Xavier Madrid was 24 years old before he ever laced on a boxing glove, entering a sport that typically doesn’t treat old newcomers well. If you haven’t grown up getting hit in the face, it’s a difficult “skill” to acquire.
But then, Madrid was no stranger to violent physical contact. In the almost six years since donning the gloves, the former St. Pius and UNM football running back has shown he’s an exception to the unwritten, latecomers-are-losers rule: three New Mexico Golden Gloves amateur titles, a 3-0 record as a pro.
Clearly, he’s done more hitting than getting hit.
Now, as he approaches his 30th birthday, Madrid has taken a fight almost no one believes he can win: a four-round welterweight bout in Tulsa, Oklahoma, against 2021 U.S. Olympian and highly touted pro prospect Delante “Tiger” Johnson.
Almost no one.
“They (Johnson and his team) don’t know what they signed up for,” Madrid said in a phone interview. “That’s kind of the blessing we have.”
At St. Pius, Madrid played football and basketball and ran track. His performances on the football field earned him an invitation to join the Lobos as a walk-on.
Madrid showed so well in practices that then-UNM coach Bob Davie awarded him a scholarship in 2013. But during preseason camp in 2014, convinced he’d never see the field for the Lobos as a running back, Madrid walked away.
Later, a tryout with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos (now the Elks) produced nothing.
Nothing, that is, except a friendship and a professional association with Albuquerque fitness trainer and Muay Thai fighter Lisandro “Lee” Sillas – and, eventually, a new athletic career.
After leaving UNM, Madrid trained with Sillas in preparation for the Edmonton tryout. After the tryout came to naught, Madrid took a job in security but continued to work with Sillas.
First, Madrid tried his hand at Muay Thai but discovered “I wasn’t worth a damn kicking anybody. (Sillas) said, ‘You can punch pretty well, so let’s just try you in boxing.’ I had a fight about three months later.”
After an amateur career that took him as far as the quarterfinals at 2018 Golden Gloves nationals, Madrid turned pro last year. His 3-0 record includes an impressive victory by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Albuquerquean Cristian Castillo at the Kiva Auditorium in October, followed by a first-round knockout of Daniel Arriaga at the Inn of the Mountain Gods a month later.
The offer to fight Johnson, Madrid said, came through Hobbs promoter/matchmaker Isidro Castillo with an assist from Albuquerque promoters Aaron and Jordan Perez. When the offer came, Madrid did not hesitate.
“We just kind of accepted minimum (financial) terms, because I’m not worried about the terms,” he said. “I just want the fight.”
The payday, nonetheless, will easily be the best he’s gotten thus far.
As for the risk/reward factor, Madrid believes the latter easily outweighs the former.
“At my age and with my background, I don’t have time to wait around for things like this to happen or let things like this pass. So we had to take it.”
Though he and Johnson (1-0, one KO) were amateur contemporaries, Madrid knows of his opponent only on film and through his accomplishments in the ring.
“He’s a great fighter,” Madrid said. “I’ve got nothing but respect for him and what he’s done … It’s not easy to get where he’s got to, so yeah, I understand the task at hand.
“It’s a big deal.”
BORG IS BACK: Albuquerque MMA bantamweight Ray Borg (14-5) is scheduled to face Cody Gibson (18-7) Friday on an Eagle FC card in Miami.
Borg, who fought for the UFC flyweight title in October 2017, was released from that organization in 2020 after repeated failures to make weight.
He has fought just once since, defeating Jesse Arnett by unanimous decision on a UAE Warriors card in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in June 2021.
Eagle FC is headed by Khabib Nurmagomedov, the now-retired UFC lightweight champion. Friday’s card will be the organization’s first in North America.