Following the first loss of his pro career, the welterweight prospect has picked up the pieces and is ready to fight again as he faces James Martin in an immediate rematch Saturday on FOX PBC Fight Night.
It rattled around in his head for five days. Each time Vito Mielnicki, Jr. thought about it he would cringe. The bloody nose. His feet moving like they were shuffling in sand. His hand speed working in reserve.
He didn’t run away though. So, on Thursday morning, five days after suffering his first professional loss, an eight-round majority decision to Philadelphia’s James Martin in April, Mielnicki found the gumption to roll out of bed and watch a replay of the fight.
He wheeled his desk chair over to his computer and watched, cursing himself out over what were myriad faults. His head would lean sideways over punches he failed to dodge; his hands would raise over the times he should have had them up.
Mielnicki is just 19. The 6-foot welterweight is appreciative of the lessons he learned that night. On Saturday, July 31, Mielnicki (8-1, 5 KOs) plans to correct them in an eight-round rematch against Martin (7-2) in the co-main event of FOX PBC Fight Night (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The fight takes place almost literally in Mielnicki’s backyard. He grew up in Roseland, N.J., which served as his proving ground as he grew through the amateur ranks. But what Mielnicki experienced back on April 17 is something he never encountered before in the ring.
“Before I go into anything, I have to say the one to blame for losing that fight was me, and no one else but me,” said Mielnicki, showing refreshing candor and a maturity that belies his age. “What I also have to say is that James Martin beat me—and he deserved to have his hand raised. I don’t want to take anything away from how he fought that night.
“It took me some time to watch a replay of the fight. I woke up, I had breakfast and I had to watch the fight again. Some people run away from bad nights, I don’t. I knew as soon as I got out the ring that night there would be a rematch. I fell. I had to get back up, and losing is important to learn from the mistakes you make.”
Mielnicki watched the replay off the DVR. He sat there talking to himself, and he freely admits it was not easy to absorb. His face distorted into a thousand expressions, pounding the mouse to rewind and go. He didn’t think the fighter he saw was him.
It helped Mielnicki begin to pick up the pieces.
“Me having time in the gym over the last four months, I’ve matured mentally and physically,” Mielnicki said. “That loss helped me think differently inside and outside the ring. Everything I’ve learned will show in the ring on Saturday night.”
Muhammad Salaam remains Mielnicki’s trainer, though he’s added a new addition to his corner, former two-division world champion Lamont Peterson.
“ I know I’m better than I was in April. I plan to prove it this Saturday night. ” Welterweight Prospect - Vito Mielnicki Jr.
“Everything Lamont says is knowledge, and the little and major tweaks he’s given me has added to my game,” Mielnicki said. “He’s been in the ring with every top guy. He’s helped pay extra attention to my conditioning, and he’s really big on nutrition. He’s made me a better person and a better fighter.”
Mielnicki says he’s right on with his weight as the fight nears. He’s spent the majority of this training camp on strategy, other than getting himself into condition.
“Initially, I heard about Vito through all the kids I know in the Washington, D.C. area, and they said good things about him,” said the 37-year-old Peterson. “The first time I met Vito, what really struck me is his size. He’s going to eventually be a middleweight. I like how Vito listens to everything, and he’s not afraid to pick my brain and use the information I give him. Vito is really a likable kid. He’s easy to root for, it’s easy to help him.
“In the time I’ve been with him, Vito understands what he needs to change from the first fight against Martin. He knows he has to stick to a game plan and use his size to his advantage. He’s 6-foot, and size is not taught, so he has to use that size and reach more.
“I also like how Vito made no excuses for that loss. He’s a hungry fighter and that loss made him realize there are things he needed to work on. A loss is a loss, that won’t change. Losing is something no one wants, but you have to get something from it—and Vito has. He’s taken accountability for his part and that’s going to allow progress to happen.”
In the first fight against Martin, Mielnicki was punished by Martin, who nearly doubled Mielnicki’s output, landing 148/612 (24%) total punches to Mielnicki’s 88/358 (25%). Martin connected on 98/293 (33%) power punches to Mielnicki’s 65/215 (30%).
Mielnicki could have had a better training camp.
“I felt like I was stuck in mud and my hands couldn’t move, it was like an out-of-body experience, but my mind was clear and I saw everything,” Mielnicki said. “James Martin was the better man that night. I fought at 152. Proper preparation prevents poor performance. That’s my fault. James Martin did everything he had to do to win. I didn’t.
“This is a better training camp, but I also need to listen to my corner better than I did. My coach was telling to do things in the ring, and I tried to do them, but I couldn’t. The most important lesson I learned is you have to prepare like every fight is a world championship fight.
“I know I’m better than I was in April. I plan to prove it this Saturday night.”
Mielnicki vows the next time he watches a replay of future fights his fingers will be less sore from going over mistakes. Along with a lot less wincing.
For a closer look at Vito Mielnicki Jr, check out his fighter page.
- Vito Mielnicki Jr.