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Jul. 4—HAVERHILL — Nicolas Tejada has never backed away from a fight.
When the promoters from New York called, though, the 22-year-old aspiring professional boxer balked, maybe for the first time in his life.
"Yeah, I said no at first," Tejada noted. "At first, I didn't realize what kind of opportunity it was."
Fortunately, the beast within took over the thought process. The innate instinct to fight won over common sense. and a pro career that was supposed to begin in August would be sped up by two months.
"I was here training (at the Haverhill Downtown Boxing Club) on that Tuesday, and I was there (at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY) in 24 hours," Tejada said.
"I had no idea the (boxing card) was on Showtime or at some huge place. I didn't realize how big of an opportunity it was. When I went there, so many people, it was just a great experience for me."
The fight, a scheduled four-rounder with winless (0-3) Michael Taylor, could not have gone better. Tejada scored a second-round TKO, the first time Taylor had been stopped.
But it was more than just a win — Tejada had those as an amateur. It was the moment.
"When I got in there, saw everything, the people, the TV, it was really eye-opening," said Tejada. "It made me realize if I work hard, just keep doing what I'm doing, I can get there again."
ALWAYS A FIGHTER
Now 22, Tejada has been involved in physically combative sports for half his life. and the brawling began even sooner than that.
"I had three older brothers growing up, we always used to fight," said Tejada. "I literally put on the gloves when I was like 9 or 10. I always knew I'd be doing this ... Always."
It took a while for Tejada to find the desired avenue to unleash his aggression.
The 2018 Haverhill High grad wrestled for the Hillies, placing at states. He spent the offseason at the famed Smitty's Barn, too. But when that ended, he sought a more intense vein.
"I went out to Colorado and trained with some UFC guys for about a year and a half," Tejada said. "My knees aren't good, and I didn't like getting kicked in the legs."
Tejada returned to Haverhill and re-connected with Ray Hebert, here at the Downtown Club. Hebert has been working with city kids in the fight game for decades.
"Ray is the best coach I could ever have asked for. He knows what he's talking about," Tejada said. "He's been training me as long as I've been coming here. He's the man. If you actually listen to him and execute it in the ring, it works every time."
Tejada took to the ring almost immediately. He went 8-1 as an amateur, winning the Lowell Golden Gloves and placing second at New Englands. That's when Covid-19 hit. and the fight game ground to a halt.
"When the Gloves ended, amateurs stopped being fun. I needed more," he said.
Covid crushed boxing, like most every other business. Tejada trained hard at the club. Finding pro fights became somewhere between difficult and impossible.
FINALLY, A BREAK
Peter Czymbor's Boston Pro Boxing was rolling as a promotion — pre-Covid. The shows locally in Windham had been sellout club cards, huge fan events.
Several fighters from the region have gotten their ring starts, thanks to the company.
Tejada's pro debut fight was supposed to be for Boston Pro on a card in Brockton on August 13.
That's when lightning struck, in a good way.
"They called me on three days' notice, and I just went, so I'm ready for whatever the hell is thrown at me," said Tejada. "I wasn't 100 percent ready as far as my training, but that taught me to stay ready at all times. Stay humble, stay ready. Stuff comes quick."
Excusing the opposition for a moment, Tejada's debut caught some attention. First off, he's got some talent. He's also got a little in-ring charisma.
Probably most importantly, he listens.
Well-known promoter Lou DiBella pulled him aside while he was out at Turning Stone.
"He told me something very important. He said that if you're going to make it in this sport, you have to take risks. When they call you, you have to answer," Tejada said.
"I didn't even have time to get trunks or anything like that. But I'm glad I went. It worked out, obviously. Hopefully, they call again."
Tejada didn't divulge how much he made in his pro debut. Four-round, non-TV prelims don't make you rich.
Although he did note, "That's the most I've ever made doing anything. I've never gotten a check that big. I didn't care. If it was $5 I was fighting that night. It was all about opportunity, not money."
Like all young pro fighters, Tejada owns dreams of titles and ring grandeur.
The key he says is to keep it real.
"Being a champion has always been the goal. I think I do have what it takes, but there are a lot of things I have to do for that to happen. It's up to me," said Tejada, who works as a trainer at Title Boxing, a fitness gym in North Andover, when he's not honing his own skills in the ring.
"I've always had very big goals in this. You have to make them small goals, keep hitting them, keep hitting them, keep hitting them."
Which means his eyes are squarely set for August 13, or whatever challenge is put on him in the meantime.
"I can see myself going far with it if I keep working at it, but I don't know," he said. "A lot of stuff can go wrong in between. I'm just staying focused on this fight in August and not really think about what the future holds for me."