Abel Aparicio is the youngest looking 31-year-old in boxing (and maybe in life). It’s a reason for us old folks to root against him, but the soft-spoken featherweight is such a class kid, that you can’t. So since we have to hope he does well when he steps between the ropes to face Juan Centeno on Saturday, what’s the secret?
“Working out and maintaining what you eat and everything, that's pretty much it,” laughs Aparicio, who admits that he’s “been hearing that a lot,” when it comes to his appearance.
It’s not an easy trick to pull off, especially given his road to this point in his life, but his focus on the present and not the past does keep the positive vibes flowing. And in the present, he’s about to put his perfect 8-0 record on the line in a fight that will see him compete in front of his friends and family in Atlanta for the first time as a professional.
“I'm super excited about fighting here in Atlanta,” he said. “It's a lot of emotions going through my body right now, which is kind of hard to explain, but mostly, I'm so excited about fighting in front of all my people, and I'm just waiting to perform on the day. They've been waiting for a long time for me to fight in Atlanta, so now it's here and I'm excited.”
And here’s the kicker – his supporters haven’t even asked for free tickets, making them as rare as the 31-year-old who looks like he’s 21.
“I'm a prizefighter so I have to somehow make the money,” Aparicio laughs.
If he keeps winning, that money will come, but the question is, does he feel like he has to put his foot on the gas in terms of activity and level of competition considering that he’s a lot older than most 8-0 prospects.
“No matter how old you are, you gotta keep pushing forward and I think age doesn't matter; it's all in your head and it's just another number,” he said. “I feel if we have to push faster and stronger, we have to push faster and stronger, and if we have to relax a little bit, we relax a little bit, but we're not going to stay in one place and stay still. We're going to keep moving forward.”
In his defense, Aparicio didn’t turn pro until 2018, so he doesn’t have the mileage on him most fighters his age might have, and he didn’t put the gloves on until he came to the United States from Mexico as a teenager.
“I was playing soccer when I was in Mexico and I had a lot of problems over there,” he said. “When you're a kid, you fight on the street and everything, but it never crossed my mind to be a boxer to be honest. As soon as I got here, my brother started doing boxing and he introduced me to it, and I was really good at it and I fell in love with the sport and now I'm here. The rest is history.”
It went deeper than that, as his longtime coach, IWBHF member Terri Moss, saw him as an athlete from the start, and when his father told him that his grandfather was a boxer and that other family members had competed in MMA-type fights, Aparicio’s ability in and attraction to the fight game wasn’t just a happy accident.
“I guess it's running in the blood,” said Aparicio, whose time in the States has been a good one, save for an incident in 2019 when he was held at an ICE facility in Miami for a little over a week because he didn’t have an ID on him during a traffic stop. But the married father of three doesn’t let that moment affect how he currently lives his day-to-day life.
“I wasn't afraid with anything that happened,” he said. “I was just doing my thing, and whatever God put in front of me, it was meant for me. So, I can't think, ‘Oh, I can't take a ride, am I gonna be taken away?’ I believe in God, and whatever he puts in front of me, it's for a reason.”
And now we know where the fountain of youth came from. Aparicio laughs.
“What I've learned is that life is always gonna try to put you on your knees, but it's up to us to keep moving forward because nobody else is gonna do it for you,” he said. “You gotta keep moving forward. Life is already hard; don't make it harder. Don't feel sorry for yourself, just push forward. If nobody believes in you, you have to believe in yourself and that's the key.”
Aparicio believes. On Saturday, he gets to show friends and family just what he believes in.
“I feel like I’m getting there,” he said. “The goal is still way more ahead, but I feel like the door is opening little by little and I just have to follow each step to get to another bigger step. I feel like we're doing it great, and everything is going the way it's supposed to go and I feel happy about it.”