The Xander Zayas train restarts this Friday on Telemundo
His eyes peer tightly to the screen, and that’s usually followed by a wince, or an open question to himself why he did that.
And this is how Xander Zayas reacts to fights that he won.
This Saturday at 12:01 AM, the burgeoning welterweight will turn 18.
But first, Zayas (4-0, 3 knockouts) plans on celebrating that with a four-round victory over Orlando Salgado (1-0, 1 KO) on Friday night from the Osceola Heritage Park, in Kissimmee, Florida, in a prerecorded fight by Telemundo.
Zayas will be celebrating a few graduations—one from high school, one from four-rounders, and the other turning 18.
Well, 18, chronologically.
Zayas’ boxing acumen belies his tender age.
It comes from the demands he places on himself.
The inner drive is partly the reason why Zayas became the youngest fighter to sign a multiyear promotional contract with Top Rank as a 16-year-old in March 2019.
Nothing he does is ever good enough—for him.
Back in February, he stopped Marklin Bailey in three rounds in Puerto Rico. Yet, when he watched a replay of the fight a few weeks ago, Zayas found a hundred things he did wrong.
“I am really critical of myself when I watch myself fight, but I think that goes for everybody who wants to be good,” said Zayas, who with his good looks seems more like he walked off the set of teen TV series Riverdale than a boxing ring. “You know when you do a good job and when you don’t. We’ll sit down as a whole team and go cover what we did right and what we did wrong.
“Oh yeah, I’ll curse at myself. I did the last fight. I made a couple of mistakes like leaning forward, and I missed a couple of shots when I wasn’t committed to them. Those are the things that I’ve worked on and showing that on Sept. 4.”
But Zayas is prone to turn around and get himself during a sparring session.
“I want things to be right,” Zayas said. “Yeah, you can say I’m a perfectionist.”
His record has been perfect, so far. He’s been guided by his trainer, Javiel Centeno, and manager, Peter Kahn, a 2020 BWAA Manager of the Year nominee.
“I can tell you why Xander will stop himself and why it happens, because he’s learning how to assess what he’s doing in real time,” Kahn said. “Some fighters in the past have been able to succeed on pure athleticism. However, the ones that can perform at an elite level, with an elite boxing IQ, in addition to that athleticism, they’re the ones that separate themselves from being stars to superstars.
“We have Xander on a six-fight plan, which means he would fight every-other-month, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, that was slowed down. But Xander’s pro debut was last October 26, 2019, and it looks like we’re going to accomplish getting him six fights within that time frame.”
Depending what Top Rank would like to do with Zayas, Kahn stressed, Zayas could be back into the ring by October, possibly even be an undercard consideration to be placed on the October 17 Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez megafight in Las Vegas.
“That would be wonderful to have Xander on that card, since I already have one fighter, Quinton Randall, already on that card,” Kahn said. “I see Xander back in the ring as soon as late October or early November.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.