Want to know how dedicated 18-year-old Vito Mielnicki Jr. is to the fight game? When arranging an interview to discuss his Saturday bout against Noe Lopez, he asked if February 14 was a good day. I let him know that one of the reasons why I’ve stayed married for 26 years is because I don’t schedule any work on Valentine’s Day.
Mielnicki laughed, but in his world, there are no holidays, no days off and no time for matters familiar to most teenagers. He’s not complaining either.
“I enjoy every aspect of it,” Mielnicki said. “If I didn't love it, I wouldn't be doing it, because if you're not happy with what you're doing, you're doing the wrong thing. Whether it's the weight cutting, the diet, all the hours in the gym, the sparring, the strength and conditioning, you gotta love it, and I do, and I wouldn't change anything.”
There’s not much, if anything, to change for the welterweight prospect thus far. He’s 7-0 as a pro with four knockouts, he’s fighting under the PBC banner, and in 2020 he began training with one of the best in the game in Joe Goossen. Yeah, it’s not bad being him these days.
“We're steamrolling right now, so we're feeling good and everything's going great,” said Mielnicki, whose first bout with Goossen was a shutout six-round decision over Steven Pulluaim in December.
“We're still working out some kinks, the little things like getting on the same page with certain stuff, blending in my style with Joe's style,” said Mielnicki of the work he’s getting in California. “That's gonna take some time, obviously, I know that and we're willing to do that because I know where it's gonna take me. Everything that Joe tells me, I absorb.”
This Saturday in Los Angeles, it will be Mielnicki’s first eight-rounder when he meets the 10-3-1 Lopez, and at this early stage of his career, that’s a notable milestone for him and one he’s excited for.
“Obviously you go from three rounds in the amateurs, then you do fours in your first few fights, then six, and I only had two six rounders,” he said. “For me, I feel like I get stronger throughout the fight. Even in my last fight, it was my second six rounder, and it went the full distance, but I felt like I settled into the fight more as it went on. I can't wait for my first eight rounder; I'm in the best shape of my life.”
I remind him that he’s only 18.
“Absolutely,” Mielnicki laughs. “I'm 18 years old and I've got an engine. I'm an energizer bunny and I go a lot of rounds in the gym.”
How many? Mielnicki says that in addition to sparring rounds, he puts in 40 to 50 rounds on the floor per day, five to six days a week, with running a daily duty.
“I thought I was training hard until I went out to LA,” he said, noting that, no, there aren’t days when he wished he would have taken up another line of work.
“I embrace the whole thing,” he said. “You go work with a guy like Joe Goossen and you know that everything he's telling you, it’s because he's been there. He wholeheartedly knows more than every guy in boxing because of all the fights he's been involved with. You gotta take it in and keep rolling. Everything he tells you, just absorb it like a sponge.”
I ask if Mielnicki ever looks at some of the fights Goossen has been involved with over his decades in the business, thinking of one in particular. And it’s the one Mielnicki brings up first.
“Obviously the Diego Corrales versus Castillo fight,” he said. Joe's been there so many times he has that calm at all times and he always has that tone. He raised his voice sometimes in the corner, but for the most part, he kept the same tone that you would hear him at in the gym and I think that's a great thing that a trainer can do because if he starts screaming and yelling and you're not used to hearing that in the gym, it's almost like it goes into panic mode, and he never shows that. He always stays composed and has the right tone in the corner.”
The first Corrales-Castillo bout wasn’t just one of the greatest fights in boxing history, but it was a master class in corner work from Goossen, from his slow rinsing of Corrales’ mouthpiece to buy his fighter a couple valuable seconds, to his classic instruction of “You gotta f**king get inside on him now,” which kicked off a classic comeback by “Chico”.
Does Mielnicki ever want to get into a fight like that?
“I do believe there comes a time in everyone's career where they get into a fight - maybe not like that because there hasn't been a fight like that in who knows how long,” he said. “But for now, I'll keep doing what I'm doing, fighting the way I'm fighting and keep getting these guys out of there and dominating.”
He’s been barely touched through his first seven pro fights, and while he knows he hasn’t been in with killers every night, he is getting the right fights at the right time.
“I love the way I'm being moved because they're not putting guys in front of me that I'm just gonna knock out,” Mielnicki said. “They're guys that are coming to win. A lot of guys at my age, they're fighting guys that are just coming to get a paycheck and lay down, but I'm happy that I'm not being matched tough-tough, but I'm being matched with the right guys that are gonna give me experience and they're not coming to lay down; they're coming in shape and coming to win. I think that's gonna help me in the long run because when I get into a real fight and I need to be in the deep waters in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth round, I think these fights are gonna help me a lot because I've been there and I'm used to being there.”
In short, by the time that war comes, he’ll be ready for it. And when you add in his talent, work ethic and willingness to sacrifice, the kid with the target on his back will not just be ready for a war, he’ll be ready to win it.
“I've always been that guy, just because I've always been at the top throughout the amateurs,” he said. “Now I'm the young face of PBC, obviously I have a target on my back and it just makes you work even harder because you know people are coming for your spot. A lot of guys prey on downfalls, so you just gotta keep doing what you're doing, keep working hard, stay in the gym and work ten times harder than I did my last fight.”