Under the watchful eye and wise guidance of his father Everette, Melik Elliston is destroying his training session on a cool night in Denver at Delgado’s Gym.
Be it mitt or bag work, the twenty-one year old native of the mile high city listens carefully to his coach and effectively executes the instruction given. These are the moments that are putting the final touches on the next step in his journey, the Olympic Trials in Reno, Nevada, December 7-12.
On January 24th in Spokane, Washington, Elliston was impressive in defeating Texas’ Pablo Ramirez by unanimous decision and winning the USA Boxing Elite National Championships. The win earned Elliston a slot in the Reno trials. If successful in winning the 108 pound class at the trials, Elliston will represent the US in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 summer games.
I had an opportunity to sit down with Melik this past week and talk about his journey, his relationship with his father/coach, and the lessons learned from the late great Ron Lyle.
Standing-8: So, your dad is your coach, how long has he coached you, since the beginning?
Elliston: Since the beginning, yes, he didn’t box or anything, he knew martial arts, he knew the basics, I boxed with Ron Lyle.. at the Salvation Army, I wasn’t really learning anything at first, that’s when my dad stepped in and he was learning as well as I was learning. I think like my second year of boxing. My first fight, I was eleven years old, my dad was in the ring when I fought.
Standing-8: Family comes first and you have a real strong foundation, talk to me a little about the father-son, fighter-coach relationship.
Elliston: It’s always good, he got me to where I am at right now, I mean you know, sometimes it’s rough waking me up at five in the morning, “hey get up go run, come on go do this, go hit the bag” before he has to go to work and when I was in school wake me up at five to go work out. It’s a blessing to have my father as a father and a coach to be able to provide what he does.
Standing-8: You talked a little bit about Ron Lyle, your time with Lyle, what did you take away from those experiences with Ron Lyle, did he mentor you in the game?
Elliston: You know he is an old school fighter, he taught my father a lot of stuff, we got a lot of old school techniques. His words were powerful when we were in the ring. “If your hands ain’t moving, your head and your feet are moving” That’s eight years ago and it’s still stuck with me.
Standing-8: Getting back to the USA Nationals, what were some of the lessons you learned from that journey, from winning the USA Nationals that will prepare you now for these trials, what can you draw from those experiences?
Elliston: A lot is how the judges do the judging. They like the more busier…the person who looks like their controlling the fight all three rounds. That is a big thing I learned of how they will be judging. You cant pot-shot, you cant just one-two punches, you have to one-two punch and then go in with a combination, five or more punches just to keep going forward. That’s a big thing I learned from fighting there.
Standing-8: Tell me how your training has been going into Reno getting ready for the trials and how your mind set is.
Elliston: I’ve been training hard, been real focused. My mindsets been on this, thinking of this. I don’t do nothing. I started my camp a month earlier than I usually do for tournaments. Getting my head right, my diet right. I wish I would have done this a while ago, starting earlier cutting this weight and just getting focused, like now I have no doubt in my mind that I shouldn’t come out with this gold medal and be on the Olympic Team. My mindset is real strong, and training as well.
Standing-8: What would it mean to you to win the trials, be on your way to Rio and be representing the United States on that Olympic Team and going towards your dream of getting that gold?
Elliston: It would mean a lot, this is the first step in my dream, winning this, to call myself an Olympian for the USA. It’s all I’ve been fighting for, all this time, ten years of my life in boxing, I’ve been preparing for this, me and my father preparing for this moment. Winning this would definitely be amazing. Winning the gold medal, that’s my main goal right there.
Standing-8: Has that been your goal since you started at age eleven?
Elliston: I would say not at eleven. When I was young I was just boxing, I didn’t have any dreams or goals, my goal was to get a trophy. A couple years after that once I started being in the foundation of boxing and learning more, that’s what I wanted my dream to be. I set my dream high and that was to become an Olympian.
Standing-8: That was a good segue, you said set your dreams high, become an Olympian, winning the gold and you spoke earlier about how that was going to set you up for future goals. So after the Olympics, we’re talking down the road, not to lesson the journey here but is the goal to become a pro and if so, what’s your thoughts about that long term goal and what division do you feel you’d be suited for in the pro game?
Elliston: After I win the gold medal, I’m definitely, definitely going to turn pro. My goal in the pros is to win titles, since I’m little, I think I’ll fight no higher than 125 pounds. So, I’m going to fight around that weight class.
Standing-8: Those weight classes have been exploding here lately, a lot of talent in those weight classes and they’re finally starting to get the coverage and some big headlining fights. Who are some of the fighters that you like? That you followed, that you really like the style and do you emulate your style after anyone in particular?
Elliston: First, my favorite fighter is Roy Jones Jr. That’s mostly who I studied, his defense, that’s what I like, and Mayweather and now Rigondeaux. Fighters like that, fast, beautiful movement and defense and being able to come off of their defense and score and attack. That’s the styles I like. Boxing’s an art. It’s a chess game in the ring, if you’re not playing chess in the ring, you’re not boxing. The smarter fighter always wins.
Standing-8: A multiple run at the Olympic games?
Elliston: I’m getting older, after this Olympic run, I’m looking to get my pro career going. A Lot of these fighters turn too late. I’m going to be fighting fighters that almost thirty years old. Most of the other countries that are in the Olympics, like when I went to Italy, I fought some dude that was twenty-eight years old. I don’t want to do that and then turn pro, that’s too old. So, 2016 Olympics, I want to turn pro in 2018. After this run, I’m training to get ready for pro.
Standing-8: I wish you the best of luck on this journey. I know the City of Denver is going to be pulling for you, the right to have an Olympic Team member going to Rio from the Mile High City, they’ll be backing you every step of the way on to your dream. I appreciate you giving me this opportunity to interview, take some pictures, see a little bit of your camp and best of luck to you.
Elliston: Thank you, I appreciate it too.
Throughout the interview, I observed a young man with poise and confidence beyond his years. It is evident that his strong family foundation has prepared him for this journey. In watching Everette coach Melik, you can’t help but see, not only the respect and unison of a fighter and coach, but also the love and unbreakable bond of a father and son.
I asked Elliston if I had it correct that his nickname was “The Hitman”, he looked at me, smiled, and then said, “No, I have a new nickname now……”Tha One”
No better mindset to have going into the biggest opportunity of his life.