Xander Zayas stood proudly on his front lawn, displaying his two worlds in one showing. A pair of boxing gloves draped around his neck, the 17-year old welterweight literally flexed his muscles for the caravan of family and friends riding past his South Florida house to celebrate as he claimed a new title.
High school graduate.
“It was an amazing experience,” Zayas (4-0, 3KOs) told BoxingScene.com of seeing his loved ones embrace his having graduated from Plantation (Florida) High School earlier this month. “Finally out of high school, and completed what I once promised my mom before signing the contract. Happy for that.
“It was an amazing feeling seeing all my family and friends there, just celebrating me for my graduation. I was really, really happy.”
The neighborhood parade in his honor was the best laid plan for a celebration given ongoing social distancing measures. Zayas standing in cap and gown watching family and friends—including manager Peter Kahn, who guides his career—pass by was a touching moment for the teenaged Boricua, even if his natural instinct was to run out and embrace everyone.
“That part, it is very frustrating,” admits Zayas, who moved with his family from Puerto Rico to Florida at age eleven. “Every Latino, we like to hug each other. It was really hard, kind of frustrating to graduate and not be able to say hi to my family the way that I wanted to.
“But it was an amazing feeling seeing them there and spending a little bit of time with them.”
Zayas entered his senior year of high school while wrapping up his brilliant amateur career. His introduction to the pro ranks came by making history, signing with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank at the age of 16, the youngest fighter ever to sign with the renowned promotional outfit.
The occasion was officially consummated with his pro debut last October, having fought twice in Nevada and once each in New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Zayas remains limited on where he can fight both due to age restrictions (Zayas turns 18 in September) and with the sport still largely on hold in the wake of the ongoing global health crisis.
His latest achievement outside the ropes broadens his horizons.
“It means a lot because anything can happen in life,” Zayas says of graduating high school, with every intention of pursuing higher education. “Now I know that I have a backup plan in case something happens in boxing. I can also keep my studies going. I want to study in criminal justice.
“So, I’m focused on boxing a little more right now and in 2-3 years, go to college and start my career in criminal justice. It’s an amazing career to have as a backup. I’ve always wanted to be a cop and give back to the community. It’s something I’m looking forward to do.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox