New York and New Jersey may be next to each other on the map, but unless you’re making the quick jump from Staten Island to Elizabeth, the distance can be daunting, especially for junior middleweight prospect Jahyae Brown.
A proud native of Schenectady, which is a good three hours from the Big Apple, Brown is now in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, working with coach Chino Rivas for the first time, approximately four hours away from his girlfriend and two children.
And though longtime coach Sam Bunch remains part of the squad, going to the Garden State and getting work in with Rivas’ stable, which includes Tevin Farmer, is the price that needs to be paid to make it to where he wants to go in the boxing world.
“This is my dream, and this is how I’m going to do this, not only for me, but for them, too. So I have to make a lot of sacrifices,” said Brown, who faces Victor Toney this Saturday on the Gilberto Ramirez-Joe Smith Jr. card in Las Vegas.
It’s the 24-year-old’s first bout since the only loss of his pro career, a 10-round majority decision defeat to Guido Emmanuel Schramm in April, and he’s looking forward to erasing the memory of that fight, armed with lessons he picked up both in and out of the ring.
“It was just a learning experience,” said Brown. “It was my first time going 10 rounds and it was a two-week notice fight. I felt like me being a top prospect, an undefeated fighter, I should have never even taken that fight on two weeks’ notice. I should have done a whole training camp and I should have said no to that fight because I’m still young, so I didn’t have to rush and I didn’t have to take that fight. But a boxer is always going to want to fight.”
That’s where a fighter’s team is supposed to step in and be the voice of reason sometimes, but with Brown sporting a 13-0 pro record and the fight being televised as a ShoBox co-main event, he was willing to roll the dice against an opponent he felt he could beat in the 15-1-1 Schramm. But after Brown had a strong start, the Argentinean battler surged down the stretch to lock up the win. It still stings Brown, owner of an 80-4 amateur record, but he did show flashes of his talent in his lone defeat, as well as the heart to gut out a ten-round fight on an empty gas tank.
“I went 10 rounds, I can go 10 rounds and I’m a warrior,” he said. “I got the dog in me.”
That’s about as far as Brown will go when it comes to self-praise. Everything else is about everyone else. His lady, his kids, his family, his community. That’s refreshing in the “me, me, me” generation, and despite having negative noise around him while growing up, he stayed on the straight and narrow, something he credits his parents with.
“I got two amazing parents who have been married for 33 years,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t think about that positivity. They always say, ‘I’m from the ghetto.’ I’m from the ghetto and I was in that environment, but I had great parents in one household who raised me good, and I’m someone who’s 24 years old, doing something positive, fighting on TV, staying out of trouble. The other kids from upstate New York, from Schenectady or anywhere else, they’re like hey, I want to be just like him. I want to stay focused; I don’t want to go to the streets, I want to go to school. I want to fight or do sports. I want to do something positive. If he can do it, I can do it.”
That’s a lot of pressure to have on your shoulders, but Brown seems well-equipped to take on that weight, even if it’s a road he will largely travel alone in order to reach as many people as possible. So in a game where being unselfish doesn’t always work out for a fighter, he refuses to be selfish.
“That’s just not my mindset,” he said. “I want to see everybody win; I want to see my friends win. I’ve seen so much growing up, so many people not reaching the age of 18, so I just want to do better for my community and give back to my community so everybody can be good; provide better jobs, provide everything for as many people as I could.”
It’s a lofty goal, but one Brown is determined to reach in emphatic fashion. That means a lot of work, a lot of winning, and a little bit of the luck every fighter needs. And in his Las Vegas debut, Brown plans on hitting his first proverbial jackpot.
“I don’t overlook anybody,” he said. “I train super hard and I’m just looking to put on a beautiful performance and show my new style that me and my coach Chino put together. I got way better and you’re gonna see a sharper Jahyae. Hey, it might just be a knockout.”