Meet Xander Zayas, the Puerto Rican star hoping to follow in the footsteps of Miguel Cotto.
Like many other Puerto Ricans, Xander Zayas grew up idolising Miguel Cotto.
Now the highly-touted super-welterweight prospect, 19, is making a big impression on Bob Arum having signed his first professional contract with Top Rank in 2019, and hopes to emulate his old mentor ‘Junito’.
Zayas’ all-action fighting style, the result of his time spent sparring former unified lightweight world champion George Kambosos Jr, is reminiscent of Puerto Rican legend Cotto.
And the youngster revealed he spent most of his childhood watching old video tapes of Cotto’s fights against the likes of Zab Judah, Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao.
“I was born in 2002, and I always like to look back at some of the legendary fights, but the one that really stood out the most for me was Miguel Cotto,” Zayas exclusively told GiveMeSport.com.
“He is my favourite boxer of all time, a Puerto Rican boxer that inside the ring and outside the ring is a gentleman you know, is a great guy.
“I know him personally and he is somebody that has inspired me since I first started boxing.
“Cotto was the guy in Puerto Rico at the time who was bringing all the glory back to us.
“So you know for me growing up, he was the guy I looked up to.
“I used to watch him fight Zab Judah, obviously his fight with Manny Pacquiao, when he fought Antonio Margarito twice. I always rewatch his fights when I get the chance.
“If I can have half the career he had, then I’ll be happy.”
‘I WAS A VICTIM OF BULLYING’
Zayas’ mother first took him to a boxing gym when he was just five years old.
And he added: “I was a victim of bullying so she took me there so I could learn how to defend myself.
“The first time I walked in there, I saw these guys throwing punches at the bag, so I was a bit scared at the beginning.
“But the first day I learned how to throw a jab, learned how to stand in the right position, and I just fell in love with it.
“The next day I was calling my mum saying ‘when are we going back to the gym?’
“So I guess it all worked out in the end.”
‘I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED AS ONE OF THE BEST TO EVER DO IT’
A veteran of 13 fights, it’s remarkable to think Zayas is still only 19.
But he insists he is nowhere near where he wants to be quite just yet.
Zayas continued: “I want to be remembered as one of the best to ever do it. I want to be remembered as somebody that brought inspiration to his generation.
“Somebody that helped people. Somebody that inside the ring fought the best no matter what happened.
“And somebody outside the ring that was a great person, a good person, somebody who is hard to forget about.
“I want to keep showing the world that I’m one of the best to ever do it. I have no doubt I will be the best in my division.
“And one day, you know, they will understand.”
Do not let success go to your head and do not let failure get to your heart.