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Xander Zayas is the 2021 TSS Prospect of the Year

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  • Xander Zayas is the 2021 TSS Prospect of the Year

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Let’s start by establishing the criteria for a “prospect.” I would suggest using this barometer to narrow down the field: no more than a dozen fights, none yet pegged as a 10-rounder. A prospect by nature is still in the preliminary-bout phase of his fighting career.

    By this yardstick, Xander Zayas, who has a dozen pro fights on his ledger, sneaks in under the wire. But few fighters so young have had as much praise showered upon them after so few fights. “All I can tell you is that we just witnessed greatness,” gushed former two-division title-holder turned TV pundit Tim Bradley after Zayas chopped down Dan Karpency on Oct. 23. “Greatness! Remember what I just told you!”

    Bradley was raving about a teenager, a man-child. Zayas won’t turn 20 until September. Offhand, only Mike Tyson attracted more buzz before his 20th birthday and Tyson had the advantage of competing in the sport’s glamour division.

    Zayas was the youngest fighter ever signed by Top Rank when he turned pro in February of 2019. Two months earlier, he won the 69 kg (152.2 pounds) title at the USA Youth national tournament in Salt Lake City. That was the capstone of a glorious amateur career. In 2017 alone, Zayas won four state tournaments, two regional tournaments, and a national championship.

    Zayas was born in San Juan. At age 11, he moved with his mother, stepfather, and sister to Florida, settling in the Miami area. He currently resides in Plantation, Florida, and trains at Javiel Centeno’s Sweatbox Boxing and Fitness Gym in nearby Davie where Teofimo Lopez was once a regular patron and where George Kambosos Jr trained for his match with Lopez this past November.

    As a pro, Zayas has knocked out nine of his 12 opponents. He’s answered the bell for 32 rounds and has yet to lose a round. He currently fights at 154 after starting his pro career as a welterweight but has the frame to grow into a super middleweight, perhaps even a light heavy. Top Rank kept him busy in 2021, sending him to post six times, and will ratchet up the competition in 2022. And when the smoke clears on Xander’s career, he will likely be rated among the best Puerto Rican fighters ever, surpassing his boyhood hero Miguel Cotto in career earnings and public esteem.

    That’s a bold prediction, but based on early returns Xander Zayas will be up to the challenge.

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