One major goal is in play for Xander Zayas this weekend.
However, it comes at the expense of leaving another box unchecked.
The rising unbeaten junior middleweight enters his first career title fight, as his scheduled ten-round bout with Mexico’s Elias Espadas will come with the WBO-NABO 154-pound title at stake. Their bout will air live as the ESPN co-feature from Resorts World Las Vegas, a slot he expected to fill as part of a June 11 show on the eve of the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.
An untimely viral infection forced Zayas off the show, leaving him with a five-month break between fights once he enters the ring this Saturday.
“I really wanted to fight in June. Not being able to was really difficult,” Zayas admitted to BoxingScene.com. “I was a bit sad but I took the necessary time off. We took off for two weeks, got the clearance from the doctor and we went right back to it.”
The June 11 event that took place at Madison Square Garden Hulu Theater resumed an old tradition begun by Top Rank of hosting a boxing card the night before the P.R. Day parade. Zayas—born in San Juan before his family relocated to South Florida as a pre-teen—was looking forward to making the first appearance on such a show and making it an annual tradition.
There will always be 2023 to begin that quest, though it didn’t mean he had to sacrifice his other goals.
Once given a clean bill of health, Zayas and his team—Top Rank, manager Peter Kahn and head trainer Javiel Centeno—moved forward with plans to enter his first title fight. The scheduled eight-round bout—which opens the ESPN telecast—comes with the NABO belt at stake.
“My team came through and got me the fight on August 13. I get to fight for the WBO-NABO regional title,” noted Zayas. “This is what we wanted in the beginning of the year. I wanted to fight for a regional title this year and now the opportunity is here.”
Headlining the ESPN telecast, former lineal and unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez (16-1, 12KOs) faces Pedro Campa (34-1-1, 23KOs) in a scheduled ten-round junior welterweight contest.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox