New York- Thursday afternoon, 19-year old Xander Zayas shook hands and followed directives of Top Rank Boxing publicity personnel inside Chase Plaza at Madison Square Garden. The San Juan Puerto Rico native, residing in Fort Lauderdale Florida, was the best dressed fighter.
After a few interviews and exchanges of good luck. Zayas headed to the podium and shared a stage with his Hall of Fame Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, Nico Ali Walsh (grandson of Muhammad Ali), and former lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachencko. A first glimpse and Zayas, sparkled with a gray suit.
On the contrary, Zayas received compliments as the best dressed fighter when he was introduced. Boxing pressers have become more appropriate for participants flashing expensive jewelry and wearing street outfits.
Zayas, though, and the business attire equals his professional knockout ratio in the ring.
A junior middleweight, Zayas, (11-0-8 KO’s) has become a rising phenom in the Top Rank stable of fighters. Saturday night at the Garden, he hits the big stage as part of a Top Rank ESPN televised undercard that highlights Lomachencko versus former champion Richard Commey.
It is not the first time a Zayas fight has been televised on the ESPN platform of networks and he has developed that acclaim as a young and rising superstar in the sport. His knockouts are impressive and boxing fans are drawn to that excitement.
“We’re going little step- by- step, know when the time is right, when the opportunity we’ll take it at 154 and keep showing improvement,” Zayas said after picking up the microphone and making his statement to the assembled media of bloggers that are a part of the boxing circuit.
This is about fighting in the Garden Saturday evening, a historic venue widely known as the “Mecca” of boxing. It’s also about Zayas, who is rapidly making an impact as that rising superstar, and with aspirations of becoming the next champion from Puerto Rico. Those in the know believe, Zayas has that ability to make an impact.
Just like Hall of Fame champions and legends, Felix Trinidad and Miquel Cotto, Zayas is quickly following in their footsteps and they had a mass amount of New York boxing fans from Puerto Rico.
Boxing has continued as a mainstream sport from one end of Puerto Rico to the other. Zayas, once a victim of being bullied, walked in the gym as an 11–year old and made a decision that fighting for a living would be his destiny. Volleyball, baseball, and basketball have also become prominent sports for youngsters on the Island.
“I chose the right one,” Zayas said about a pro boxing career.
But, Zayas, he chose boxing. He is content and admits there is so much more to learn before becoming the next Trinidad. Cotto, or any of the other boxing legends that got their start in a sweaty gym. This week Cotto was announced as the newest inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“Cotto was the guy that time,” Zayas says about the first four- division champion from Puerto Rico. “That time he was the champion in Puerto Rico for bringing all the glory to the Island.”
Zayas has met Cotto many times. He anticipates meeting Trinidad after hearing his mother talk about “Tito” many times, and hearing those accounts makes that goal more realistic about following their footsteps in a sport that is known for connecting with the proper personnel.
Peter Khan, his manager and connections with Top Rank, put the Zayas name on a contract after a successful amatuer career. Zayas is fortunate and it’s the talent that got Top Rank to believe what he could deliver.
So here we are at the Garden. Zayas is anticipating his opportunity of being on that big stage Saturday night, a part of the undercard and televised on ESPN televised platforms. He anticipates getting the win and pleasing the many New York and Puerto Rican boxing fans that will come out and support him.
Trinidad and Cotto would sell out the Garden when they were Top Rank or Don King highlighted main event fighters. If everything holds to plan, Zayas could be a main attraction in June at the Garden, an evening before the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Top Rank has plans for a return date to highlight their young stars from Puerto Rico, an event that has been successful in prior years.
“ Hopefully, June means a lot to me looking to be the next guy to bring the Puerto Rican Island together here at Madison,” Zanyas said. “I’m dedicated to the sport, work hard every day. I don’t see a fight as an easy fight. Looking forward, I’m here to fight keep improving and getting better “
Trinidad and Cotto would also take it one fight at a time. They would progress and cement a legacy.
‘I want to keep that momentum going, I’m ready to put on a show Saturday night, and now it’s laser focus.” Zayas said.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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