PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Michael Valentin knows what it’s like to fight both inside and outside of the ring.
The 23-year-old boxer, nicknamed “Bling Bling,” is gearing up to fight in the WBC Featherweight Championship.
“My goal is to be a world champion,” he said.
But Valentin isn’t like other boxers.
He’s been fighting since the day he was born against an invisible opponent: Hirschsprung’s disease. The condition is the result of missing nerve cells in the muscles of the large intestine.
For Valentin, wearing a colostomy bag has always been part of his daily routine.
“It’s normal for me … I never let it get to me,” he said. “I try to do what a normal person would.”
Valentin said his battle has been difficult for his mother to watch.
“It was definitely tough,” he said. “I remember my mom almost losing her job at one point because she lived with me in the hospital. I’d be there two to three weeks at a time … she would eat, sleep and shower there basically every day.”
It was difficult for Valentin, too.
While he was bullied in school, Valentin never let it stop him from pursuing his dreams.
It wasn’t until a fight in February 2018 that he was stopped in his tracks.
“I revealed I had a colostomy bag to the public right after my fight,” Valentin recalled. “Nobody knew it … just my team and my family.”
“I wanted everyone to see that I had it on in the ring,” he continued. “I mean, that’s what I try to do every day … inspire people who thought they wouldn’t be able to do anything in life.”
Valentin underwent surgery in an attempt to live without the colostomy bag, but it was unsuccessful.
On top of that, he lost his boxing license.
That’s when former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras reached out and helped Valentin get reinstated.
Retired Olympian and boxer Jason Estrada is also in Valentin’s corner. He said Valentin is special because of the adversity he’s faced throughout his life.
“His will is strong,” Estrada said of Valentin. “To go through what he’s going through and compete at such a high level … it’s a gift.”
Estrada, Valentin’s trainer, said he belongs in the ring.
“It’s his charisma,” Estrada said. “He might sometimes get carried away with the showmanship, but the kid can box.”
Valentin said he will never stop fighting.
“I’ve always had people tell me, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that,'” Valentin said. “I’ve never listened to that. I always go with my gut feeling.”
Valentin will take on Joshua Maldonado Saturday night at Bally’s Twin River.