Rising star William Zepeda overwhelming opponents, winning over fans

Rising star William Zepeda overwhelming opponents, winning over fans

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A number of talented young fighters are in position to become the face of Mexican boxing when Canelo Alvarez fades from the scene. Emanuel Navarrete, Isaac Cruz and Jaime Munguia are just a few of them.

The best candidate might be 135-pound William Zepeda, who is scheduled to face clever Maxi Hughes on Saturday at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (DAZN).

Fans are falling in love with Zepeda’s seek-and-destroy, volume-punching style and he’s getting results, which is why he’s ranked No. 1 by two sanctioning bodies and breathing down the necks of the top lightweights.

The 27-year-old’s style isn’t complicated: He outworks opponents in training camp – he seems to have inexhaustible stamina — and then does the same in the ring, where he has set eye-popping punch statistic records.

In other words, he throws punches relentlessly until his opponents can no longer defend themselves and are stopped or he wins a one-sided decision.

His machine-like effort in a unanimous-decision victory over former titleholder Joseph Diaz Jr. in October 2022 stands out: He threw a division-record 1,536 punches – 128 per round – according to CompuBox.

He has averaged 99.2 punches thrown per round over his last 10 fights, 42.1 more than the division average.

And he doesn’t simply wing power shot after power shot like some volume punchers: 787 of the punches he threw against Diaz were jabs, meaning his approach to boxing is more methodical than reckless.

“There were a lot of comments on social media that thought [Diaz] was my test,” Zepeda said through a translator immediately after his victory. “I think I passed the rest with excellence. I’m ready for the best at 135 pounds.”

That seemed even more obvious in his next two fights, in which his brutal tactics and punching power were on full display

The 27-year-old from the Toluca area used mostly vicious body shots to drop contender Jaime Arboleda three times and stop him in two rounds in April of last year and delivered a terrible beating in his sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Mercito Gesta in September.

He has been as dominating as any fighter over the past few years.

“I wanted to fight a guy with experience,” said Zepeda, referring to Gesta. “He gave that to me. I’m going to keep going on my way to becoming a world champion.”

The next step for Zepeda is proving he can continue to succeed against next-level opposition.

Hughes (26-6-2, 5 KOs) doesn’t fall into that category but he made a strong statement in his most recent fight, a disputed majority decision loss to former champion George Kambosos Jr. last July.

If Zepeda has his hand raised, next up could be one of the big boys: the Gervonta Davis-Frank Martin winner, the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Kambosos winner or Shakur Stevenson, among a few other 135-pounders who are deemed elite.

Only then will we know whether Zepeda can join the exclusive club of Mexican superstars. He and his handlers believe he’s prepared to take the next step.

“We want to fight all the champions who are out there,” said Jay Najar, Zepeda’s trainer. “We’re ready for each and every one of them.”

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