Mykquan Williams brings boxing career to a simmer like the chili on his stove
Mykquan Williams has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s what convinced him to pursue business as a major at Manchester Community College, and to branch out into merchandising to promote himself as a brand and make a few extra bucks.
The idea for his latest endeavor, selling homemade chili to people in his Connecticut neighborhood, came about after Williams let his trainer, Paul Cichon, try some of his chili. Word spread quickly through the gym, and then family members. Soon, even his former teachers were becoming customers.
“If you’re hungry and you want to cook something, chili just comes to mind,” said Williams (15-0-1, 7 knockouts), a junior welterweight from Hartford, Conn.
“Boxing isn’t gonna last forever, everyone knows that. Me being young, me being a local boxer, I try to generate as much money as possible and get as many other things going besides fighting.”
Williams is hoping to get things cooking again in his in-ring career as well, with his next step being a ShoBox showdown with fellow unbeaten 140-pounder Yeis Solano (15-0, 10 KOs) this Wednesday, at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.
Williams says he doesn’t know much about the 28-year-old southpaw from Monteria, Colombia, and has only seen a few rounds from his previous fight, a split decision over Elias Araujo in June of 2019. What he does know is what winning a fight in main event of nationally televised card could mean for his career, which has been on hold since October of 2019. That was Williams’ last bout, an eight round majority draw against Tre’Sean Wiggins in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Jackie Kallen, Williams’ manager, says the sentiment in the building was that most thought he won, while Williams figures he should have won 5 or 6 of the rounds.
“I thought that I didn’t do anything wrong as far as the fight I was trying to fight,” said Williams, who is promoted by Lou DiBella.
“From that fight we just learned that I have to go out there and dominate, not make the rounds as close as the judges thought they were. We’ve been past that fight for a while now.”
Williams is no stranger to overcoming difficulties. He’s done so since birth.
When he was eight days old, his father, Marvin Williams, was shot and killed in Hartford. At age ten, his home burned to the ground, and his family had to start over once again.
He was about eight years old when he saw his aunt, a pro named Adelita Irizarry, fight at the Convention Center in Hartford. Williams decided right there he wanted to follow in the same footsteps. Irizarry, who had once fought Cecilia Braekhus in Germany, introduced Williams to Cichon, who still trains him out of the Manchester ROCS gym.
“He’s such a great kid, going the other is nothing I could ever imagine for him,” said Kallen. “I think he knew that he had a bright future in boxing if he kept his nose clean.”
Williams had an anger problem when he was younger, garnering him the nickname “Mad Mike” when he first came to the gym. After winning a number of national amateur titles, beginning with the Ringside Worlds at age 12, he earned the nickname “Marvelous Myke” which had followed him to the pros.
Kallen remembers the first time she saw Williams, then at age 14, while watching an amateur show in Hartford. She says his potential was evident from early on.
“His trainer Paul Cichon…said, ‘keep your eye on this kid, you’re gonna wanna work with him in 4 years,’” remembers Kallen. The two became Facebook friends, and when Williams was just 18, she signed him to a pro contract in 2016.
“There was not one doubt in my mind from the day that I met him, just something clicked, there was an intuition or something. I just said this kid’s got it. I never doubted it from his pro debut to now. I know he’s going to be a champion.
“His attitude, his personality, his looks, I just said, this kid’s got it, and however long it takes, we’re gonna make it happen. It’s been 8 years but I believe we’re coming in the home stretch pretty soon.”
Kallen is someone who knows a thing or two about championship level talent. She broke into boxing 43 years ago, working first as the publicist for Thomas Hearns. She later became a manager, leading James Toney to a world championship in 1991, and Bronco McKart in 1996. She says she sees the same championship qualities in Williams.
“I knew right away that he fit into that same pattern, that same format that these other guys fit into. They were born with talent, he has great discipline, his training habits, and they all have that same heart and desire that it takes to be a champion,” said Kallen.
“He fits right into that same groove as a Hearns and a James Toney and the kind of fighters that I’ve always worked with.”
Williams is still just 22, but a win over an undefeated fighter like Solano will advance him in the discussion of best up-and-coming 140-pounders. Like a pot of chili that needs to simmer to bring out the flavor, Williams says he isn’t in any hurry to make things happen.
“I feel like just making the right and the smartest moves would be better than rushing it,” said Williams.
“When people rush things, you may fall short or you may be too green or you may not be ready for an opportunity like that I’m not saying I won’t be. I think just being patient, picking the right fights, getting moved correctly is more important than rushing things.”
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]