A step up in class is in store for Xander Zayas’ 2021 debut.

The rising 18-year old prospect will next fight Feb. 13 on the undercard of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN telecast, his first fight of the new year. Zayas will face Philadelphia’s James Martin, two sources with knowledge of the situation have informed BoxingScene.com.

Zayas (6-0, 5KOs) will return to Nevada for the first time since enjoying the first two fights of his career in late 2019. Zayas signed with Top Rank as a 16-year old high school student, which limited the locations where he could fight as a pro.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic threatened to slow down Zayas’ progress, although the teenaged Boricua still managed to get in four fights in 2021. His last two fights have come after graduating from Plantation (Florida) High School last May, having relocated to South Florida from San Juan, Puerto Rico as a child.

The first of the two fights came literally hours before Zayas’ 18th birthday last September, scoring a 1st round knockout of Orlando Salgado as part of a Telemundo telecast from Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida. Zayas returned to the venue six weeks later, needing just 0:56 to tear through Anthony Curtiss for his latest win.

A stiffer challenge is expected versus Martin (6-1, 2KOs), a four-year pro from Philadelphia. The 23-year old welterweight has fought exclusively in his home state of Pennsylvania, the lone loss of his career coming in June 2019, with a 1st round knockdown proving the difference on all three scorecards in a six-round defeat to Kashon Hutchinson. 

Martin will have been out of the ring for exactly 52 weeks by fight night, having not fought since a six-round points win last February in his Philadelphia hometown.

The bout will serve in supporting capacity to a previously announced ESPN card from Las Vegas headlined by the vacant light heavyweight title fight between former title challenge Joe Smith Jr. (26-3, 21KOs) and Russia’s Maksim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs). Also on the show, former lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-3, 26KOs) will face Dominican Republic’s Jackson Mariñez (19-1, 7KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox