What a difference a year makes, especially for 22-year-old Matt “Sharp Shooter” Remillard, the reigning WBC Youth and USNBC featherweight champion.
A year ago, Remillard, 16-0 (8), was in the midst of a year and a half stretch of inactivity due to wrist injury requiring surgery for torn ligaments that separated bones in his hand. Noted hand surgeon Dr. Steven Margles of the LaheyClinic in Burlington, MA, operated, using artificial bone and pins to hold everything together.
The artificial bone, however, never healed properly and Dr. Margles performed additional surgery, where he took bone from Matt’s hip to his wrist, and held it together with a screw.
Remillard suffered the aforementioned injury in 2006, winning a 10 round decision against Jose Hernandez for the WBC super featherweight title, which he was forced to relinquish due to his injury sidelining him for 16 months.
During his long layoff, Matt worked with his longtime trainer, Paul Cichon, at the Manchester, CT, PAL gym, just daily stretching, running, walking and calisthenics as he rehabilitated his left hand. Unable to use his left hand, he strengthened his right, and eventually learned how to fight comfortably as a southpaw.
In 2008, however, he returned to the ring with a vengeance, winning all five of his fights and capturing the WBC Youth and USNBC featherweight title belts, as well as being named the NABF and Connecticut Fighter of the Year.
“This year was huge for me after having to take off 1 ½ years to recuperate,” Remillard said. “I felt like I had to step up in order to catch up to where I was. I had time off to mature, in and out of the ring, and work on different skills. I thought that it was reality because everything had been taken away. I came back fully focused and worked with Paul in the gym to become more than a one-handed fighter.
“There are days my hand lets me know it was injured. It’s never going to be 100-percent, but these tools aren’t meant to hit people or take punishment. The most important thing is that it doesn’t hurt to fight.”
The multi-tattooed Remillard realizes he’s in a very competitive division, one dominated by Latinos. “I’m in one of the toughest divisions,” Remillard commented. “There are a lot of tough Mexicans and Olympians. My last fight was against the toughest guy I’ve fought, three-time world champion Maurico Pastrana.
"He’s a world-class veteran who came to fight and was in good shape. I used my boxing skills more and I think that win, a six-round decision has to help move me up the ladder.
“Next year, I hope to have five or six more fight for a regional title like the NABF or USBA, and move up in the rankings. If I can beat a couple of big names in 2009 to use as a stepping stone, I feel that I’ll be able to make some noise in 2010 and possibly fight for a world title.
"I’m 16-0 now and hopefully I’ll have somewhere in the mid-twenties for wins next year, which will position me to knock on the door for a world title shot in 2010. I leave all of that up to my team, promoter Jimmy Burchfield, manager Bret Hallenbeck and trainer Paul Cichon. I’ll be ready. I’ve never turned down a fight.”
Remillard, rated No. 23 by the WBC, also is ranked No. 5 by the USBA and NABF.
Two years ago, Remillard was wearing a cast and training with one hand. Today, he’s one of the brightest American prospects among smaller weight fighters. Oh, what a difference a year has made for “Sharp Shooter.”