By Paul R. Jones! on September 15ThaiPuerto Rico Rising Star Sanders Zayas (16-0, 10 KOs) Take Roberto Valenzuela Jr. (21-4, 20 KOs) of Mexico in a 10-round super welterweight bout at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Zayas vs Valenzuela It was a match that featured on an interesting top card that made headlines with the reigning IBF world champions. Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) and a 2-time World Champion challenger. Joe Gonzalez (26-3, 15 KOs). Lopez and Gonzalez fought in the 12th round for Lopez’s featherweight title.
Both games will air live on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes.
Before he meets Valenzuela Jr., a match that many people have been waiting for. I recently met 20-year-old Xander Zayas for an exclusive interview on behalf of boxing news 24. We cover everything from fight preparation to his thoughts. Spence vs. Crawfordand who he believes is the top 5 in boxing today
Here are some highlights from our discussion. which was edited for length and clarity:
Boxing News 24 (BN24): Hey Xander, I know you have a bout against Roberto Valenzuela Jr. on September 15. How was the training? And how excited are you about that matchup?
Xander Zayas (XZ): “I’m excited! i mean Every battle is a new test. new challenge And you have to be prepared for it.”
“It’s the most important part of your career. And from the first day I did that. I’m about to enter step 17 and I’m looking at [Valenzuela Jr.] As if he was the best in the world right now. He is the number one fighter. And I have to get through to be the best.”
“I’m going to fight in Corpus Christi for the first time in my career. [and] It’s going to be an exciting crowd out there. It will be a war as always between Puerto Rico and Mexico.”
BN24: I noticed your struggle. [with Valenzuela Jr.] Set for 10 rounds, which I believe is a first for you as a pro. Do you plan to fight 10 rounds from this point on?
XZ: “No, I feel like we’re ready for 10 rounds. Maybe in the past it was just a misunderstanding with the fighters and contracts. something like that”
“We are ready for [a 10 rounder] in the final battle They briefly tell us That it’s going to be round 8 and we can’t do anything, you know.”
“But from now on it will be 10 rounds and we are looking forward to starting to raise everything: opponents, rounds and overall competition.”
BN24: You’re in the top 5 WBO rankings and the top 15 WBC rankings. I know you haven’t looked past Valenzuela. But how eager are you to fight the best at 154? [i.e., Jermell Charlo] or one of the temporary contacts [e.g., Tim Tszyu, Brian Mendoza]?
XZ: “It’s an exciting division. Charlo is now moving up to 160, giving us more room to work with as he’s unbuckling a few belts. Now we can start moving in divisions. We will get more exciting battles.”
“But as you say I didn’t overlook this guy. I’m going to the show on September 15th.ThaiAnd I’m excited about what the future holds.”
BN24: You made boxing a splash and you’re only 20. Can you share a story about your boxing journey? And tell us how you got started.”
XZ: “It all started at 5. My mom gave me boxing just to learn how to protect myself and not fall victim to bullying. And it’s just learning and I never thought of it as a career.”
“At the age of 10 or 11, when I arrived in the United States, That’s when I really knew. that I have the ability and dedication And I work hard.”
“It was only a matter of time for me to achieve all my goals. And now I’m doing that.”
“I was 20 and signed my first contract at 16. I am living my dream. i am doing what i love at the highest level And I enjoy every step of the way.”
BN24: Your boxing style is often described as high-energy, smart, strong and powerful. How do you balance that with aggression? while remaining patient and smart during the battle.”
XZ: “Knowing that you have a man in front of you who is going to hurt you. You always put that thing behind you.”
“[And] when you hurt someone That didn’t mean that he had recovered. You have to be smart about your attacks, counters and your angles.”
“I feel that being as patient as possible gives me a special advantage. when i hurt someone I can really break them down. [and] make them . . . go to the corner and [say]: I don’t want to leave here anymore, I’m done.”
“If the knockout comes, go for it, but be smart about it. Trying to destroy men bit by bit.”
BN24: Your trainer, Javiel Centeno, isn’t as well known to boxing fans as it should be. His mentor was Hall of Fame coach, Angelo Dundee. Can you tell me a bit about how you two started working together? And how learning from him can help you become a better fighter.
XZ: “When I first received [to the U.S.]I’m with another coach. Unfortunately, he died. And that’s when I moved to the coach. [Centeno]I was about 11 or 12 years old and since that day I was with him.”
“I feel like we are a family. he puerto rico I’m Puerto Rico I have met his entire family. So we have a connection from this island.”
“Overall, the energy, the atmosphere, the whole family thing. The gym is there. And I feel at home every time I step into a room with him in the corner.”
“I feel safe. I feel like he’ll give me the best advice he can. And he is someone I respect. [and] Much appreciated, the person I was looking for.”
