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Matt Remillard: Ready for the Big Stage


Matt Remillard believes that HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” will bring his career into the light. The 23-0 (13) Connecticut featherweight faces his biggest challenge to date in fellow Top Rank prospect Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia, 24-0 (20), at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall this Saturday.


While Garcia has been a celebrated prospect of Top Rank for years and heavily favored by the oddsmakers, think twice before filling out your featherweight bracket in this month’s “March Madness.”


Despite nearly identical records, Garcia comes in as a 3-to-1 favorite, which doesn’t surprise anyone from Remillard’s camp. Top Rank VP Carl Moretti, who signed Remillard, told Maxboxing, “Garcia’s had the benefit of being with Top Rank and had the chance to be on ‘Top Rank Live’ and some pay-per-view undercards, while Matt hasn’t had those chances. It’s not about talent; it’s about opportunities.” Remillard himself is also unfazed by the oddsmakers, stating, “[Garcia]’s just had more exposure.”


Remillard is relatively unknown to all except New England fight fans, having had just one television fight, a six-rounder on ESPN in April 2009, and signing with Top Rank just two months ago. But manager Bret Hallenbeck feels Remillard has been ready for the big stage for some time now, saying, “we wanted to fight [Celestino] Caballero and we wanted that fight bad but we couldn’t make it happen with the promotional issues.”

“It’s been tough the last few years trying to get good fights; it’s hard to find the money to get top fighters to come to your hometown.” Remillard said. First signed with Jimmy Burchfield’s CES Sports, a top regional promotional firm in New England, Remillard moved to TKO Promotions in early 2009. After TKO’s well-reported problems, Remillard signed on with Top Rank in January of this year. “They’ve been great to me; it’s nice now just focusing on boxing.”


Both Hallenbeck and Remillard feel that fans will be treated to a good co-feature Saturday, “We’re both crowd-pleasing fighters. He’s obviously got power with only four people hearing the final bell against him and I don’t like to take a backward step either.” Remillard said. Hallenbeck added, “Matt definitely likes to be the aggressor; he is a good boxer but when cornered, the brawler in him comes out.”


Moretti agrees, “It’s going to be action from start to finish. I see this as a 50-50 fight; if Matt can stay away from Garcia’s right hand and if Garcia can stay away from the body punching of Remillard, who does the better job of that will have the edge down the stretch.”


Now trained by Mike “Mikey Red” Skowronski, Remillard began training in California for this fight with Buddy McGirt but after one week, felt there were too many distractions and headed back to the East Coast. He settled in at the Passaic, New Jersey P.A.L., where he’s trained for the past four weeks with Glen Tapia, Jorge Diaz, Victor Valenzuela, and Jeremy Bryan.


Skowronski feels that Remillard possesses far more power than people give him credit for, having only 13 knockouts on his résumé but the real test will come when he tastes Garcia’s power. “He’s definitely a strong fighter but if I keep my hands up, I should be okay. I think he’s got to worry about my power as well.”


Fighting since the age of 13, Remillard is like so many in the sport who credit boxing with keeping them off the street and out of trouble. “I was told I could fight on the street and get arrested or fight in the gym and get trophies.” It all hit home for a young Remillard within days of first entering a boxing gym, “Some of my friends pulled up in a car that was obviously not theirs. Of course, they had no license to drive and asked me if I wanted to go on a joyride. I told them I was really getting into boxing and said no, they called me a few names and sped off. The next day in school, I didn’t see them anywhere and people started asking me if I was with them when it happened. It was then I found out they crashed the car into a wall and one of them was paralyzed from the waist down.” Remillard then added, “A couple years later, the other hanged himself in a juvenile facility.”


Clearly the 24-year old Remillard sees this as a turning point in his life and shares that experience with young people in the gym who face the same tough decisions he did, “I want to give something back to the sport. I want to give something back to my parents; that’s very important to me.”


It didn’t take Remillard long to fall in love in boxing but it took the young man time to learn and master the sport. “The first time I got in the ring, I got my ass beat pretty good. They were surprised I came back but I just kept coming back to the gym.” He credits his first trainer, Paul Cichon’s patience and his father’s support for leading him to where he stands now, just days away from a fight that could put him in the thick of the title hunt in one of today’s most exciting and deep divisions.


Not one to draw attention to himself, Remillard is considered “a humble, good kid” by those close to him. The fighter himself concurs. “If you saw me on the street, you wouldn’t think I was fighter. I don’t trash-talk and just try to be a good guy.”


Saturday night, fight fans across America will be introduced to the humble young man from Connecticut, as he looks to shake up the featherweight division and place himself squarely into title contention. After taking the time with speak with him, I think we should all be grateful that he didn’t get into that car a decade ago.


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