A significant part of Xander Zayas’ journey in 2020 including his graduating from high school.

Higher education for the 18-year old welterweight has taken place in the gym and in the ring, never more so than the training camp enjoyed for his first fight of 2021.

Among those who shared gym time with Zayas at Centeno’s Sweatbox Boxing & Fitness facility in Davie, Florida included a trio of current and former champs in Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis, Adrien Broner and Robert Easter Jr. Broner and Easter enjoyed timelines similar to Zayas, with all three fighting this weekend—the former two on Showtime’s tripleheader in Uncasville, while Zayas (6-0, 5KOs) heads to Las Vegas where he faces James Martin in his first scheduled six-round bout.

“It was awesome working with all of those guys,” Zayas told BoxingScene.com. “I really feel like I grew as a fighter inside the ring, learning a lot from all of those guys.”

Zayas managed four fights in 2020, two each prior to and since the pandemic after having fought twice in the 4th quarter of 2019. Saturday’s bout is the start of the advancement period from newcomer to budding prospect, coming on the undercard of the highly anticipated junior lightweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt (38-1, 34KOs) and Oscar Valdez (28-0, 22KOs) live on ESPN from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

Coming correct for such a high-profile card meant raising the stakes even in training. World class talent passing through the gym is hardly a new experience for Zayas, even in the infancy of his pro career.

This past camp took things to the next level, both gaining knowledge and also pushing championship-level talent to the limit throughout training for their respective fights. In particular, dozens of rounds shared in the ring with Broner—a former four-division titlist and still relevant entity in the sport—gave Zayas a clear view of what will be required of him as his career progresses.

“[Broner] knows that I work hard and I know he likes to work hard,” notes Zayas, whose bout will appear on the ESPN+ portion of Saturday’s show. “So we just pushed each other throughout training camp.

“It was an awesome experience and it gave me a chance to see what it takes to make it to that next level.” 

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