By Ryan Maquiñana
Gary Salazar, one of America’s top-rated amateur bantamweights, has decided to join the professional ranks.
Salazar, from Fresno, Calif., introduced himself to the international scene at last year’s AIBA Youth World Championships with a run to the quarterfinals in the 123-pound division.
However, the 18-year-old phenom tabbed by many as the favorite to represent the United States in Rio 2016 has concluded that he’s ready for the next level.
“I know I’m ranked number one right now, but I just feel like I’m prepared for the pros,” Salazar said. “I have a pro style, and in the amateurs, you don’t really get to fight inside as often, even with the new scoring rules. Now I can take advantage of my tools.”
Salazar (140-19 as an amateur), who also collected gold at the 2012 National PAL and 2011 Junior Olympics, has already assembled a team that includes manager Saul Lomas and adviser Rick Mirigian.
“He’s got speed and a lot of power at his weight class,” Lomas said. “He can change it up no matter what type of opponent he’s facing, and that’s why I’m sure he’s going to able to make that transition to the pros. When Gary gets in there, we’re going to shock the world.”
Mirigian is known for his work with 2012 U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez, who also hails from California’s Central Valley and has amassed several endorsements despite having only five pro bouts under his belt.
“My goal is to make this [area] a hotbed for boxing in the years to come,” Mirigian said. “Jose Ramirez has opened that door and set the foundation for some major fights to hit the Central Valley, and it’s time for some people to walk through it.”
Salazar, a certified smog technician outside the ring, hopes to make his debut before the end of the year as he begins to shop around for a promoter.
“Right now I’m in talks to either make my debut in Fresno or at Tachi Palace [in Lemoore, Calif.] on a Top Rank card in November,” said the 5’6’’ Salazar, an orthodox fighter who can switch to southpaw on a dime. “I just can’t wait to get started.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28. Tags: Gary Salazar