NEWARK, NJ — Vito Mielnicki Jr., a Roseland resident and rising senior at West Essex High School, will become the first New Jersey boxer to turn pro at the age of 17 when he fights in a four-round super welterweight bout against Tamarcus Smith (2-2, 2 KOs) on Saturday, July 13 at the Prudential Center in Newark.

The match is part of the undercard to the main event, a 10-round featherweight match between Newark native Shakur Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, and former world title challenger Franklin Manzanilla.

Mielnicki received a special exemption to turn pro from the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. According to Brick City Boxing, Mielnicki will become the youngest fighter ever licensed in New Jersey when he makes his professional boxing debut.

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"The commissioner [of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board] has known me since I was young," Mielnicki said. "He knows I am more proven in the sport than most people my age, and he felt that I am ready [to go pro]."

Not only does Mielnicki insist that he is ready for this challenge, but it is what he has wanted to do since he was only 7 years old.

"When I was 7, my dad and I were watching a boxing match with Floyd Meriweather on TV," Mielnicki said. "I asked my dad if I could do that."

Before he turned 8, Mielicki picked up a pair of boxing gloves for the first time and started to learn the fundamentals of the sport. He has now fought in 167 amateur matches and holds an amateur record of 147-20. Mielnicki's most recent match—and his final one as an amateur—was held in Spain during the spring.

"The match was in Spain at the beginning of April," he said. "I lost a fight that I didn’t think I lost, and that helped me make my decision to go pro. I didn’t get the decision, and at that point I felt I was ready [to turn pro] because of my performance in that fight."

Mielnicki was accepted into the professional ranks at the end of May, and he has been training for this Saturday's match ever since.

"The intensity of my training is a lot different now," he said. "I am doing the same stuff, just doing it all with a different intensity and a different mindset."

Mielnicki, who still has one more year until he graduates from West Essex High School, described what kind of boxer he envisions himself to be.

"I think my being able to adjust and adapt at any point in a fight," he said. "Whether it's a brawl or whether it's me working off my jab and being a boxer instead of a fighter, my best asset, my biggest strength is my ability to adjust."

Mielnicki played football until he was in middle school, at which point he decided to devote all of his athletic focus to boxing. When he steps into the ring on Saturday night in Newark, he'll have a hometown boost.

"Between my family and friends, we have sold close to 1,000 tickets—it's gonna be packed," said Mielnicki. "My family is really excited. They have confidence in me and they know that come July 13, everything is going to show why I have been working so hard my whole life for this.

"[It's taken] hard work, dedication, being in the gym every day. It doesn't make me nervous. I've been doing it for so long. This is my main dream; it has been since I was 7 years old."