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Heavyweight ‘Gigante’ Antonio Mireles wants to show he’s more than just another big man

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images
12
Nov

It isn’t often that boxing observers learn much about a top prospect in their first handful of bouts, but Antonio Mireles had to reveal part of his internal makeup the last time he was in the ring.

Just three months ago, Mireles found himself on the canvas for the first time as a professional after taking a big left hand counter from fellow southpaw Kaleel Carter in the opening round. It was the kind of moment that could have broken a rising heavyweight prospect, but Mireles feels that fighting through that experience will make him a better fighter in the long run.

“That was definitely a big learning experience. Looking back now I’m grateful because in that one fight I learned so much more than in all my fights combined,” said Mireles (5-0, 5 knockouts).

“My first reaction was to freak out and throw a fit like a little kid because I went down. But it’s a fight and you’ve got ten seconds to get up and get back in there.”



Mireles did just that, and ended up stopping his opponent the following round.

Now the 25-year-old big man from Des Moines, Iowa will take another step forward in his career when he faces the fellow unbeaten Eric Perry (5-0-1, 5 KOs) in his first six-round bout tonight at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The Top Rank-promoted card will co-headlined by a pair of title fights featuring Zhanibek Alimkhanuly and Seniesa Estrada, and will be broadcasted in its entirety on ESPN+, beginning at 7:15 p.m. ET.

The 6’9”, 260+ pound Mireles may be known as “El Gigante” for his stature, but he says he wants to be known as more than just your average lumbering big man. Mireles, who turned professional a year ago after a 32-fight amateur career where he won the 2019 National Golden Gloves and the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials, says he has focused more on his conditioning, feeling that other fighters his size are weaker in that area.

He’s also absorbed lots of knowledge while training under the tutelage of Robert Garcia, with whom he has trained since beginning his professional journey.

“There have been significant changes. I don’t think I can nail down something specifically, just being out here among a bunch of good guys, you just feed off each other’s energy. In a gym like this where you’ve got some amazing fighters like Jose Ramirez, Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez, Raymond Muratalla, you’re just gonna naturally level up,” said Mireles, who is managed by David McWater’s Split-T Management.

Antonio Mireles (L) and Eric Perry (R) face-off during the weigh in. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Being in that circle gives him plenty of opportunities which didn’t necessarily exist while growing up in Iowa. He grew up a boxing fan, having fallen in love with the sport after his mother gifted him the complete DVD box set of the Rocky movies when he was 6 or 7. He watched the entire series in a single day, and walked into a boxing gym for the first time as an eight-year-old. That gym closed unexpectedly shortly after, and he didn’t get to train again until he was 11.

He picked up the sport under coach John Saunders, but couldn’t get a single amateur bout until he was 15 years old.

“That wasn’t because that’s when I start fighting, I wanted to start fighting long before that. It was hard enough finding shows to compete at around there, and even harder finding an opponent. They’d hear I’m 13 of 14 and already 6-foot weighing 200 pounds and just that alone would make guys not put their kids in with me,” said Mireles, who still keeps in shape with Saunders when he returns home to Iowa between camps.

Mireles went 28-4 in his amateur career, making it undefeated through the U.S. trials. Despite that victory, it was the more experienced Torrez Jr. who was picked to represent the country in Tokyo. It was a setback that Mireles had to overcome in order to focus on the bigger picture.

“It definitely hurt, it sucked. I figured it was a long shot for me to get selected and he was already on the team for a long time basis with all those guys. I was just brand new out there and he had a lot more fights than me. Even though it sucks, I wasn’t too surprised,” said the Mexican-American Mireles.

Now Mireles and Torrez are both signed by Top Rank, ensuring the promotional company has the inside track on the American heavyweight scene for years to come.

Mireles says he expects to be a top heavyweight in the sport sooner rather than later.

“I really don’t think it should take me that long. It’s crazy how fast everything moves, just this time last year I just had my pro debut and I’m now 5 fights in. My progression from my pro debut to now, it’s night and day. So another 2-3 years, I expect to be light years of where I’m at now,” said Mireles.

“I try not to set any specific time or goal, I just take it day by day, fight by fight, keep putting in the work and I just have faith that when the time comes, I’ll be ready to step up and show that I’m the real deal.”

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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