After signing with Golden Boy Promotions in February, former amateur star Asa Stevens had a pretty clear picture of what the rest of 2020 would look like.

The COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.

“I was supposed to fight in March right after I signed,” he said. “And that didn't happen because the pandemic came. And we didn't expect the pandemic to be going on this long, so we thought we'd be right back in May, and it kept extending and extending, so that really kind of messed us up, but we're here now.”

“Here” is Dallas, Texas, where the native of Waianae, Hawaii will finally get to make his pro debut against Francisco Bonilla on the Ryan Garcia-Luke Campbell card at American Airlines Center on Saturday. It’s been a long time coming, but the 20-year-old has been staying sharp.

“Throughout the months, we kept expecting to fight, so it went from May to July, and we were staying in the gym the whole time,” said Stevens of life in Waianae. If the city sounds familiar, it may be because it’s the same hometown of former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway. And no, Stevens insists that his cousin hasn’t tried to bring him over to MMA.

“He doesn't try to make me come over to MMA, but he encourages me to work hard,” said Stevens. “If anything, he comes to the boxing gym and he spars with us sometimes when he's not in his training camp and has some time off. He comes to the gym, works on his boxing.”

Holloway is the latest in the line of MMA standouts from Hawaii who made their mark in the UFC, including BJ Penn, Brad Tavares, Travis Browne, Yancy Medeiros, Dan Ige, Louis Smolka and Kendall Grove. Yet while the MMA culture is supported and celebrated in the 50th state, boxing doesn’t get that kind of push there these days.

“The MMA scene is bigger than boxing is down here,” Stevens agrees. “There's not really a lot of boxing associations, a lot of boxing tournaments, or a lot of people holding boxing matches down here for amateurs and especially for the pros. There's a lot of MMA promoters and a lot of people in the MMA scene down here. And that's just how it's been. There's a lot of kickboxing, and honestly, I'm not too sure why - there's just more people into the MMA thing down here. There's not much of the boxing people who kept it going.”

Of course, there have been accomplished Hawaiian boxers, with Brian Viloria, Andy Ganigan, Bobo Olson and Jesus Salud leading the charge, and Stevens wants to be the one to bring attention back to the sport at home.

“I want to show everybody that there's hope in the sport of boxing and I want to bring it back alive, especially down here in Hawaii,” he said.

That attitude has been embraced by a state that loves its fighters, and they’ve thrown their support behind Stevens since he began making his mark on the amateur scene. He admits that representing everybody back home isn’t easy, but he embraces that challenge.

“It is a lot of pressure, but throughout my career, I had the feeling of this because Hawaii is very supportive of me,” he said. “When I went to the tournaments, they always supported me and now, as I make my pro debut, it's the same thing, with just a lot more people supporting me.”

That support is well placed, as Stevens earned gold at the 2018 Youth World Championships and won the 2019 National Golden Gloves. He did consider a run for the 2020 U.S. Olympic team, but ultimately chose to move right to the pros.

“There was a thought of doing that (going to the Olympics), so we were in the process of going to the trials, and I had to go to the qualifiers,” he said. “I was fighting that week and I had dropped down to the lower weight class, 114. The previous tournament, I had fought in the Golden Gloves at 123. So, I fought at 114 and the weight cut was a little hard to make and I also had a cold that week. I fought the first day, I won, but I felt like I was too weak. I felt sick, and we felt like it was the best decision to pull out of the tournament and move into the professional ranks.”

In the pros, Stevens will begin his career as a bantamweight, and whether it’s boxing or MMA, a Hawaiian fighter is expected to fight. And that’s just what Stevens promises.

“It's the hunger in the culture,” he said. “The pride, the hunger, everybody really wants to prove themselves and show the world that we're out here and we really want to reach the top, and we're gonna get it be any means possible.”

Again, that’s a lot of pressure on him to deliver, but Stevens knows that if he does succeed, it’s not just for him, but for the younger folks that are watching his every move.

“It's a lot to think about because there's a lot of kids coming from where we come from that want to come up and they're doing bad, or whatever, and we really just want to show them that there's a way out, that you can do good, and there's a positive way to make it out,” he said. “I want to show everybody that there's hope out there and bigger and better things that you could be doing.”