Given the rich history of all-time great boxers to hail from Puerto Rico, Xander Zayas isn’t short on inspiration for his own budding pro career.
One such motivating factor comes in his everyday friendship with island royalty.
The list of all-time male favorites for the 17-year old welterweight reads similar to most other Boricua boxers—Wilfredo ‘Bazooka’ Gomez, Wilfred Benitez, Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad, Hector ‘Macho’ Camacho and Miguel Cotto. However, it’s his already formed strong bond with record-setting seven-division titlist Amanda Serrano (38-1-1, 28KOs) that has provided an invaluable mentorship at the infancy of his pro career.
“She’s like my big sister,” Zayas (4-0, 3KOs) told BoxingScene.com of his friendship with the Brooklyn-bred southpaw. “If I ever need something, I know I can contact her and can always talk to her for whatever I need.
“She’s always there for me She’s a great example, not just to me but as a role model. I look up to her. What can I say, she’s the GOAT [Greatest of All Time]. Seven-division world champion, what else can you ask for? She’s a role model and someone I look up to. I’m grateful to have a good relationship with her.”
The direct access to one best female boxers in history only strengthens a current support system that includes Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum and 2019 Manager of the Year nominee Peter Kahn.
Zayas immediately took to Serrano prior to his pro debut last October in Reno, Nevada. The former amateur standout—who relocated at age 11 from San Juan to South Florida, where he recently graduated high school—has long admired all that the 31-year old southpaw has achieved, having won more divisional titles than any other female or any Puerto Rican boxer (regardless of gender) in boxing history.
Inspiration between the two has been provided through social media, with that friendship brought to real life late last year and providing as a source for grounded inspiration ever since.
“The first time we met was at Madison Square Garden, at the [Terence] Crawford fight against Mean Machine [Egidijus Kavaliauskas],” recalls Zayas, who was two weeks removed from his second pro fight at the time. “Before that, we used to only talk over social media and support each other. The first time I actually met her was at Madison Square Garden. I met her, her sister (former featherweight titlist Cindy Serrano) and her coach (head trainer and manager Jordan Maldonado).
“It was great. They all support me to the max the same way that I support them. They are very humble.”
Precisely the same can be said of Zayas, who turns 18 in September and eager to conquer the boxing world soon thereafter.
A proud moment in his young career came in his last ring appearance, fighting in his native Puerto Rico this past February. A 3rd round knockout of Marklin Bailey ran his record to 4-0, though with his pro career placed on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Plans are in motion for Zayas to return to the ring in the near future with Top Rank set to host a series of summer boxing events in Las Vegas.
Where he yet fits into the mix remains to be seen, but the sage advice he gets from resources such as Serrano can only further his own cause for boxing immortality.
“Puerto Rico has had great fighters, you name them,” notes Zayas, who cites Cotto as his all-time favorite Puerto Rican boxer. “My goal is to wind up mentioned alongside all those all-time greats. I would like to be the best that I can be. Bring a world championship to Puerto Rico, make them proud and be happy for the island.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox