Zayas, 16, signs contract with Top Rank

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Welterweight Xander Zayas, at age 16, has signed a multiyear promotional contract with Top Rank, becoming the youngest fighter to sign with the company in its more than 50-year history.

"Xander Zayas is a tremendous young fighter who is mature beyond his years," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said in announcing the signing on Thursday. "He has everything it takes to one day become an international boxing superstar."

In 2016, Top Rank signed then-16-year-old junior lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr. but Zayas is about two months younger than Flores. Zayas turns 17 on Sept. 5 and will make his debut later that month, Top Rank said.

Zayas, who was born in Puerto Rico before moving to Plantation, Florida, when he was 11, has won 11 Puerto Rican and U.S. national titles. He is 118-14 and will continue boxing as an amateur for the time being. He will represent Team USA next month at the Emil Jechev Memorial Tournament in Botevgrad, Bulgaria.

"Growing up watching my idol, Miguel Cotto, it has always been a dream of mine to fight for Top Rank, and today that dream has come true," said Zayas, a high school junior who will graduate in 2020.

Cotto, who was promoted by Top Rank for most of his career, won world titles in four weight classes and is one of Puerto Rico's all-time best boxers.

"Although I am 16 years old, I have been boxing since I was 5 years old, and I understand the magnitude of what it means to be promoted by the best promotional company in the world," Zayas said. "I know I have a long road ahead and will remain focused and hungry while I work hard every day to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a world champion. It was a surreal experience to meet with Bob Arum, as he provided me with his wisdom and advice as I begin my career. It was a humbling experience, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity."

Peter Khan, Zayas' manager, has high hopes for the young prospects.

"Xander is a special fighter. He is wise beyond his years and understands what it means to be a part of Top Rank as he embarks on his professional career as the youngest fighter to ever be signed by the company," Kahn said. "We have a strong team to support him inside and outside of the ring as he matures. Xander has all of the tools to be a world champion, and now it's up to him to go to work and begin his journey as a professional fighter."

Among Zayas' amateur accolades are winning a gold medal at the 2017 and 2018 U.S. National Championships. He was named the Most Outstanding Boxer of the 2018 tournament. He would have liked to seek a berth on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team but would have been too young to participate in the Olympics.

He is trained by Javiel Centeno at Centeno's Sweatbox Boxing & Fitness in Davie, Florida.

"I knew that Xander was something special from the first day he walked into the gym," Centeno said. "Besides the boxing abilities at such a young age, he had the charisma, work ethic and maturity of a world-class athlete. I was reminded that he made a promise to me early on that he will be the first champion I developed from the beginning, and now with by far the greatest promotional engine in the sport of boxing behind us, I see us taking that first step in making his words become reality in the near future."