There’s no greater fight than the one Michael Valentin has endured since birth, nor is there an opponent more dangerous than the rare medical condition that continues to test his physical and mental toughness.
Born with Hirschsprung’s disease, which affects the large intestine, Valentin has had to fight for most of his life, whether it was against schoolyard bullies as a child, or for his right to step back into the boxing ring and do what he does best.
No matter what life throws at him, the 19-year-old Providence, R.I., phenom continues to conquer every obstacle. Exactly one year to the date of his last fight, Valentin (4-0, 1 KO) returns to the ring Saturday night and puts his unbeaten record on the line against Philadelphia’s Christopher Burgos (1-3-1, 1 KO) in a four-round bout on the preliminary card of CES Boxing’s 2019 season opener at Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln, R.I.
What a wild year it’s been. Following his fourth pro win in February of 2018, a majority decision against Demetrius Williams, Valentin shared his secret with the entire arena, tugging at the waistline of his trunks to reveal he’s worn a colostomy bag since childhood, the source of most of the bullying he endured as a youth.
Over the next year, Valentin and CES Boxing worked hand-in-hand with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation to ensure Valentin’s safety in the ring while the young fighter’s story immediately went viral. Fans appreciated Valentin’s candor and drew inspiration from his willingness to chase his dream despite his physical limitations. That summer, he underwent surgery in an attempt to correct his condition, which meant he would’ve been able to permanently remove the colostomy bag. The procedure didn’t take, so Valentin underwent a second surgery shortly thereafter to reattach it, bringing him right back to where he started.
“I was emotional,” he said. “No one wants to go through surgery back-to-back.”
That didn’t stop him from trying to resume his boxing career. Valentin remained committed to making his long-awaited return. He had, after all, dropped out of school years ago to pursue boxing, making his professional debut in 2017 following 68 amateur fights. The year-long wait finally ended earlier this month when the R.I. commission reinstated Valentin’s license, allowing him to compete on next Saturday’s season opener.
“My emotions will be through the roof,” Valentin said. “It’s been a long year. As soon as I walk out, everything is going to hit me, all the surgeries I went through and everything I had to do to get back in the ring.”
Given all he’s worked for and everything he’s endured to prove he belongs back in the boxing, Valentin’s drive continues to inspire others. He recently announced he’s dedicating his Feb. 23rd fight to the memory of Seven Bridges, the 10-year-old Kentucky boy who committed suicide after being bullied for wearing a colostomy bag. Bridges’ tragic death sparked others who wear colostomy bags to share photos of themselves via social media in an effort to combat bullying and further normalize a condition that affects a large percentage of the population.
Valentin is quickly becoming a household name in the northeast and has willingly accepted his newfound role as a spokesman and advocate for others facing adversity. He recently attended a benefit for a 10-year-old Rhode Island boy named Travis Williams, who suffers from Caudal regression syndrome, which has forced him to undergo 20 surgeries so far. Valentin underwent 11 procedures before his 10th birthday. Williams expressed his desire to have his own man cave to recover in privacy, so the imPOSSIBLE DREAM in Warwick, R.I., a playground for children with physical limitations, solicited donations from various athletes and organizations to fill Williams’ mancave. Valentin presented the child with a pair of autographed gloves and two tickets to Saturday’s fight.
This is Valentin’s new reality. Professional athletes in the public eye face a certain unspoken responsibility as role models. In Valentin’s case, he’s a rising star in a sport associated with unbridled toughness while constantly battling a medical condition that, try as it might, can’t keep him down for the count.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, trying to motivate a lot of people,” Valentin said. “You can’t be scared of the world because you have a certain condition. I was like that at one time. Thank God, because of boxing, I’m not scared anymore.”
Twenty-two-year-old Worcester, Mass., prospect Jamaine Ortiz (9-0, 4 KOs) faces 21-year-old Oxnard, Calif., standout Ricardo Quiroz (10-0, 5 KOs) in an eight-round bout on the main card for the vacant WBC World Youth Lightweight Title. Headlining is female featherweight sensation Shelly Vincent (23-2, 1 KO) of Providence, R.I., by way of New London, Conn., who faces Budapest veteran Edina Kiss (15-9, 9 KOs) in an eight-round rematch of their 2015 bout, won by Vincent by majority decision. Heavyweights Juiseppe Cusumano (17-2, 15 KOs) of Carini, Sicily and Brendan Barrett (7-1-2, 5 KOs) of Ventura, Calif., battle for the vacant NBA World Title, also in an eight-round bout.
Tickets for the event start at $47 and are available online at www.cesboxing.com or www.showclix.com or by phone at 401-724-2253/2254. Next weekend’s event also makes history as part of the world’s first ultra-high definition, high dynamic range event streaming live via VIVE Network TV. The VIVE app is available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Play (Android TV), iOS, Roku and all smart TVs. Visit https://tickets.vivetv.network to purchase. All fights and fighters are subject to change. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. ET and the live VIVE stream begins approximately at 9.
Also on the main card, female super bantamweights Marcia Agripino (3-1-1) of Ledyard, Conn., and Boston’s Amanda Pavone (6-0, 2 KOs) face one another in an eight-round bout for the vacant New England Championship. Taunton, Mass., welterweight Marqus Bates (5-2, 3 KOs) faces Jair Ramos (5-2-2, 2 KOs) of Waterbury, Conn., in a six-round bout and super lightweight Nicholas Briggs (2-0, 2 KOs) of Worcester puts his unbeaten record on the line against Andy Aiello (1-1-1) of Bridgewater, Mass., in a four-round bout. Unbeaten Pawtucket, R.I., super featherweight Ricky Delossantos (6-0, 1 KO) returns in his toughest test to date against U.S. Army National Guardsman Javar Jones (7-1, 2 KOs) of Indianapolis.
Providence junior middleweights Victor Reynoso (2-0, 2 KOs) battles 1-0 John Williams of Baton Rouge, La., who scored a knockout win in his pro debut in August, while fellow unbeaten junior middleweight Lamont Powell (2-0, 1 KO) of Providence faces 29-year-old Kenneth Chery (1-1, 1 KO) of Montreal Quebec. Decorated New York City amateur Arnold Gonzalez makes his long-awaited professional debut in a four-round super lightweight bout against Falls Church, Va., veteran Stacey Anderson (0-4).