Longtime boxing promotion company Top Rank has signed its youngest fighter in history, striking a deal with 16-year-old welterweight Xander Zayas of Puerto Rico.
Instead of waiting for a 2024 Olympic spot that might not even exist given the controversy in the sport’s judging, Florida-based Zayas (118-14 as an amateur) will join his mentor and elite prospect Teofimo Lopez in the pro ranks, aiming for a September debut.
Top Rank has previously struck deals with noted young amateurs Floyd Mayweather Jr., lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and former four-division champion Miguel Cotto.
“It is very humbling to have a company such as Top Rank getting behind me and believing in me,” Zayas said. “Although there is pressure to perform, especially being the youngest fighter they have ever signed, I am eager to do my job and show them that they made the right decision investing in me.
“Their belief in me inspires me and I will represent myself and Top Rank to the best of my abilities inside and outside of the ring. I have tremendous pride as a Puerto Rican and aspire to continue the tradition to continue down the path and be a part of such a great legacy including fighters, such as Felix "Tito" Trinidad and Cotto.”
Top Rank executives, expected to formally announce the signing on Thursday, project Zayas as a rare talent.
"I knew the first day Xander walked into my gym, that he was something special,” Zayas trainer Javiel Centeno said. “Beside the boxing abilities at such a young age, he has the charisma, work ethic and maturity of a world-class athlete; that he was going to go far in the sport.
“I was reminded that he made a promise to me early on that he will be my first world champion, and now … I see us taking that first step in making his words become reality in the near future.”
Zayas has boxed since age 5, and won consecutive national champion amateur fights at 125 pounds in 2017 and 152 pounds last year.
He will fight in one more amateur tournament for the U.S. next month in Bulgaria.
“In the meantime, I know I have a lot of work ahead of me and understand it is going to take time to get to where I want to be, which is a world champion,” Zayas said.