Domonique Dolton is the first to admit he was a “hot-headed kid” in need of a major timeout. “I fought my brothers, my cousins, got suspended from school,” he says.
Enter his uncle, Cornelius Grimes, who determined the best way to set his wayward nephew straight was with a trip to Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym.
“He said, ‘We gotta do something about this boy,’” Dolton recalls. “And I said, ‘Just put me in there.’”
Alas, Dolton’s introduction to the sweet science was anything but sweet. He was thrown into the ring for a sparring session against a taller, more seasoned 12-year-old, and he walked out angry, frustrated and unfulfilled.
“I’m chasing him, trying to kill him; he’s hitting and moving,” Dolton says. “I said, ‘Why you running?’ He said, ‘I’m boxing.’ I tried to fight him in the parking lot afterward.”
Although unsatisfied with that initial visit to Kronk, something must have clicked, because Dolton eventually returned. Good thing he did, as the hard-scrabble gym is the main reason Domonique Dolton (17-0, 9 KOs) has matured into a top 154-pounder.
The Detroit native will attempt to take another step toward his first title shot Tuesday when he clashes with 2012 Mexican Olympian Oscar Molina (13-0, 10 KOs) at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The scheduled 10-round bout will serve as the primer for the 130-pound title showdown between champion Javier Fortuna (28-0, 20 KOs) and Carlos Ivan Velasquez (19-1, 12 KOs) in a Premier Boxing Champions Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays affair (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“I’ve trained Domonique since he was 7,” says Javan “Sugar” Hill, a former Detroit police officer who also handles 175-pound champion Adonis Stevenson and former 168-pound champ Anthony Dirrell, and who once worked with former 154-pound titleholder Cornelius Bundrage.
“Domonique’s become well-rounded from watching older guys like Anthony and Andre Dirrell. He still wants to stand and fight sometimes, but mostly he has a good jab and movement, setting up shots like the right hand."
Hill’s ties to Dolton go back to those early days at Kronk, which has long been known for blistering battles that have rivaled the gym’s unfathomably intense heat. Kronk was founded by the late Emanuel Steward, and although it was shuttered in late 2006, it re-opened in May.
“New gym, same program,” Dolton says.
Before his death in October 2012, Steward co-trained Dolton with Hill in a knockout-oriented style personified by legendary five-time champion Thomas Hearns.
“Emanuel was the godfather of the Kronk,” says the 25-year-old Dolton. “You look up to him and guys like Thomas Hearns, to be part of that legacy.
"Being Emanuel’s nephew, Sugar Hill's trained me in the Kronk ways for my whole career. Everything’s off that jab, controlling rhythm and pace, applying pressure, setting up that big right hand and being in position to get a good shot off.”
In recent times, Dolton has served as a sparing partner for Stevenson and titleholder Andy Lee in advance of their bouts. He’s also gone toe-to-toe in camps with Bundrage, champion Miguel Cotto and former titleholders Jermain Taylor and Kermit Cintron.
That Dolton has more than held his own in these scraps doesn’t surprise Hill in the least.
“As a 15-year-old, Domonique was already boxing professionals strong,” Hill says. “He’s always been aggressive, hit hard [and] shown good legs and boxing ability. He’s been tough for everybody.”
Dolton was raised by his mother, Lorien Grimes, and grandparents, J.B. and Lavon Taylor. Grimes supported her three sons by holding down several jobs, including substitute teacher, hairdresser and working part time at a Chrysler car dealership.
In addition to his mother’s tireless efforts, Dolton credits his tough-loving father, Charles, for “not taking my bull,” adding, “I got away with nothing. He was trying to raise a man.”
And when the collective efforts of Hill, Steward, his parents and his grandparents failed to keep a then-16-year-old Dolton out of trouble, it was left to his childhood buddy Len Whitfield to drive home the point.
“I was in the gym, but still messing around in the streets, still smoking [marijuana]. But [Whitfield] took away my pistol and made me put down the weed,” he says. “When I did, I won six straight nationals.
“With all of the distractions in this world, people dropping like flies, I could be somewhere else. I understand now that I’m older. It’s a blessing.”
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