Monday, October 02, 2023  |


Xander Zayas feels his clash against Valenzuela is ‘the right step-up at the right time’

Xander Zayas - Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Fighters Network

One of the most talented young fighters in boxing, Xander Zayas, will return to action against Roberto Valenzuela in co-feature to WBO featherweight champion Luis Alberto Lopez’s title defense against Joet Gonzalez at the American Bank Center, Corpus Christi, Texas on Friday.

Zayas, who is coming of a shutout decision over Ronald Cruz (UD 8) in June, is at ease with how his development has gone since turning professional in October 2019.

“I feel like it’s the right step-up and right time to have this type of opponent,” Zayas (16-0, 10 knockouts) told The Ring. “Top Rank have been amazing with me in my career since day one. I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. I’ve seen my growth inside and outside of the ring. I’m becoming a young man, taking care of business and being a gentleman. I’ve enjoyed the whole process and I’m excited for what the future holds. Overall, I’m doing everything I can to stay focused and stay dedicated.

“I have a great team behind me, I have a great company behind me and backs me up and wants the best for me and keep putting on performances like I always do. I trust them to guide my career to be world champion and this is the next step. [This is a] tough test but we’re making all the adjustments in the gym to make September 15 a victory. I’m going to put on a show like I always do.”

The skilled 20-year-old boxer-puncher of Puerto Rican extraction says he has to be careful against his Mexican opponent.

“I feel like on paper the threat is the knockout ratio, he has won 21 fights and 20 by knockouts,” he said. “Overall, I feel that’s the only threat he possesses, I don’t feel like he’s a better boxer than me, I don’t feel like he has better I.Q., I don’t feel he has better defense, he’s just a strong fighter, so we’ve got to be able to break him down and listen to the corner and have fun.”

Zayas appreciates the move up the card and to fight in a different location in front of new fans, having fought four of his last five times at his home away from home, Madison Square Garden, New York.

“It’s always a great opportunity to get on these great cards and this is no exception,” he said. “The main event is going to be a world title defense. “Venado” has shown why he is one of the top 126-pounders. Overall, it’s going to be an amazing card. I’m excited for that.”

Although Zayas identifies as Puerto Rican, though is lives in Sunrise, Florida. He has taken time away from boxing to spend time on the Island with his fellow Boricuas, immersing himself in the culture and fighting scene.

“I’ve been around Miguel [Cotto], Ivan Calderon, all those guys that were great for Puerto Rico,” he said clearly amped to be spending time with those fighters who paved the way for him.

“I’ve not met “Tito” Trinidad yet. It’s something that I’m looking forward to doing in the near future. All the champions I’ve met from Puerto Rico they always tell me the same thing, stay focused, keep my family close and just forget about all the outside noise and be about your business.”

The youngster knows he’s got a long way to go to be considered in the same breath as them.

“I’m only 20-years-old, I’m only getting started,” he said. “I don’t even think I’m half way to the peak of my career, or where I want to be. I haven’t achieved anything, if you look at it that way, two regional titles but that’s nothing compared to what I want to do.

“I want to be a world champion, undisputed world champion and fight the best. I feel like 2024, we’re going to start seeing me fighting all these top 10 guys, the guys who have fought for a world title or have been world champion once and knocking on that door for a world title.

“I feel this one, maybe one and then after that it’s time to start hunting the sharks. It might work out for a title, or a top contender or former champion on the Puerto Rican Parade weekend [in June 2024.] That’s the goal. I’m coming and I’m coming to take everything.”

Valenzuela Jr. (21-4, 20 KOs) turned professional in early 2017. He won his first nine fights before coming unstuck against Derek Silveira (UD 8). He returned with two wins before being stopped by Alexis Rocha (RTD 5).

After winning eight consecutive fights he stepped up again and was bested by unbeaten Souleymane Cissokho (UD 10), he also went the distance in a losing effort against Bakhram Murtazaliev (UD 8).

This is an opportunity for Zayas to showcase his skills against arguably the best opponent he has faced to date. I expect him to rise to the occasion, put on a mature performance and score a stoppage in the second half of the fight.


Lopez-Gonzalez, plus undercard action, will be broadcast live on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].