Photo courtesy of Johnny Leara.

April 22 is projected to be one of the most watched fights in the history of professional boxing, and among the 20 boxers on the undercard of that night will be Vito Mielnicki Jr.

Mielnicki, 20, will be facing Jose Sanchez Charles in a 10-round super welterweight matchup this coming Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada where lightweight superstars Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia will headline in an anticipated 12-round bout. But away from the shining lights and buzzing social media posts, Mielnicki told Slice of Culture that being from New Jersey means a lot to his come-up.

“I think being from Jersey, a lot of people from Jersey hold that chip on their shoulder or just like that natural edge that you walk around with everyday,” Mielnicki said.

“Whether you’re a boxer… whether you’re a football player, whether you’re a writer, whether you’re…whatever it is… I feel like people from Jersey have that natural edge and chip on their shoulder to be the best version of themselves, and let everybody know that they’re the truth.” 

Mielnicki is no stranger to appearing on blockbuster fight cards as he was featured on the undercard of heavyweight phenomena Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder II at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 22, 2020. There, Mielnicki defeated Corey Champion with a unanimous decision win; he knocked Champion down in the second round. At the time, that card broke the gate record for a heavyweight boxing fight in Nevada, according to Todd duBoef of Top Rank. It had a sold-out crowd of 15,816 and brought in $16.9 million in ticket revenue.

Mielnicki also fought and won on the undercard of Wilder vs. Robert Helenius on Oct. 15, 2022 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Though this fight wasn’t as hyped as Fury vs. Wilder II, it was an anticipated date because Wilder – who is considered one of this generation’s greatest heavyweights – was returning for the first time since his trilogy loss to Fury in 2021. Wilder went viral with a first-round knockout. 

(Courtesy of Johnny Leara)

The Roseland, New Jersey native said that these types of opportunities are “a dream come true.”

“I’m just gonna absorb all the moments, just be a sponge and take it all in,” he added about Saturday. “ I think being in the position I am with Al Haymon, with Premier Boxing Champions, these are the types of opportunities that are gonna come my way and I just have to make the best of all of them.”

But the way that Mielnicki got to these big stages started in New Jersey.

Mielnicki was originally into football. One day, when he was seven years old, he was watching now Hall of Fame boxers Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley – which he’s not sure if it was on live or was a rerun – and he turned to his dad and said, “I wanna try that.” Mielnicki’s father and his brothers had a background in wrestling.

Since Mielnicki lived in the suburbs, his father took him to Newark in the basement of an abandoned church – Jamar Carter gym. The building was crumbling, but that didn’t stop the cousins of Carter, a former New Jersey champion, who died when he was 36 in a house fire. Carter always said that he wanted to reopen his boxing gym in the west Newark neighborhood.

It was a new environment for Mielnicki and, honestly, he didn’t enjoy it.

“Just because I had a coach in my face screaming, spitting, like, not spitting in my face, but like spit was coming outta his mouth. He screamed in my face. So I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t like this.’ But my dad had signed me up for 30 days and he was like, ‘No, you’re gonna finish out the 30 days I signed you up. I paid for 30 days, we’re gonna get our money’s worth,’” he said.

“I stayed there and after like the third or fourth day, I did not wanna leave the gym. I feel like I built relationships from that first day to now that’ll last a lifetime. I just fell in love with every aspect of the sport.”

And if Mielnicki never endured those 30 days, he would’ve never been introduced to Davis. 

Mielnicki, whose nickname is “White Magic,” had his first 30 to 40 amateur fights along the east coast – from New York to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Washington D.C. He fought a few times at Upton Boxing Gym, which is Davis’ home gym in Baltimore, and eventually became close with Calvin Ford, Davis’ trainer, and, of course, “Tank” himself. 

His favorite memory? When Davis slept underneath his seat of a 16-passenger van for almost the whole 19-hour drive to Tennessee. 

“The drive was dragging for everyone else because, you know, being in the car for that long, but for him he was asleep the whole time… he was enjoying it, I guess,” Mielnicki laughed.

Now, years later, Davis is the WBA regular lightweight champion and Mielnicki is seeking his 15th pro career win. Mielnicki is signed with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), which is one of the biggest promotions in boxing. Davis – who, according to reports, promotes himself after leaving Mayweather Promotions – regularly airs his fights on Showtime, which has been PBC’s longtime network. 

Mielnicki signed with PBC around August of 2019 and has been fighting under their banner ever since. Some other big names in house include unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. and undisputed light middleweight champion Jermell Charlo.

As of now, the most watched fight in boxing history is Mayweather’s highly anticipated fight against future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao, which happened on Feb. 5, 2015. It has the record-high of 4.6 million pay-per-view buys and most PPV revenue at $410 million. 

But come Saturday, that could change with the Davis vs. Garcia card, and Mielnicki would be part of that. 

“Yeah, I’m coming. That’s it,” he said.

“I’m in this for the long run. I’m the truth and I’m here to stay. I’m only gonna keep getting better and better. I’m still young, I’m still growing, I’m still getting smarter… So the best is yet to come and I’m gonna keep working, keep staying locked in and the future is bright.”

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