NORFOLK, VA. - When the topic of Hampton Roads athletes comes up, It's not often you'll hear boxing slip in to the discussion, unless you're talking about the glory days of "Sweet Pea" Whitaker.
"A lot of people from this area sleep on boxing, and they really don't take it serious, so it's kind of hard for you to make it from here," says 18-year old Nick Sullivan.
Sullivan, aka "Slick Nick" is out to change that. He won his first championship belt at the age of 12. Fast forward six years, and eight belts later, he's headed to Kansas for the biggest bout of his life - the Elite, Junior, and Youth National Championships.
"Just in his weight class alone there's 41 people. If you lose, one shot deal, when you lose, you out," says his coach Shaun Wilson. Sullivan has a goal in mind, but it's a new experience, and he's taking it in stride. "I'm going out there to win, but it's also a learning experience too. I won't have to work a 9-5 and I can train and do what i like to do," says Sullivan. "So as I got older, it became more of a job to me."
Nick has a very tight-knit family, part of the reason he's making boxing a full-time job. He says one of his biggest influences has been his brother, who's also had to fight for the majority of his life.
"I really believe God gave me what he couldn't do. He's never been able to walk, he was born with cancer, they said he wouldn't live past three, he's 20 today. If he can go through that, multiple surgeries, surgeries on his head, he's always smiling, I should be able to smile, I'm okay," says Sullivan.
In boxing, Having a strong corner can elevate you. Coach Shaun Wilson, who coaches with the Norfolk Boxing Club as well, has been coaching Nick for less than two years. As a former boxer himself, he relates to Nick in a way a lot of coaches can't.
"The things I felt that he really needed help with, was just believing in himself," says Wilson. " It's one thing to get inside of the ring and fight. but its another thing to get inside the ring and believe the things you do in the gym."
Earlier this year, the world watched Bethel grad Shakur Stevenson take the silver medal in the Olympics. After a week of training with Stevenson, Nick feels that he can be the next to shine the light on boxing in the 757.
"He said keep training hard, because I can do it. He believes in me. Coming from him, that means a lot because everybody looks up to him," says Sullivan.
Regardless of the results this upcoming week, the white towel won't be anywhere near "Slick Nick".
"With hard work and dedication, you can get anywhere."