The welterweight prospect is separating himself from the pack as he prepares to headline a FOX PBC Fight Night Card on Christmas Day, live from his native New Jersey.
Vito Mielnicki Jr. and his team were at a local steakhouse in Fairfield, New Jersey, last Saturday, watching David Morrell Jr. successfully defend his WBA super middleweight title on FOX PBC Fight Night.
During a TV break, someone from his team poked the 19-year-old welterweight and pointed to a nearby TV above them. There, splashed across the widescreen was Mielnicki’s face, advertising his own FOX PBC Fight Night Christmas headliner (8p.m. ET/5p.m. PT) fight against Nicholas DeLomba from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Eyes and heads in the restaurant began turning towards Mielnicki. He could have challenged Santa Claus in a cheek-down for who had the rosier cheeks. An older man and his family approached Mielnicki’s table and asked if that was him up on the TV screen. Mielnicki sheepishly nodded his head ‘yes.’
The boxing prodigy better get used to it, as his brand rises.
This Saturday presents Mielnicki, a personable, dedicated-to-his-craft fighter, with a great opportunity to gain wider attention in the 10-round main event on Christmas night on national TV.
Emotions will be running high. This is another homecoming for Mielnicki, who graduated from West Essex High School, in North Caldwell, N.J., last June. He didn’t have what would be defined as a normal teenage life. He was running four miles at five in the morning, while other kids his age were still in bed.
There were countless times his peer group was out watching Friday night football games and going to parties later, while Mielnicki was asleep getting his rest for a tournament the next day. He missed numerous holidays with his family.
“I’ve always made sacrifices compared to a lot of kids my age,” Mielnicki said. “I have friends of mine working construction, working at stores, they’re all working hard. Other kids my age work in department stores, they’re hair stylists or waitresses.
“I never felt I was making sacrifices. Yeah, you get challenged. There were days, very few days, when you don’t want to be in the gym. Those are the days, when I look back, that I’m happy about. I had to work through it. I was still able to train and I was okay being (uncomfortable) and getting used to being (uncomfortable). It’s what put me where I am now.”
Because Mielnicki carries a heavy dose of humility, seeing his name and face all over the place has embarrassed him a little, he admits.
He has done a lot of growing up this year. Mielnicki (9-1, 6 KOs) suffered his first loss as a pro in April to James Martin. Mielnicki reacted well to it. He recognized what he did wrong, and what he could improve.
When the rematch was scheduled to take place in July, Martin missed weight and Mielnicki devoured 26-year-old Noah Kidd at 2:32 of the second round in his best performance as a pro.
“ I’m fortunate and blessed because I love what I do. ” Welterweight Prospect - Vito Mielnicki Jr.
Muhammad Salaam, Mielnicki’s trainer, says the Martin loss caused Vito to gain a different drive. There is an edge that came out in the Kidd fight that both Salaam and Mielnicki vow will surface more often.
Though he is 6-foot, Mielnicki says he’s still able to make 147 easily. He’s still driven by the Martin setback. His personal mantra has been “that someone is going to pay for the loss, and that pain is expensive.”
This stage on Saturday night, with most of the United States home during the holiday, could garner a prime time audience that may launch Mielnicki to cross-over appeal.
“Joe Goossen once told me you have to be a psychotic about boxing, and if you’re not a little psychotic, you’re doing the wrong thing,” Mielnicki said, laughing. “I’m fortunate and blessed because I love what I do. My training camp has been great for this fight. I moved into a house with a bunch of guys, and you can say it’s like a college dorm.
“We’re just not throwing down beers and chasing girls (laughs).”
Mielnicki has studied DeLomba (16-3, 5 KOs). He knows the 5-8 welterweight from Kissimmee, Florida, can be a rough inside fighter. DeLomba has gone 10 rounds twice in his career, losing both times, once to the talented Richardson Hitchins. Mielnicki knows DeLomba will try and make this an ugly affair, where he will try and break Mielnicki’s rhythm.
“It won’t work,” said Mielnicki, who will be in his first 10-rounder. “I know there will be a big crowd for me at the Prudential Center. I can’t wait. I’ll do what I did before, what I did in the (Kidd) fight and be patient. I can’t let the moment take me over. I feel like putting on a show for everyone there.
“I’ll be calm, cool and collected.”
Afterwards, Mielnicki has big plans. His mother’s struffoli will be sitting in the refrigerator and Vito has eyes on it—like the eyes on him last Saturday night at the local steakhouse.
This time, however, Vito will be able to eat.
For a closer look at Vito Mielnicki Jr, check out his fighter page.