Jose Nieves, bantamweight based in NJ, wants to be the next boxing star from Puerto Rico
ROSELLE PARK, N.J. — After two fights out of town, Jose Nieves’ New Jersey-based fans were excited to see his homecoming performance. The bantamweight prospect brought a sizable crowd to the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark last May and gave them a show against David Ashley.
For all of 26 seconds, that is, until Nieves turned out the lights in “Brick City”. The quick night was just fine with Nieves.
“I think it’s awesome. The less punches the better. I’d rather have the fight go quick than take six rounds of punishment,” said the 21-year-old southpaw Nieves (3-0, 2 knockouts), a resident of Woodbridge, N.J. who was born and raised in Aibonito, Puerto Rico.
Nieves hopes to give his followers more time to get to their seats in his next fight against Juan Sequeira (1-0) on August 20 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on a card promoted by Rising Star Promotions. He makes no promises, however.
“If I can take him out in the second round I’m gonna take him out. But I’m gonna take my time,” said Nieves, a promotional free agent.
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Nieves has had plenty of rounds under his belts as an amateur. He estimates that he had 124 amateur bouts, 14 of which were losses, and had won 7 titles at national tournaments. He first started boxing at age six, mostly to appease his father, Jose David Nieves, who had been an amateur and once fought Miguel Cotto.
After a few years, boxing became more than just a means to emulate his father. It became his calling.
“I started falling in love with boxing, not just following the footsteps of my dad. Watching fights by myself, wanting to train and win fights,” said Nieves.
His amateur career came to a head in 2019, when he fell short to Roscoe Hill in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in a competitive bout. Hill ended up earning silver at the 2021 AIBA World Championships, and Nieves decided to turn his attention to the professionals.
Nieves currently trains out of Park Elite Boxing Academy in Roselle Park, N.J. Percy Gayanilo, who owns the gym and helps Nieves out in training, says Nieves has the total package to go to the next level in the sport.
“He can box and move on his feet and can move in angles. He has knock out power, and he has a high boxing IQ,” said Gayanilo, who himself was an amateur boxer out of New York City before becoming a lawyer and gym owner in New Jersey.
Seeing is believing, but few experiences compare to feeling the punches on your hands. After an interview, Gayanilo invited this writer to hold punch mitts for Nieves, where this writer confirmed that Nieves did indeed have quick southpaw power, particularly with the right hook and straight left hand. His uppercuts don’t leave anything to be desired, either.
Here’s a first: I got a firsthand look at an interview subject’s punching power. Got to hold pads for unbeaten bantamweight prospect Jose Nieves (3-0, 2KOs) at @ParkEliteBoxing in Roselle Park, NJ. Can confirm that he is a serious knockout puncher. pic.twitter.com/IfqvcfQE6G
— Ryan Songalia (@ryansongalia) August 11, 2022
Though he’s fighting virtually anonymous opposition at the four-round level, he has gotten a world of experience in the gym, working with boxers like Zab Judah and Guillermo Rigondeaux. He says the lesson – and wake-up call – that changed his career was one from another New Jersey resident, Shakur Stevenson.
“When I sparred Shakur, it was my first time where I was like, ‘damn, there’s levels to this thing.’ That sparring was tough for me but it happens. That took me to the next level. Even though I got beat up, that first sparring was a little bit tough but I feel like it took me to the next level,” remembers Nieves.
Nieves knows what his dream career path looks like. He wants to be 10-0 and win a youth title by next year. He wants to win a world championship, like his in-ring heroes Ivan Calderon, Hector Camacho and Juan Manuel Marquez.
He grew up spending Saturday evenings with his family, gathered around the television to watch Miguel Cotto fly the Puerto Rican flag on the way to the ring. He hopes he can evoke a similar sense of pride once he rises up the ranks.
“That’s one of my dreams, I want to be that next Tito [Trinidad]. I want to go in the ring knowing that there’s a bunch of Puerto Rican families that are gathering and doing the same thing that I was doing with my family, watching me fight, celebrating, have fun,” said Nieves.
“I would be super honored to be in that position to represent my island.”
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected]
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