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‘Cradle of Champions’ subject James Wilkins relishes spotlight

Showtime will air the documentary, which features the Staten Island native, on Friday night before Wilkins’ bout.

James Wilkins, 22, is one of three boxers

James Wilkins, 22, is one of three boxers featured prominently in the Showtime documentary "Cradle of Champions." Photo Credit: Showtime

In high school, James Wilkins’ original sport of choice was football. After his first visit to a gym, he knew boxing would become his calling. For a time, he balanced the two sports, but eventually made the sweet science his full-time passion.

“I loved to fight, so I knew if I could get away with it and not get in trouble, I was gonna do it,” the Staten Island native told amNewYork.

Wilkins (5-0, 5 KOs) is one of three fighters featured prominently in the new documentary, “Cradle of Champions,” which centers on the 2015 New York Golden Gloves tournament. The film airs at 8 p.m. Friday on Showtime. Immediately after airing, the 22-year-old will face fellow unbeaten Misael Lopez (8-0, 4 KOs) in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on the ShoBox undercard.

While having a film crew follow your every move may be unnerving for some, Wilkins welcomed it and fed off the attention.

“There was no pressure because I love cameras,” Wilkins said. “I love being in the spotlight.”

After winning the 123-pound championship at the 2013 Golden Gloves, Wilkins returned two years later with his eyes on the 132-pound crown. He made it to the championship fight, where he lost to Titus Williams in a tight decision. It was a heartbreaking moment for Wilkins, nicknamed “Crunch Time,” who insists he bested his opponent that night. The outcome has shaped the early stages of his professional career.

“I know I won that fight,” Wilkins said. “I told myself when I go pro, I’m not leaving it in the judges’ hands. I’m just gonna knock everybody out.”

Wilkins has been a man of his word thus far, finishing all five opponents. His list of mentors in the sport is a short one: Roy Jones Jr. and Paulie Malignaggi, a Brooklyn native. He plans on becoming a 130-pound champion within the next year and, eventually, unifying the belts.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m ready to fight and become a star.”

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