James Wilkins, 18, Golden Gloves featherweight novice champ, getting ready for a win against Michael Stoute, the Golden Gloves featherweight open runner-up. It was a close fight that demonstrated how superior conditioning and willpower can prevail over technical proficiency.
"I knew I had to make it ugly," said James.
Q: How did you get started in boxing?
A: I was 15. I started off playing football at Tottenville High School, and I met Pat Russo. I always used to get into fights in football. Like once I got hit after the whistle and I wasn't having it and I let the guy know. Patty grabbed me by my shoulder pads and said, "You like to fight? I got a place for you." I got kicked off football the next day, and Patty took me in to the gym in Park Hill. I sparred my first week. I got tired and I got a little roughed up but I liked it and I kept going.
Q: Did football help you box?
A: You need footwork for both. I played cornerback in football, and in that position you gotta see a lot. You gotta see what's gonna happen right away. How the guy is moving tells you what the play is. Also in football they mentally break you down, and in boxing it's a lot of mental work.
Q: What boxers inspire you?
A: Gary "Kid" Stark, Jr always gives me good information. My favorite, favorite is Tommy Hearns. He’s slick, he could punch, he’s tough. I met Tommy Hearns at the Donaire-Rigondeaux fight. He saw my Golden Gloves and said, “Keep working hard, kid. You could be good. Not a lot of people win the Golden Gloves.”
Q: Your brawling style is fun to watch. Do you think about the audience when you fight?
A: Yeah, I like to entertain. I like to put on a good show. Everyone says, "James you gotta move more, you gotta be more slick." But I like to entertain.
Q: It takes great conditioning to fight that way. What is your training routine?
A: Today I came from Coney Island, so I trained already. I’m probably gonna go to Park Hill later. I work out two or three times a day. Usually the first workout I do about eight rounds of gym work. Then I do calisthenics. Then my last workout is at 9 pm. I run for five miles. I always like to train. Even when I’m bored at home I’ll get up and do some pushups.
Q: What have you learned from your trainers?
A: It's the best when I have G and Sosa both in my corner. Sosa keeps me calm and tells me how to box. G brings it out of me. He makes me be how I am. With G in the corner I feel like I already won.
Q: You've struggled with your temper. How does boxing help?
A: Boxing helps with anger because it channels it. You're training, you're working hard, surrounding yourself with people who want to make it. Honestly, you spar so much, who wants to go out and have a street fight? You're too tired. And it makes you a better person because after you're done fighting, you touch gloves.
Q: What do you wish people knew about you?
A: I feel like some people think I’m a bad kid, but if you know me, you know I’m cool. If you know my reasons. G knows me like a book. He will look at me and know when I’m upset. Everyone just sees what they see at that moment. They don't really see how hard you work and how much you really care about other people and how you try to give your all.