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A path to greatness - Xander Zayas

In a boxing world overflowing in young talent and up-and-coming prospects fighting to reach world champion status, the name Xander Zayas has come to light after the 11-time U.S. national champion made history as the youngest fighter to sign with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions in March.

"Growing up watching my idol, Miguel Cotto, it has always been a dream of mine to fight for Top Rank, and today that dream has come true,” Zayas said after being signed. “I know I have a long road ahead and will remain focused and hungry while I work hard every day to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a world champion. It was a surreal experience to meet with Bob Arum, as he provided me with his wisdom and advice as I begin my career. It was a humbling experience, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity."

’Mikey Williams/Top Rank

As with most cases, Zayas commenced his boxing journey as a means of self-defense from bullying at the tender age of 5. At 16 years of age, the young Puerto Rican has established himself as one of the world’s top amateurs fighting for USA Boxing and now at 17 has made a successful pro-debut earning a victory through a spectacular knockout against another undefeated prospect in the undercard of Shakur Stevenson vs. Joet Gonzalez on Oct. 26 in Reno, NV.

Imposing his abilities early on, Zayas sent Genesis Wynn (1-1, 0 KOs) to the canvas a couple of times before the referee putting an end to the contest in minute 1:24 of the first episode.

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Zaya looks to remain undefeated in the second fight of his pro-career at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Nov. 30 in the undercard of Oscar Valdez vs. Andres Gutierrez. Though the opponent is yet to be determined, Zaya hopes his amateur career success continues to reflect on his growing skills as a pro in one of the most challenging divisions in the sport. The welterweight division.

With an abundance of prominent prospects not only from Top Rank, but from every other promotional company, what sets the decorated amateur apart? While it’s too early to properly assess Zaya’s chances of effectively infiltrating the welterweight division based on one performance, his ambition to turn pro while also finishing his high school education shows he already has what many professionals don’t. Heart

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Scheduled to graduate in 2020, Zayas never let school step in his accomplishments in the ring. Zayas won gold at the 2017 and 2018 National Championships and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Boxer in 2018. Unable to participate in the 2020 Olympics because of his age, the Puerto Rican native turned to the pros to continue in the boxing path.

Head trainer Javiel Centeno who works out of Centeno’s Sweatbox Boxing & Fitness in Davie, Florida expressed himself highly of Zander and wholeheartedly believes he will be a world champion in the future.

"I knew that Xander was something special from the first day he walked into the gym,” Centeno told Top Rank. “Besides the boxing abilities at such a young age, he had the charisma, work ethic and maturity of a world-class athlete. I was reminded that he made a promise to me early on that he will be the the first champion I developed from the beginning, and now with by far the greatest promotional engine in the sport of boxing behind us, I see us taking that first step in making his words become reality in the near future.”

It’s no rarity that not all prospects make it big, regardless of their amateur background. Even those who appear strong candidates in the early stages of their career can be hit with the hard truth through the fists of higher competition once it’s time to “make it or break it.”

In particular, the case of Mexican Olympican Francisco Bojado serves as a perfect example. Bojado’s lucrative deal with Showtime in the early 2000s was short-lived as his sensational amateur record failed to translate to the big leagues regardless of his crowd-pleasing toe-to-toe Mexican style.

While other more recent names could be brought up on basis of stylistic preference, the Boricua seems to be level-headed and focus on his growth as a fighter. Until he shows how he adjusts to adversity, Zayas is worth the attention and recognition for becoming the youngest signed fighter on such a renowned and historical promotional company.

The fight will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Queensberry Promotions and MTK Global, tickets priced at $100, $85, $65, $45 and $20 (general admission) go on sale Friday, October 18, at 10 a.m. PT and are available online at www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.comor through Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000.

- Liliana Ulloa of Xicana Boxing

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