By Derek Bonnett: Historically, Connecticut boxing boasts such popular names as Willie Pep, Marlon Starling, and Chad Dawson. Along the way, other notables such as John Scully, Israel Cardona, and Angel Vazquez contended at the highest levels of their divisions to keep the Constitution State relevant in the world boxing landscape. On the distant horizon, Mykquan Williams, a native of the Hartford area, just might be the next Connecticut hopeful among the professional ranks.
Williams, 139 pounds, has compiled an amateur dossier of 30-6 and will turn fifteen next month. Over the last eight years, under the guidance of Paul Cichon, "Mikey" has won the Ringside World Tournament three consecutive years, the 2012 National Silver Gloves, as well as the 2012 PAL Nationals. The two first teamed up when Williams’ aunt, female boxer Addy Irizzary, brought the seven year old into the gym to train.
"I was first interested in boxing when I saw my aunt Addy fight at the Convention Center in Hartford," Williams said. "I think I’m a good boxer and have pretty good foot work. Something I need to work on is staying in the center of the ring a little more."
Williams has the makings of more of a stylist as he progresses up the amateur ranks. In his thirty wins, he has used every round to get his work done and heard the final bell each time. As his body matures and his strength develops along with his knowledge of throwing punches, the knockouts will come.
"The road has been great," Cichon said of his time in Mykquan’s corner. "I have trouble getting him fights around here, but the training has gone great. He loves to work hard and is a pleasure to train."
Cichon, director of the Manchester Ring of Champions Society, has had his hand in training professionals as well. Most notably, Cichon worked with world ranked featherweight Matt Remillard throughout his career from prospect to contender. Remillard tackled Mikey Garcia on HBO in his last fight before his career was put on hold due to legal difficulty.
"As far as pro ranks versus amateur ranks, the two are pretty different," Cichon explained. "The amateur fights, I look at them as a learning process, something to get the boxer ready for the pros. When you get beat in the amateurs it’s much easier to take [for the fighter]. The pro-game is more of a business and getting beat sets you back."
So what type of training regimen does a fifteen year old amateur fighter have to endure to get himself ready for competition?
"The training we do together is a lot of fun," Cichon elaborated. "Mikey will do his shadow boxing for four rounds. Pad work is normally four rounds as well. Then, he’ll jump rope for three consecutive rounds, take a minute off, and do three more. Sparring is done maybe two to three times a week depending on if he has a fight coming up."
Cichon’s training schedule conjured up images of my old high school and college wrestling routines. The key element that stuck out as common ground was the use of the word "fun". Sure, both require limitless hard work and dedication, but both requisites were possible because the process and, especially, the final product were lots of fun.
"I think boxing is most enjoyable when you’re training for a tournament and then you leave out of state for it," Williams stated. "For example, when we go to the Ringsides in August, we go to the outdoor mall there. Boxing is less fun definitely when you lose, but other than that it’s fun no matter if I’m in the gym or out of state at a tournament. I enjoy being around my teammates that make me laugh and am excited to be in the gym Monday through Friday."
Cichon keep his fighter busy in the gym and around the sport by taking him to local boxing events. He combines the roles of trainer, teacher, and mentor without truly favoring one over the other. His dedication to fighters such as Remillard and Williams goes far beyond the hope of ever getting a return on his time invested in each young man. His expectations for Mykquan are simple.
"Our short term goals are to keep doing what we’re doing," Cichon said. "Hopefully he keeps winning and, if he gets beat, I hope he learns from it."
Make no mistake about it. There is nothing simple about boxing and very few fighters get to say they actually made it in this rough business, but a strong amateur background can go a long way in laying the foundations for greater success done the road. For Mykquan Williams, who likes to call himself Mr. Hollywood, that road has many miles left on its course. He has much more schooling and maturing to go through as his body fills out. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a 95-pound competitor with a thick ball of tape holding back the straps of his boxing shirt.
"I am still growing," Williams said. "Through boxing, I’ve learned respect and also that anything is possible as long has you put in the work."
Fans can next see Mykquan Williams box in the main event of a dinner and boxing event at Nomad’s Adventure Quest in South Windsor, Connecticut on May 4. Expected to be in attendance are James "Buddy" McGirt and Jackie Kallen.
For further boxing discourse, contact Derek DBO Bonnett on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org