By Steve Kim Updated on June 10, 2024

Ready for Prime Time?

Picture for Ready for Prime Time?

There was a time when the first Saturday of every June was among the biggest and most important weekends in the American boxing scene. For years, there would be a high-profile annual event scheduled in the big room of the famed Madison Square Garden. 

In recent years, there have been lesser cards staged inside the Theater at MSG.

Yeah, where have you gone Miguel Cotto?

While it was Felix Trinidad that brought back life -- and a load of Puerto Rican partisans -- to the building at the turn of this century, it was Cotto during his days with Top Rank who turned this weekend (which was paired with the Puerto Rican Day Parade in the city) into a yearly tradition.

On Saturday, a young man who grew up watching many of Cotto's fights, and dreamed of headlining on this date, had his initial headlining role at the Garden. Xander Zayas was matched against former junior middleweight titlist, Patrick Teixeira, in front of a sold-out audience.

Picture for Ready for Prime Time?Mikey Williams/Top Rank

He was solid, if not spectacular, in pounding out a lopsided 10 round decision. Zayas, is the latest boxer of Puerto Rican descent to be given the opportunity to fill the shoes left by 'Tito' and Cotto in the Big Apple. Before him was Felix Verdejo, who failed to live up to expectations, and then had much more serious issues outside the ring. Then it was Edgar Berlanga, who was so underwhelming in his shot on this prime slot that his fight against Roamer Alexis Angulo turned into a walk-out bout. He was then subsequently released by Top Rank.

Looking at the 21-year old Zayas, you see an all-around boxer, who doesn't seem to have the issues or baggage that his predecessors did. Zayas has a bright personality, and a focus on the craft that quite frankly was missing with Verdejo and Berlanga -- at least for now. He also has a friendly, personable manner.

Picture for Ready for Prime Time?Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“Thank you to all my people in Puerto Rico. Since I was five years old, I dreamed about this. It’s happening, thanks to you guys, and I want to thank you for everything you do for me," said Zayas (19-0, 12 KOs) , who back in 2019 became the youngest boxer ever to be signed by Top Rank. 

Xander Zayas Earns UD Against A Tough Patrick Teixeira | FIGHT HIGHLIGHTS


It looked like he was in position to score a stoppage of the durable veteran in the late rounds but he wasn't quite able to find a way to put an exclamation mark on his performance. You hope that his power will come as he gains his man-strength in the future. Power and knockouts sell. They were a major part of the appeal of Trinidad and Cotto. 

“He was tough," Zayas admitted. "He knew how to survive in there. It was sometimes difficult to find the body, but with the experience, he hid it. I tried to land the hook, and he was ducking underneath. I feel like it was a tough test, but I passed it with flying colors.”

That he did. But he also showed that he's not quite ready for the elite at 154. But again, he's still very young. In many respects, his journey is just beginning. Zayas may not ever reach the heights of Trinidad and Cotto, but just being better than Verdejo and Berlanga might be good enough for this particular weekend in New York.



On this co-main on ESPN, featherweight contender, Bruce Carrington (12-0, 8 KOs), continued his ascension as he systematically dispatched late replacement, Brayan De Gracia, over eight rounds. Unlike Zayas, Carrington seems to be a boxer who looks ready to compete with the elite in his division.

Now, it has to be pointed out that 'Shu Shu' decided to start his professional career a bit later, and is now 27 years old. But make no doubt about it, Carrington is a highly skilled boxer-puncher. One that can be slick, elusive, and at the same time knows how to close the show in style.

Bruce Carrington Finishes Brayan De Gracia At Home! | FIGHT HIGHLIGHTS

The highest compliment that I can pay Carrington is that he reminds me a lot of the guys that I grew up watching and admiring in the 80's and 90's. Not only were they skillful, they also weren't afraid of getting into a fight. 

Picture for Ready for Prime Time?Mikey Williams/Top Rank

No, he may not be ready for a certain monster from Japan (who by the way, is still campaigning at 122) but it says here that it won't be long before Carrington is ready to mix with the likes of 'Venado' Lopez, Nick Ball and Rafael Espinoza. 

“There are some things I could’ve done more. There are some things I could’ve done better on the defensive end. He’s a tough opponent, and I’m super happy that Brayan came in and took the fight on last-minute notice," Carrington said. "He came to fight. He’s really strong. His knockout ratio shows the power is there, but you know me, I have a lot of experience and know how to get around that, break my opponent down, and do what I do. And that’s how we got the victory.”

Word is that Carrington will fight twice more in 2024, while Top Rank works to move him up the rankings and get him into a mandatory position.



It truly does look like the end of the road for Adrien Broner, who dropped a 10 round decision to Blair Cobbs on Friday night... I'll say this for Ryan Garcia, he knows how to stay in the news. He was arrested on Saturday for vandalizing a hotel room in Beverly Hills....Top Rank announced the signing of Vito Mielnicki Jr. a few days ago....Manny Pacquiao returning to the ring?!?! Say it ain't so!!... I can be reached at


About Author
Ready for Prime Time?
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.