Young boxer Xander Zayas growing up before our eyes

Xander Zayas (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Xander Zayas (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images) /

Welterweight boxer Xander Zayas fights professionally for the eighth time of his career on Saturday, April 24. He wants to be the Prospect of the Year. 

Everybody body grows and matures at different rates, but there’s no doubt that 18-year-old boxer Xander Zayas is ahead of the curve. That rings true in his maturation as a professional boxer and as a person.

Zayas first spoke to FanSided in October 2019, days before his first professional boxing bout. He was a little bit past his 17th birthday at the time, but he already seemed much older than a typical teenager in terms of his drive to succeed and aspirations for the future.

“I decided that when I was 10 years old when I won my third National in Puerto Rico,” Zayas told FanSided at the time. “I think it got to the point where I said to myself, this is what I want to do. I’ve got the talent. I’ve got the will. I’ve got the heart, and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Fast forward 18 months, and Zayas (7-0, 5 KOs) is undefeated in his professional campaign and is about to engage in his eighth contest. A lot has changed during that relatively small time span. Zayas has gone after his dream with aggressive zeal and has attained more wisdom.

“I’ve learned so much on my team,” Zayas recently told FanSided. “I’ve grown as human, as a fighter. Inside the ring, I’ve just gotten better and better. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

In his immediate future, Zayas meets 6-foot-2 welterweight Demarcus Layton (8-1-1, 5 KOs) in the ring on Saturday, April 24, at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida. Zayas attempts to increase his wins and profile when he fights on ESPN+ on the undercard of the ESPN broadcast of Emanuel Navarrete vs. Christopher Diaz.

Xander Zayas has sparred Daniel Jacobs, Robert Easter Jr., Adrien Broner, and George Kambosos and has improved in the process

Layton boasts a winning record and is 4 inches taller than Zayas. That might intimidate some people, but it can’t faze Zayas, who has sparred several world champions.

“I’ve been around world champions, fighters that I’ve been in camp with,” said Zayas. “I’ve had the opportunity to see the hard work they put in. I’ve been able to see what they do to be in the position that they are. I’m just very glad to have the opportunity to work with those guys like Danny Jacobs, like George Kambosos, that is fighting for a world title now. Like Adrian Bronner, Robert Eastern, Gervonta Davis.”

That’s an impressive list of workout partners. Out of them all, Zayas estimates that he has sparred more than 50 rounds with Robert Easter Jr. and many rounds with all the names he mentioned. It’s a bit surreal for Zayas, who used to watch many of these fighters on T.V. as he was coming up.

“You know, seeing those fighters, like you said, on TV a couple years back, and being like, I want to be in that position,” said Zayas of training with Daniel Jacobs. “I want to be him one day, you know. I want to be a world champion, and then being in a gym next to him, or having a conversation with him, this guy that I’ve seen on TV, this guy that is famous, everybody knows him. I’m sitting next to him. He’s giving me advice [sic]. So it means a lot.”

Zayas has put in a ton of work with Coach Javiel Centeno at the Sweatbox Boxing Gym in Davie, Florida. Apparently, the name of the gym is very literal.

“It’s a sweatbox,” said Zayas. “It’s a Sweatbox, literally. There’s literally a box. It’s on the second floor, and the ceiling is like right next to it, so when that sun hits, it heads straight to us.”

Zayas is doing all he can to achieve his dreams of being a world boxing champion. In the meantime, he has his sights set on a different distinction. Zayas wants to be the 2021 Prospect of the Year.

“I want to finish the year fighting eight-rounders,” said Zayas. “I want to fight at least six times this year. Keep stepping up in competition, and the most important one, win Prospect of the year.”

His goals are lofty, but Zayas takes no shortcuts. Look for him to continue to impress during 2021.

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Watch Xander Zayas vs. Demarcus Layton on Saturday, April 24, on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET. Coverage of the Emanuel Navarrete vs. Christopher Diaz main event begins at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.