The boxing maturation of young gun Xander Zayas

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

At just 18 years old, Xander Zayas is almost two years into his boxing career. The young prospect has big dreams and the talent to accomplish them. 

What were you up to during the summer of your 18th year on earth? It was longer in the past than I would like to admit, but sleeping until noon and partying with friends were my favorite hobbies at that age. For Xander Zayas, his summer activities are filled with much more passion and ambition.

Zayas lacks a nickname, but ‘The Prodigy’ or ‘The Young Gun’ would be fitting monikers. He signed a professional contract with Top Rank at 16 years old, had his first professional fight at 17, and is 8-0, with 6 KOs as an 18-year-old. It’s safe to say that Zayas isn’t sleeping in or partying the night away this summer.

Zayas’s time is geared towards boxing training and achieving his goal of becoming the 2021 Boxing Prospect of the Year.

“I’m looking forward to step in the ring three times again and leave no doubt,” Zayas told FanSided. “That’s the goal. You know, every time I step into the ring, leave no doubt on why I’m going to win Prospect of the year.”

Zayas has the confidence and the skills to bolster his increasing faith in his future hopes. FanSided first talked to Zayas when he was 17 and about to embark on his professional debut. At the time, he seemed much older than the age on his birth certificate, but he still looked like a kid. Albeit a chiseled and tough kid.

A little less than two years later, Zayas still has the youthful and charming smile that he sported then, but his features are more like a grown man. The baby fat in his cheeks has melted away. His muscles are more defined and robust, and his knockout power is increasing with every fight.

Xander Zayas continues to move up the boxing ladder, win after win

“We’ve been working on the power, on the explosiveness, on the quickness of our punches here in the gym,” said Zayas. “And I think I started noticing that difference.”

Zayas works on perfecting his craft with trainer Javiel Centeno in the Hollywood, FL Sweatbox Boxing Gym. In April, the world also took notice of Zayas’s growth as a knockout puncher. He dropped 6-foot-2 Demarcus Layton once before the referee stopped the fight to give Zayas the round 1 TKO. He had Layton out of there in 56 seconds.

It was Zayas’s most impressive victory to date, but the young fighter looked at his performance objectively and saw some youthful mistakes in his performance.

“I do believe that I was a little too overly aggressive,” self-assessed Zayas. “I got too excited, you know, hearing the crowd seeing that he was hurt. But we got the job done. We did what we had to do. I saw the mistake from the first bell, and it was just a matter of time to get him in the right position and landed the big shot.”

Part of being wise means knowing that you don’t have all the answers. Zayas looks to his trainer and other experienced boxers for guidance. Fighters like George Kanbosos and Robert Easter Jr. have served as mentors in training and sparring. Recently, he shared the ring with former welterweight champion Shawn Porter and used those moments to add to his boxing lexicon.

“I do believe that I pick up new stuff every time I step in the ring with somebody that has been at the highest level,” said Zayas. “I also like to ask them questions after the sparring. See what they think. See what I could improve. What I could be better at and what I’m doing good too because that keeps me on a mindset that I’m still growing. I’m still learning.”

When not in the ring, Zayas also tries to occupy his time with helping others. He has worked on anti-bullying campaigns and is trying to bring added awareness to mental health.

“We are focusing on the anti-bullying campaign,” said Zayas. “We’re also focusing on the mental health campaign. I think those two things are a really hot topic that most people don’t pay attention to. Using my platform on social media, to get people to pay attention to what that means to me and what that means to the people that are suffering from that.”

Zayas doesn’t waste a moment of his time. He’s productive inside the ring and out and is focusing his energy to better himself and others. Age is just a number, and Zayas uses his numerous gifts to find success in all facets of his life.

Zayas’s next fight is on Saturday, June 12, against Larry Fryers on ESPN+ on the Shakur Stevenson vs. Jerimiah Nakathila undercard. He’s making the most of his opportunities and continues to mature in and out of the ring.

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Watch Xander Zayas vs. Larry Fryers on Saturday, June 12, on ESPN+. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m ET. The Shakur Stevenson vs. Jerimiah Nakathila main event can be seen on ESPN, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes at 10 p.m. ET.