Coffie, Rice discuss heavyweight clash this weekend on FOX

Fighters competing on FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes this Saturday, July 31 previewed their respective matchups during a virtual press conference Thursday before they enter the ring at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Thursday’s presser featured unbeaten rising heavyweight Michael Coffie and Jonnie Rice, who meet in the main event, and James Martin and New Jersey-native Vito Mielnicki Jr., who meet in a rematch in the co-main event.

The FOX broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT with unbeaten middleweight prospect Joey Spencer facing Dan Karpency in the opening attraction.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by TGB Promotions, are on sale now and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com.

Here is what the fighters had to say Thursday:

MICHAEL COFFIE

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity and it keeps me smiling. I know that this kind of situation is not normal for everyone, but I just have to go out and take advantage of it.

“When I look at Jonnie Rice, I think he might be more durable than Gerald Washington. To me, that just makes this a better fight. He’s big and tall, but so am I. He’s got some good experience with some known prospects and he’s gone the distance. I think it makes for a better fight for the fans. That’s what I want to give them.

“There’s some level of difficulty with a late opponent change. I can’t know for sure if he’s a tougher opponent until I’m in the ring with him. That’s just life though. You have to be prepared for things to go unexpectedly. I’ll be prepared for anything Saturday.

“I think there are definitely big names around the corner for me. Sooner rather than later too. What’s worked out in my favor is the learning curve of this sport. I’ve been able to pick up intricate parts of the sport quickly.

“I already had mental toughness coming into the sport. I’ve just been building it in the gym and then displaying it in the ring. It’s about building up brick-by-brick.

“The hardest part of this sport is the training, but it’s enjoyable to me because it’s what I’m used to. Even if I wasn’t boxing, I’d still be in the gym doing something. The most enjoyable part though is that I get to participate in a sport that I love. I have a lot of years left to give.

“My trainer always told me that every camp, we’re training to fight the champion. It doesn’t matter too much that the opponent was switched. The fighting styles are different, but the stature is similar. No matter who it is in front of me, I would have put in the same effort in the gym.

“After my initial reaction to hearing about Gerald getting sick, I just had to change the focus to Rice. I watched some tape and we made some minor tweaks to what we’re doing. We’re ready to go now and Saturday should be a good night.

“We’re the big guys, so you can expect big shots, blood and fireworks. Make sure you don’t miss it on Saturday night.

“My ability to focus and compartmentalize has helped me the most in my boxing career. I learn what the mission is, install a game plan and then follow it. It’s Marine Corps stuff really.”

JONNIE RICE

“I’m feeling great. I’m very prepared and excited. I’m also grateful for the opportunity. I was upset to hear about Gerald Washington getting sick and I wish him a speedy recovery, but when it’s time for your opportunity, you have to step up.

“I was on standby in the event that something happened to the fighters in the main event. I knew that I always had to be prepared no matter what.

“I have to give it my all on Saturday. I have to do my best to impress everyone. This is my time to show everyone who I am. The biggest thing is that I’m going out there to go to battle.

“I definitely feel like I’m a different kind of opponent than Gerald would have been. It’s going to be an exciting fight because of the unknown. We’re both coming to prove ourselves, so it’s really just about who wants it more.

“The pressure is really on me right now. Gerald was a big name and everyone wanted to see how Coffie did against him. My pride and ego is on the line, but I’m only focused on what I have to gain. Coffie has to prove himself against me now.

“When I got the call, I knew that I was already prepared to step right in. I had just done 20 rounds of sparring with Michael Hunter. That left me with zero doubt in myself. I’m going to do my best to capitalize on those rounds.

“I took a shot from Efe Ajagba that I didn’t see and that would put most people down, but I stayed up. That really gave me a lot of confidence. I’m more focused on my offense because I know I can take that big punch. I’m coming forward with a lot of offense.”

JAMES MARTIN

“I’m looking to deliver another victory on Saturday night. I had a great training camp and everything is on track for a repeat performance.

“He couldn’t handle my pressure. So I know that I have to bring the pressure to him again in this fight. If he’s ready for that, then I know that I can box with him too. I have different styles that I can use.

“This is my hometown too. I’m from Philadelphia, but I’m going to make this my hometown on Saturday night. I’m very confident I can repeat my performance from the first fight.

“My last fight was in the bubble, so it’s going to feel great to fight in front of fans again. It’s just going to help me push forward in this fight.

“I’m coming into this fight feeling great and very strong. I’m ready to win once again. You just have to tune in and watch me get that victory.”

VITO MIELNICKI JR.

“I’m very excited for this fight in front of my family and friends. I’m thankful to my team for giving me the opportunity for this kind of fight. I can’t wait to put on a dominant performance Saturday night.

“I think it all comes down to preparation for me. When you have a real camp and you’re ready to go, you have no doubts going into the ring. That’s what I had this time and that’s going to show on Saturday.

“I’ve watched our first fight plenty of times. You will see the best version of me on Saturday night. I wasn’t having any problems with weight heading into that last fight though.

“It’s going to be an electric night in the building. I have a lot of people coming that night. But the only thing on my mind is putting on a great performance. It’s great to be in front of family and friends, but winning is the only thing on my mind.

“I was the one who wanted the rematch immediately. My whole team knows what kind of person I am. I have winners around me. After the last fight, we knew what was next. We went back to the drawing board and I’m as confident as ever.

“We set up a camp house in New Jersey and brought in great sparring. This is the best version of me and I feel great. It’s going to be a great show on Saturday night.

“Everyone go out and get your tickets if you haven’t gotten them yet. It’s going to be a great night of boxing. We have a lot of local talent and guys who are going to bring fireworks.”