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El Paso boxer hopes to impress and stay undefeated in national TV debut

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Matthew Aguilar, Special to the Times
Published 10:00 a.m. MT Nov. 16, 2019

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EL Paso boxer Zach Prieto has a big fight on Nov. 15 on Showtime
Felix F. Chavez, El Paso Times

If the saying is true that idle hands are the devil’s plaything, then Zach Prieto could soon be applying for sainthood.

The undefeated middleweight from El Paso-by-way-of-Las Cruces has kept himself busy during his 27 years. He’s been a cook, a waiter, a landscaper, a roofer and a mover. He plays the guitar and the drums. He’s into gardening and Greek mythology. On the athletic field, he has played football, ran track, swam and played soccer. 

And through all of his experiences, he’s discovered one undeniable truth: nothing tells you where you stand like boxing. And his progress in the sweet science will be undoubtedly monitored when he takes on fellow undefeated Amilcar Vidal of Uruguay at the WinnaVegas Casino and Resort in Sloan, Iowa in the opening bout of the ShoBox series (8:30 p.m., Friday, Showtime). 

Prieto, 9-0, (7 knockouts) — a 2010 graduate of Burges High School — is young but speaks like someone older. He’s reflective, philosophical, astute and keenly aware of what’s going on around him. He knows there are those who expect him to lose to the power-punching Vidal, who is also 9-0 (8 KO’s). But his reaction is more analytical than angry. He knows that if he can win this one, his decision to turn pro in 2017 will have been validated. 

When he was finding his way through the numerous jobs, washing dishes at “Ojos Locos” in El Paso or waiting tables at “The Game” in Las Cruces, he often thought “what am I going to do?” He thought about trade school. He thought about college, which he attended for a year. Eventually, he decided on boxing. After all, he’d been perfecting it his whole life, as he started swapping leather at age 10. 

“My father, Raul, boxed when he was younger, and I was always around him,” Prieto said “He was a police officer for over 25 years. He retired not too long ago, and he’s working as a bailiff now. He has a gym in his backyard, called ‘Chuco Boxing.’ He’ll help anybody that goes and asks to learn. He’s got a good facility there.”

As a kid, Prieto remembers his dad coming home from work, shedding the police uniform and heading to the boxing gym, or getting together with friends whenever a big fight came on TV. Boxing was always in the blood.

“I figured that’s what people did: fight,” he said. “As a kid, me and my cousins were always fighting and wrestling.”

He remembers his first boxing match, the day before his first day in eighth grade. He remembers being nervous.

“Boxing is one of those things that hits you with nerves,” he said. “You don’t know what will happen. As soon as the fight starts, though, things become clear as day. And that’s when the fun part starts, the immediate challenge: the puzzles, figuring things out. Unlike other sports I played, boxing isn’t so much as one-on-one as one with yourself. You think: ‘Did I push myself hard enough? How much have I done in preparation?”

He also says, in boxing, you’re the boss.

“In work spaces, it’s up to managers to determine if you get a raise,” he said. “In boxing, you work for yourself. It’s you who determines if you get a promotion.”

As an amateur, Prieto was good enough to hold former junior welterweight champ Regis Prograis to two close decisions — both tough losses.

“We went to battle; I thought I could’ve won both,” he said. “I’m glad to see he’s doing well. He was willing to get in there and mix it up. We had a lot of fun.”

Professionally, Prieto has also trained with former junior middleweight champ Austin Trout and middleweight contender Abie Han. He is trained by renowned Las Cruces trainer Louie Burke.

“Zach is a fan-friendly type of fighter, but his defense has come around really nicely in the past year,” Burke told the El Paso Times in September. “Zach is really determined and an aggressive fighter. He’s been able to get a lot of good work in this area with so many talented fighters and the gym work is paying off.”

All of his training and preparation will come down to his big opportunity against Vidal, who he describes as a tough guy who punches hard and uses his reach. 

“I’m excited,” he said. “I want to get in there put my hands up and see what I have to offer. I’m anxious to see what comes, how fate plays its cards.”

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