BN24: Looking to the Future What is your ultimate dream in boxing? Is there a fighter that you would like to fight or a championship title that you are aiming for?
XZ: “When I got there I want to fight my best! I want to fight with a Rank 1 fighter.”
“When it’s my chance to get the title. [and] To win the world championship, I want to beat the best in order to become the best.”
“I just want to be world champion in multiple divisions. Maybe even two divisions. But I will be happy with one undisputed champion.”
BN24: Switch gears, besides boxing. What is it about you that your fans like? Maybe you don’t know? Secret talents or hobbies? What would you like to tell us about?
XZ: “I’m a normal human being, you know, I love playing PS4. I love spending time with my family and watching movies. I have no talent other than boxing.”
“I play sports. I feel like I can try any sport and be competitive. I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but it’s well done.”
BN24: Let me finish with 3 quick questions. Who are the top 5 boxers that impressed you today? And why?
XZ: “(1) Terence Crawford – hypocrisy [and] Sportsmanship (2) Naoya Inoue – Explosiveness, speed, sharpness and strength (3) Canelo Alvarez – reaction Counterattack and attack, cutting the ring (4) Man I like. Jaron “Boots” Ennis – it is movement being in the bag and counter shock Can use defense and swap left to right. I feel that it is wonderful and indeed (5) Tyson Fury – his height And the way he moves according to his height and weight is unbelievable.”
BN24: When you talk about Terence Crawford, what comes to mind? Spence vs. Crawford And how was that fight?
XZ: “I didn’t expect the fight to turn out like this at all.”
“I think it will be a close fight. [but] Crawford has recently portrayed him as an athlete. He showed the best of himself in the greatest moments of his career. And he’s the best pound for pound right now. He cleared all doubts. And it’s very impressive.”
“I call it I have. [Crawford] Win before the battle starts. I’m here with my family and friends. and one of my friends said “I got Spence.” But I was like, ‘No!’ Bud knocked him out in the ninth round. The ninth round begins and my son’s like, hey, got your round, i’m like “look” and [Crawford] causing him to fall over there.”
and i was like “I told you guys, well man, this is what I did! this is my job I know what I’m talking about!”
BN24: There was talk that Spence and Crawford would move into your division for a rematch. Do you think the outcome of the fight would change at all if they returned to 154?
XZ: “No, I don’t think so. More or less weight doesn’t matter when it comes to athleticism . . . pace. [and] The icon is there.”
“Nothing can change that. Just add another 7 lbs. I don’t think it will help because [Crawford’s] will be as big as [Spence] when they become hydrated again.”
BN24: People really admire your mental strength. How do you mentally prepare yourself for a fight? And do you have any advice for young athletes to build that kind of strong mindset?
XZ: “For me, it’s like a switch. I am a very happy person. I like to smile. I like to joke. I like having fun with my people.”
“But when it’s time to work, it’s time to change. It’s time to get serious and show you who’s the best man in the ring.”
“And when I entered there you are not my friend I do not know you [and] I’ve never met your family. Therefore, I will show you that I am better than you.”
“I don’t want to sound cocky or anything. I feel more confident. ‘Cause in the end I’m a gentleman And after I win I’m going to hug you And thank you for the opportunity.”
“But before that I didn’t know you. I’m not your friend That’s how I take care of our business.”
BN24: Many young boxers look up to you as a role model. What message would you like to share with young fighters dreaming of the kind of success you once had?
XZ: “Don’t stop! listen to mom [and] Listen to father, push yourself every time, push yourself to the limit.”
“It doesn’t matter what to do. It will be an uphill battle. never been easy You have to believe in yourself and believe in the people you love.”
“And just keep pushing every day.”
BN24: And finally, you talked about your Puerto Rican heritage. And we are witnessing a new era of Puerto Rican champions in boxing. including former champions Oscar Callazo, Jonathan Gonzalez, Subriel Matias and Emmanuel Rodriguez, and in women’s boxing we have Amanda Serrano.
Can you talk about their achievements for you? And are those fighters motivating you?
XZ: “Oh, of course, human! Those people who brought glory to Puerto Rico mean a lot.”
“It brought that happiness back. And we as fighters We want to continue that. [and] We want to make more championships for Puerto Rico.”
“Now we have five, we would like to have six, seven, eight, nine and 10, you know, we want to be world champions in all divisions.”
“So, I’m very happy for all the champions that represent Puerto Rico. And I can’t wait to get the chance and be on that list with them.”
BN24: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me. And wish you good luck for the battle on September 15th!
XZ: “Thank you!”
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About the author:
Paul R. Jones! A longtime boxing writer and photographer on the sidelines, his articles, photos and commentaries appear online. print media and in academic journals Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. @boxingepicenter. You can also email him at email@example.com.
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