Vito Mielnicki Jr. punches the pool noodles with trainer Raul “Chino” Rivas. Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime.
As he closes in on his fourth year as a professional, it’s hard to believe that Vito Mielnicki Jr. is still just 20 years old.
The New Jersey native says he’s in no rush with his career as he accrues experience and builds towards an eventual run at title contention. In the meantime, Mielnicki is getting the chance to learn on the job, fighting on some of the biggest cards in the sport while waiting for the time when his name is on the marquee.
“I’m only 20 years old so we’re gonna keep taking our time,” said Mielnicki (14-1, 9 knockouts).
“We’re gonna keep learning and keep getting better and better. When my team knows that I’m ready they’re gonna give me that opportunity.”
Mielnicki will get a chance to show where his progression is when he faces Jose Sanchez Charles (20-3-1, 12 KOs) in a ten-round junior middleweight bout on the Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia undercard at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 29-year-old Sanchez of Reynosa, Mexico has been a pro since 2011 and is coming off an eight-round unanimous decision loss to former junior middleweight titleholder Austin Trout last December. All three of his losses have been by decision.
Mielnicki says Sanchez is a versatile pro who can fight or box, but believes he’s prepared for whatever style he brings to the ring.
“I think it’s definitely a step-up fight for me. I think he’s my toughest opponent to date. I need to just keep showing improvement, every time I get in there,” said Mielnicki, who is trained by Raul “Chino” Rivas and Anthony Rodriguez out of Cherry Hill, N.J.
“If we can get him out of there, I’d love to be the first to stop him.”
Mielnicki and team spent the past four weeks of training camp in Las Vegas, where he has gotten to spar with former title challenger Thomas Dulorme and fringe contender Shinard Bunch, plus prospects Jalil Hackett and Jahyae Brown. While that experience has helped, so too has fighting every three months, as Mielnicki has for the past year.
The Sanchez fight will be his second straight on an undercard of “Tank” Davis, whom Mielnicki has known since he was a young amateur. Mielnicki says the first 20 or so of his amateur bouts were in Baltimore, and he expects Davis to have his hand raised at the end of the Showtime pay-per-view.
“I think they’re both great fighters. I think Ryan has to be a counterpuncher on Saturday night if he’s gonna have any chance to win. I don’t think he can be overcommitting to shots and leaving himself open to shots. I’m gonna roll with Tank on this one just because of his experience,” said Mielnicki.
“I think that Tank is a few levels above Ryan. A lot of people are counting Ryan out but he’s a great fighter as well.”
“So many memories, so many stories, so many lessons. I loved him so much and my heart is absolutely broken,” wrote Hardy on her Facebook page.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].