Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Jersey boys Julian Rodriguez, Vito Mielnicki Jr. thrill fans with first round KOs

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

NEWARK, N.J. – After nearly two years out of the ring, Julian Rodriguez looked like he couldn’t wait to get on with it. Pacing back and forth with a stern look on his face, he looked more like an adult than the fresh-faced upstart he was the last time he’d been in the ring.

When the bell finally rang, Rodriguez went right after Hevinson Herrera, boxing more aggressively than he had in recent fights, when an inadequately rehabilitated left shoulder forced him to alter his style.

Less than a minute after the first bell – 59 seconds – Herrera was on his back being counted out in their six-round scheduled junior welterweight fight at the Prudential Center on the Shakur Stevenson-Alberto Guevara undercard.

A left hook and a right hand, followed by a stiff straight left did the business for “Hammer Hands.”

“That’s what [the fans] like about me,” said Rodriguez (17-0, 11 knockouts), a resident of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. who splits time training at gyms in Hackensack and Newark. “When they come here, they see a show.”

“I was hoping he’d get rounds out of it but it was a clean knockout,” said Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti of Rodriguez’s quick KO. “Good for him, that’s what he needed.”

Rodriguez, 24, is now a father of two and told The Ring beforehand that his time away from the ring had allowed him to heal his shoulder, and grow as a person. He’s kept his training team the same – his father Alex Devia is chief second with Edgar “Butch” Sanchez and Angel “Ping Ping” DeJesus as assistants – but he’s now managed by hip hop mogul James Prince.

Despite the quick knockout, it was a busy night for Devia, who set up the ring at the arena (as he does for most shows in the NY/NJ area), then worked his son’s corner, and will break the ring down after the show.

Herrera (24-18-1, 18 KOs) of Barranquilla, Colombia falls to his twelfth knockout loss.

The time away from the ring didn’t hurt Rodriguez’s drawing power as he sold over $40,000 in tickets for this fight, a Top Rank source says.

Vito Mielnicki Jr., a 17-year-old making history as the youngest fighter to turn pro in state history, sold his share of tickets as well. Mielnicki, a resident of Roseland, N.J. who will start his senior year at West Essex High School in the fall, packed the building with fans wearing shirts adorned with his VM logo.

Vito Mielnicki Jr. admires his handiwork. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

A left uppercut followed by a left hook and a clean-up right hand anesthetized Tamarcus Smith (2-3, 2 KOs), leaving him unconscious for several minutes. The official time was 1:16, meaning Mielnicki will be able to get home in time for curfew.

“I wanted to get him out of there early and not keep the people here to support me here long. We got an after party to go to tonight,” said Mielnicki, who wants to be back in the ring in October or November.

An exception was made for Mielnicki to turn pro because of his extensive amateur background, which consisted of over 160 amateur fight. His amateur laurels include four Jr. Golden Gloves National Championships, two Ringside world titles, plus first place finishes in the Silver Gloves and USA Jr. National championships.

The performance earned Mielnicki a spotlight on the Twitter feed of ESPN SportsCenter.

John Bauza, a Puerto Rican prospect from nearby North Bergen, had a decent test on his hands against the hardworking Angel Sarinana. The scores – an 80-72 shutout on all three cards – does not represent how competitive the fight was.

Bauza (13-0, 5 KOs) began teeing off at the end of the first with his wide, sweeping shots, clipping Sarinana (10-9-2, 4 KOs) high on the head and disorienting his Mexican opponent. Sarinana came to earn his check and began finding his spots on the inside. Sarinana showed an iron chin as Bauza teed off with both hands, often dropping his hands to invite Bauza in.

The 21-year-old Bauza, who is trained by Robert Garcia, was most effective in the later rounds when he straightened out his punches and moved his feet to get at angles.

Kicking off the card was “Blessed Hands” Joseph Adorno, who baptized Adriano Ramirez with a second round knockout in their eight round scheduled lightweight bout. Adorno (13-0, 11 KOs) dropped Ramirez with a sneaky left hook set up by jabs. Ramirez rose up but could not escape the follow-up punches, and was downed again moments later by a pair of right hands. Referee Sparkle Lee waved the bout off at the 1:12 mark without a count.

The undercard was shown live on ESPN+ in the United States.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected]


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