Home Boxing News Irish cruiserweight Wilson ready to make his mark

Irish cruiserweight Wilson ready to make his mark

Flyin’ under the radar

Irish cruiserweight Wilson ready to make his mark next week in New England debut

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (May 15, 2012) – Mike Wilson has spanned the globe from Texas all the way to Australia searching for his golden opportunity.

The 6-foot-3 Irish cruiserweight from Medford, Oreg., whose grandparents were born and raised in County Cork, Ireland, may have finally found it 3,000 miles east in the heart of New England’s booming boxing community.

Wilson (5-0, 3 KOs) has joined forces with Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports in Providence, R.I., and will make his New England debut Thursday, May 24th, 2012 when he faces veteran Joseph Rabotte (11-20-1) in a four-round bout on the undercard of Burchfield’s “Up For Grabs” show at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln.

“I’m the best-kept secret on this show. You’ll be wondering, ‘Damn, where did he come from?'” Wilson said. “I’ve flown under the radar for years coming from Oregon. I just needed an opportunity, and it looks like it’s finally coming my way.”

“The Irish have a tradition of being warriors, especially when they’re ancestors come from Ireland,” Burchfield added. “That’s how you know they’re really Irish! We’re honored to have Mike on this card, and we’re excited to watch him develop into a championship-caliber fighter while proudly representing boxing’s storied history within the Irish-American community.”

Wilson linked up with Burchfield through his manager, Bob Spagnola, whom Burchfield describes as a “dear friend.” 

“Knowing Mike was represented by Bob was enough for me,” Burchfield said.

A Texas native, Spagnola first met Wilson at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Houston. At the time, Wilson was a 24-year-old super heavyweight with three United States National Amateur titles under his belt looking for one last shot at Olympic glory (he came within one fight of qualifying for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece).

“He had great amateur credentials,” Spagnola said. “A lot of people were after him.”

Unfortunately for Wilson, he and Spagnola could not strike a deal, so after Wilson lost to Kimdo Bethel in the loser’s bracket finals, he signed with Tennessee-based manager Chris Rowland, who guided him to four wins – three by knockout – within the first three months of his professional career.

“All of a sudden, I couldn’t get in touch with [Rowland] for a few months,” Wilson said. “Then the stipends stopped coming. I’m thinking to myself, ‘What the hell is going on?'”

Turns out Rowland had problems of his own; he was indicted in November of 2009 on federal money-laundering charges, just one month after Wilson’s fourth bout, leaving the promising, young heavyweight without a manager (Rowland was later sentenced to 28 months in federal prison in 2011).

He and Spagnola reconnected shortly after Wilson’s fifth bout – a unanimous-decision win over Jae Bryce in Australia – and Spagnola worked quickly to pitch Wilson to a promoter who could bring his career to new heights.

“I told Jimmy, ‘Listen, this kid is worth working on,'” Spagnola said. “All he needed was an opportunity, and with the way this business has changed in this economy, everyone knows those opportunities are few and far in between.

“A guy like Jimmy, with the way he works, will get this kid the opportunity he deserves.”

Wilson’s long-term goal is to drop from heavyweight, where he fought his first five fights, to cruiserweight, where he’ll fight on the 24th, and eventually win a world title in that weight class before bulking back up to heavyweight. The decision to shed the weight stemmed from an inadvertent lifestyle change two years ago.

“When I first turned pro, I worked my ass off in the gym, but I liked to play hard, too,” Wilson said. “I liked to hang out with friends and drink a few beers. One night, I got arrested for [driving under the influence] and had to spend two weeks in jail.

“I’m sitting there with these people thinking, ‘This is where drinking got me. I’m done with it!'”

Once he stopped drinking, Wilson trimmed down to 200 pounds and soon realized he was a more natural fit at cruiserweight despite more than 15 years of experience in the heavyweight division.

“This is where I should’ve been all that time,” he said. “I was always a small heavyweight fighting bigger guys. Now I’m a big cruiserweight fighting smaller guys.”

Wilson hopes to draw from the experiences of Tomasz Adamek, Evander Holyfield and Marco Huck, who each won world titles as cruiserweights before making the leap to heavyweight – the most successful being Holyfield, who went on to become the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion just two years after winning his last cruiserweight title.

