Who is 16-year-old boxing phenom Xander Zayas?
Whenever elite boxing prospects start making waves, promoters and managers hunt them down like piranhas in hopes of turning them into the next Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao or Oscar De La Hoya. Almost two weeks ago, the hunt for who many feel could be the next big thing ended when Top Rank signed the youngest fighter in its promotional history — 16-year-old Xander Zayas. “The feeling of signing the contract was amazing,” Zayas, a high school junior, told Sporting News. “My phone blew up. Everybody started texting and congratulating me. It was an amazing feeling.”
Before he discovered the gloves, Zayas did what any child growing up would do — play with his toys and friends. But an unfortunate recurring event started happening when he turned 5, and it would shape the course of his life in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “Every time I was going to play, kids would hit me, call me names and I didn’t want to go outside anymore,” Zayas told Sporting News. “I didn’t want to go out and play with my friends. My mom decided to put me in boxing because other kids were bullying me. “As soon as I got to the gym, I fell in love with it right away,” he continued. “I told my mom I liked it and wanted to continue going back.” At age 6, Zayas had his first amateur fight. He wound up winning his first 20 bouts. From there, Zayas built a 118-14 record as an amateur. Today, he stands as an 11-time Puerto Rican and United States amateur champion, including back-to-back national titles in 2017 at 125 pounds and in 2018 at 152 pounds. Zayas was also named the most outstanding boxer of last year’s competition.