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Raymond Merrill II lives his dream

Raymond Merrill
Raymond Merrill

By John J. Raspanti


Raymond Merrill II will not allow the fact that he was born deaf to stop his dream of pursuing a boxing career. Merrill made a promise to himself. 
 
No pity, no excuses. 
 
Growing up, he participated in sports, while inside, he raged.
 
His father was sent to prison when he was two years old. He finally met him when he was seven. He watched his dad self-destruct on crack and PCP. He hated his father and began to rebel by taking to street fighting.  
 
Merrill enrolled at Cal State Northridge in Southern California. Needing an outlet, he wandered into a local gym. He wasn’t a boxing fan, but he found that working out with the heavy bag, felt right.  
 
“I just wanted to go to a gym, and take my anger out on the bag,” Merrill told this writer via email. “I didn’t want to end up like my dad in and out of jail. When I walked into that place, it was like I walked into my destiny unknowingly.”

Merrill found that school and a 9-to-5 job weren’t enough. The boxing bug had bitten him. 
 
“Nothing could keep my attention like boxing did,” Merrill said.  
 
By this point, he stood 6’2” and weighed close to 130 pounds. He found a trainer but that partnership soon ended. He had a few fights as an amateur and won them all. 
 
Merrill moved to Las Vegas and began working out with trainer Jeff Mayweather, a former professional fighter.  
 
Mayweather liked what he saw.
 
“I wish everyone that came in here (the gym) was as determined as Ray,” Mayweather told this writer on the phone. “The kid has heart."
 
Mayweather, who fought professionally for nine years, and is the uncle of Floyd Mayweather Jr., sized up Merrill. 
 
“He’s tall and rangy,” said Mayweather. “His punches carry some snap. He looks like a prospect.”   
 
Merrill was anxious to turn pro. Mayweather agreed. Merrill worked nights to support himself, and trained by day. It was time to find out what he could do.  
 
But what about his age?
 
“I just turned twenty-seven last month,” said Merrill. “When most people see me they think I’m eighteen or nineteen. I used to worry about my age but Antonio  Tarver (former world champion) turned pro at twenty seven, and Bernard Hopkins turned pro at twenty eight, lost his first fight, and came back at thirty. 
 
“I don’t smoke, drink, and I eat right," he said. "I’m always no bigger than five pounds from my fight weight. Honestly, I’ll be blessed just to have someone who sees the beauty of my dreams.”
 
Merrill was promised by a few promoters that they’d get him a fight. The talk was cheap. The call never came, until Jeff Mayweather got to work. 
 
He knew a promoter in Wisconsin who was willing to give Merrill a chance. 
 
Merrill was stunned.
 
“I’m not gonna lie, he (Mayweather) caught me off guard with the news,” Merrill said. “He had been training King Mo in Florida for two or three weeks. Then, when he came back, I walked in the gym, and when he saw me he stopped in the middle of training someone, and said ’Hey, man, I got you a fight.’
 
The bout is scheduled for August 20. 
 
Some might question if his hearing impairment could limit him in the boxing ring.
 
“During my fights, I read lips,” Merrill said. “The referee is given specific directions on how to deal with me. There is no disadvantage being deaf. I would say that we can do things as good as they( the hearing) can, if not better than they can. Because where we lack in one area, another area is enhanced. 
 
“Sort of like how Ray Charles was blind but he could hear hummingbirds," he said. "Deaf people’s visions are enhanced, and we see things hearing people can’t see. Our eyes are our ears.” 
 
Mayweather readily admits that working with Merrill is challenging, but he’s confident by fight night they’ll be ready. 
 
“When his debut takes place we’ll be on a point,” said Mayweather, who is just as excited as Merrill to see his charge in the ring. 
 
“He’s kind of like a Tommy Hearns,” Mayweather said. ”He punches extremely hard.” 
 
In the history of boxing, only one deaf fighter has won a championship. 
 
Mario D’Agata  captured the world bantamweight title in 1956 by knocking out Robert Cohen. 
 
Merrill dreams of being the first hearing impaired African American to win a world title.  
 
“Just give me a chance, that’s all I’m asking for,“ said Merrill.  
 
After all the sacrifices, hard work, and some telling him he’d never get a chance to box, Merrill is about to live his dream.
 
How many people can say that?
 
Raymond Merrill II can. 
 
 


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