Grand Rapids boxers achieve victories in first professional fights

A pair of Grand Rapids boxers took victories in their professional debuts Saturday night.

Joshua Pagan, a 22-year-old graduate of Kenowa Hills High School, stopped Glenn Mitchell of Steubenville, Ohio, in the second round of their four-round lightweight fight at the Ford Community Center in Dearborn.

Joseph Hicks, a 28-year-old graduate of Godwin Heights, stopped his opponent, Montrel James of St. Louis, in the fourth round of their six-round middleweight class, also in Dearborn.

Both called their victories dreams come true.

“I’ve waited my entire career for this,” Hicks said. “I haven’t been in the ring for over a year, since October 2020, so it’s been a while. It just felt great to be back in the ring.”

Hicks won a 165-pound Golden Gloves National Championship in 2019 and a year later earned the captain’s honor for the USA International Team. However, his dreams of competing in the Olympics were shattered when the 2020 Games were canceled due to the pandemic.

Hicks has since turned pro. He and Pagan signed with promoter Dmitriy Salita.

“I’m so glad everyone came out to show me love and support,” Hicks said of Saturday’s audience. “My first (pro)fight was on my daughter’s sixth birthday. That’s so great. Words cannot describe. It will always remain a memory for her. Her father took his first professional victory on her sixth birthday.”

Pagan turned pro after winning a championship at the USA Boxing Nationals in December. Pagan won the 147-pound title in the open tournament in Shreveport, La.

“It feels great,” Pagan said. “I’m glad I was able to get there and get some experience and start my career the right way. I fought aggressively. There are a few things I can change. I can be more patient in there. But now that I’m moving from amateur to pro, I need to work on a few things. Next time I better come back.”

Pagan fought in more than 90 amateur fights and he said the road to the pros didn’t start very well.

“I lost my first three amateur fights when I started boxing,” Pagan said. “I could have stopped, but I kept working and I stayed in the gym. I’ve had over 90 amateur fights and won the tournament last year and now I’m just on my way to the pros. I never gave up and never lost hope.

“When I entered the ring and heard the song play and everyone cheering for me, I got emotional when I got in there. It just felt great. It was surreal.”

Both fighters plan to compete in Dearborn on March 6.

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