DALLAS--The signs were there in his brief amateur career and even once he turned pro that perhaps Deejay Kriel wasn’t cut out to be a boxer.
If at any point he gave in to such shortcomings, there would have never come the chance to succeed.
“I’ve always wanted to be a world champion, it’s all that I got and I just live for this,” Kriel told BoxingScene.com ahead of his forthcoming challenge of reigning 108-pound titlist Felix Alvarado. "I had that taste for a short while at strawweight, then came this pandemic but now I'm ready to put that (junior flyweight) belt around my waist."
The bout—which airs live on DAZN from American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas (Saturday, 3:00 p.m. ET)—will be the third straight in North America for Kriel, the former strawweight titlist from Gauteng, South Africa who trains in Las Vegas. The 25-year old has enjoyed success on this side of the globe, beginning with his stateside debut which resulted in a 105-pound title-winning 12th round knockout over Carlos Licona in Feb. 2019 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
A rust-shaking 1st round knockout win on a Nov. 2019 club show in Tijuana ran Kriel’s record to 16-1-1, 8KOs). With it comes a 17-fight unbeaten streak after losing his pro debut in April 2014—which came after a brief and winless amateur career, not enjoying his first victory on any level until his second pro fight.
“0-3 in amateurs and became a world champion. It was just the will to win,” notes Kriel, in his best effort to convince others to forever chase their dreams. “I just want to inspire.”
There exists a prime opportunity to do just that on Saturday’s show, the first of 2021. Kriel never had the chance to defend his strawweight title, citing an inability to make the weight as his reason for moving up to the 108-pound division.
He now has the chance to spoil the Golden Boy Promotions debut of Nicaragua’s Alvarado (35-2, 30KOs), who attempts the second defense of his title. The bout was due to take place last April, only for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to postpone those plans by more than eight months.
Alvarado also appears on the same show as twin brother and reigning 130-pound titlist Rene Alvarado, though Kriel vows to send the twin brothers home with at least one less title.
“I know Felix Alvarado is game,” acknowledges Kriel. “I’m prepared for 12 rounds but I’d love to stop him. I’d love to make a big statement by stopping him.”
From there comes the desire to make as much noise as possible in the division before adding to his growing success—growing in both a figurative and physical sense. In his sights with his sights on Saturday include a desired unification bout with Mexico's Elwin Soto and then a move up in weight in pursuit of becoming the first-ever three-division world titleholder from South Africa.
It's an ambitious run for a boxer who needed five tries to win his first fight on any level, though with his subsequent success well warranting present-day self-confidence.
"Felix Alvarado is a tough, tough fighter; he's the best champion in the division as far as I'm concerned," acknowledges Kriel. "But assuming things go well, I'd love to next fight Elwin Soto. He fights for Golden Boy, that should be easy to make.
"Regardless, at some point I'm going outgrow this division. Hopefully, can make as much happen as possible [at junior flyweight], and then it's onto flyweight and to conquer that division."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox