s still all boxing for the Hartford native, who gets a home game at Foxwoods when he headlines Broadway Boxing against Rickey Edwards. It’s Williams’ first fight as a 21-year-old, but that doesn’t mean he’s done the old man thing of sitting down to reevaluate his life as a legal citizen.

“I know that I’m moving at a decent pace as far as fighting and staying active and busy,” he said. “But as far as the age, I haven’t really sat down and thought about it and taken the age into consideration.”

That’s the beauty of being 21 and seemingly invincible, both in and out of the ring. Yet unlike his peers, Williams isn’t a young man in a hurry. He’s a young man learning his trade and taking his time.

“I have a good team around me, and I take it one fight at a time,” said the 14-0 Williams. “I just turned 21, so time is on my side, basically, and we’re just taking it slowly. There’s no need to rush.”

You don’t hear that too often, especially from talents like Williams, a former amateur standout who just wrapped up his third year as a pro. But having been in the sport for much of his life, he’s seen enough horror stories to know that the quick road isn’t always the best one.

“The reality of it is that you see a lot of young guys trying to take a huge step up quick and that’s a risk,” he said. “No matter how talented you are, it’s still boxing and one punch could turn anything around. So there’s no rush. We all have the same goal – at least everyone should – to become world champion, but I don’t know if some people want to do it quicker than others, if they’re trying to make history, or whatever it is. There’s a lot of things that go with it, but being patient is key because once you get to a certain level, there’s no turning back. You’ve got to accept the fact that you’re there and things will get very tough at that point.”

In other words, you fight the number one contender in your weight class, it’s tough to go back to fighting the usual suspects on the regional scene. That may be more of a mental hurdle than a physical one, so Williams is making sure he’s got both aspects of the sport covered.

“The mental part can be bigger than the physical part,” he said. “The physical part is obviously important; you gotta be in shape to be able to fight and go whatever number of rounds you’re going. But mentally, if you’re not there, no matter how good of shape you’re in, everything is just downhill. You’ve got to be mentally into the fight, you’ve got to know what you want to do, what you want to accomplish in a fight, and you’ve got to listen – it’s a lot.”

So much that Williams put his college studies on hold after two semesters in order to devote himself full-time to his day job. It’s an understandable decision, and frankly, a somewhat necessary one if he wants to grab a world title in the next few years.

“At the time when I started to back off a little bit, I felt that right now wasn’t the right time to juggle the two because I’m so young and I’m busy training a lot throughout the day,” he said. “By the time I get home, I’ve been training or running and who wants to do homework? Who wants to look over a review sheet for a test the following day? It’s difficult.”

And with college on hold, Williams now gets his full-time education in the gym alongside longtime trainer Paul Cichon. This week’s assignment: beat the 12-2 Edwards.

“I don’t typically go on YouTube and look my opponents up,” he said. “I might, once I get a name, search out a clip and watch a minute of a round and then turn it off. I don’t really study. My trainer, Paul Cichon, he does that, though, and he’s good at that. And once we get into the gym, we basically communicate about how the guy fights and what he does. Paul tells me and I just listen. Then sparring wise, he’ll try to get a guy with the same height and same type of style and we’ll go from there.”

It sounds fairly cut and dried, but what happens when the bell rings for real? As Mike Tyson so famously put it, “Everybody has a plan until they get hit.” Yet as Williams puts it, if you put in the work in the gym, that’s not necessarily the case.

“Think about it like this,” he explains. “You’re in math class and they’re teaching you algebra. They’re teaching you that for a certain amount of time, and in boxing, you have to train for a certain amount of time. So when the test comes in algebra, the things that you’ve been studying, you’re gonna see on that test. And when the time comes for me to compete, the things my trainer has been telling me are stuck in my head about the opponent I’m fighting. So it definitely does stay in my head. And there are certain things I look for. The first round or two I might go out there and feel him out just so I can see the openings and how he reacts to feints or certain things like that. So it definitely does stay, and it’s important for it to stay. That’s the whole point of a game plan.”

You can’t say that a 21-year-old with 14 pro fights has it all figured out, but Williams may be getting close. He’s got the talent, the right attitude, and the work ethic. Now it’s just a matter of keeping it all together as the fights add up. Williams is willing to make those sacrifices.

“I have a teacher I’m still very close with,” he said. “He was my math teacher in sixth grade and we communicate damn near every day. We text back and forth and he always tells me to bust my ass now, and then when I’m older, I can hang out, chill, relax and enjoy life. He always says I don’t have an average kid’s life right now. Other kids are probably worrying about parties and are in the classroom and all this other stuff. I’m always training, I’m always in the gym, and I’m always doing something that has to do with my sport and my career. And it will pay off.”