“That’s logistically the easiest way to do it,” Wilson said. “The money’s not great at cruiserweight, but you can get a title shot, and then you’re already in the Top 10 when you move up to heavyweight.

“I followed Adamek and Huck when they went up, but their styles didn’t fit at heavyweight. Huck is more of a brawler – too small. Me, I’m more of a boxer. I like to box. I like to use my length and reach. Adamek, he has that fighter’s heart and mentality, but sometimes those heavyweights are too damn big to bang with.

“That won’t be a problem for me as long as I bring the weight with me. I plan on doing it the right way.”

Wilson has flown under the radar fighting out of Oregon – “There’s really no boxing in the northwest,” Spagnola said – but his amateur background is unrivaled by that of most fighters his age. A self-described “fat kid” growing up, he began boxing at 13 when he joined a newly-opened gym in Medford.

“Boxing had always interested me, and when this gym opened I tried getting a few of my friends to join with me, but none of them had the balls to do it,” Wilson said. “My mom got tired of me talking about it, so she brought me there one day without me knowing and told me, ‘Go inside and sign up.’ 

“She tricked me, but it worked.”

Boxing soon became an outlet for Wilson to travel the country, a luxury he couldn’t afford growing up since his family had little money. He soared to the top of the super heavyweight division within seven years, capturing the first of three consecutive U.S. National Amateur championships in 2004 (he was later stripped of his 2006 title after testing positive for marijuana, an incident Wilson said is, “in my rearview mirror now”). Later in ’04, he narrowly missed qualifying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team when he lost to Providence’s Jason Estrada in the finals.

“At first, I took a lot of things for granted and didn’t always want to train because I’d rather be hanging with my friends,” Wilson said, “but I eventually kind of just woke up and thought, ‘If I’m going to do something with this, I better start now.'”

Following a one-point loss to Michael Hunter, this year’s Olympic qualifier in the heavyweight division, in the 2007 National finals and his subsequent loss to Bethel in the ’08 Olympic trials, Wilson finally made his professional debut in August of 2009.

Through trials and tribulations – stemming from both bad luck and poor decision-making – Wilson has finally landed with the right manager and promoter. Coming soon to an arena near you, “Irish” Mike is ready to state his case as boxing’s best-kept secret.

“I firmly believe everything happens for a reason,” Wilson said. “Sometimes when you starve for so long, it makes you hungry. You’ve got to go through struggles to appreciate things. All I want is one opportunity, and it seems like it’s finally falling into my lap now. I’m going to make the most of it.”

The eight-round main event of “Up For Grabs” features Vladine Biosse (12-1-1, 6 KOs), dubbed “Mr. Providence” due to his strong following in Rhode Island’s capital city, defending his New England Super Middleweight Title against Providence’s Joey “K.O. Kid” Spina (26-2-2, 18 KOs). Unbeaten Burlington, Vt., super middleweight Kevin Cobbs (3-0, 1 KO) will face veteran Borngod Washington (3-10, 1 KO) of Queens, N.Y., in a four-round bout while unbeaten middleweight Thomas Falowo (6-0, 4 KOs) faces La Vista, Neb., native Sean Rawley Wilson (5-10, 1 KO) in a six-round bout.

Super lightweight Zack Ramsey, a former national amateur champion from Springfield, Mass., will make his long-awaited debut against Providence’s Alan Beeman (0-1), while fan-favorite Richard “Bobo The Bull” Starnino (9-7-2, 2 KOs) of Providence will now face Harwich, Mass., native Paul Gonsalves (3-2, 3 KOs) in a six-round light heavyweight bout.

“Up For Grabs” also features the return of former reality television star Richard Gingras (11-2, 7 KOs) of “The Contender,” who, after signing a promotional agreement with Classic Entertainment & Sports, will battle Terrance Smith Jr. (7-13-2, 4 KOs) of Oklahoma City in the six-round cruiserweight special attraction. Female bantamweight Shelito Vincent (2-0) of Providence will battle newcomer Carmen Cruz of Fort Myers, Fla., in a four-round bout.

Tickets for “Up For Grabs” are $35.00, $50.00, $75.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at www.cesboxing.com or www.twinriver.com, at the Players Club booth at Twin River, or through any TicketMaster location. Doors open 6 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 7.


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