Super bantamweight prospect Elijah Pierce (16-2, 13 KOs) is on a seven-fight win streak, he's barreling through opponents like a freight train
In an exclusive interview with NYFights, the Oklahoma native gives us a detailed account of his boxing career.
“We are trying to go full speed ahead. I'm not running from anybody. I'm fighting whoever is willing to step up and take me on. I even called out a couple of undefeated fighters this past week, and they wanted no smoke with me. So, at the end of the day, man, I can only stay ready and wait for my opportunity. And I'm damn sure going to seize it when that time comes,” Pierce said.
Elijah has been boxing since he was six years old. He was introduced to the sport by his father and coach, Andy Pierce. Around the same time, Elijah's parents divorced, and the young boxer moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Following the move, Elijah would come back to Oklahoma every summer. During those summer months, the elder Pierce would use boxing to form a bond between himself and his son. However, Elijah quickly demonstrated natural boxing skills, and the bonding activity morphed into a proper training regimen.
Andy would fine-tune Elijah's skills for the next two years. “When I turned 8, I had my first amateur fight, which I lost, but at the same time, it lit a fire under me. So, I wanted to continue to compete and kept going.”
Elijah would box over 50 times in the amateur ranks but describes himself as a late bloomer. Pierce lost in the first round during his first run at the National Golden Gloves. In the youth USA championships, Pierce would hit his stride in his third year. The lefty then started placing in national tournaments and represented Oklahoma in the 2016 Olympic trials. See video below of Elijah taking on Rolly Romero (click here for more on Rolly), in 2015:
For most amateur boxers, competing in any capacity for the Olympics is usually the pinnacle of their amateur career. Many turn professional shortly after that. However, Pierce would go on to fight in two more national tournaments before deciding to turn pro. Pierce was hitting his ceiling as an amateur when life happened. The then 20 years old pugilist was staring fatherhood in the face.
With a baby on the way, Pierce had to figure out how to provide for his future wife and child. “My ex was pregnant with my daughter during that time, and I made a decision,” he said. “I got scared, I got responsibilities now. I'm a family-oriented man. My family is the most important thing to me. So, I had to make sure that my end was covered. I wanted to provide for and take care of my child. So, I took my chances in the professional ranks.”
Elijah made his professional debut on July 23rd, 2016. He won his first eight fights by knockout, and the southpaw Okie seemed to be making a smooth transition into professional boxing. The Elijah victory train was rolling full steam ahead and trampling all the opposition until he faced 11-0 Giovanni Cabrera on June 9, 2018. Pierce would drop a unanimous decision to Cabrera, halting his eight-fight win streak. It would be ten months after the loss to Cabrera before Pierce stepped back into the ring.
Pierce wanted to make a statement in his comeback fight. Not wanting a soft opponent or a tune-up fight, Pierce took on another undefeated prospect, 12-0 (8 KOs) Irvin Gonzalez. Pierce made that statement when he obliterated Gonzalez in less than four rounds. The Oklahoman reminded doubters why he had won his first eight fights by knockout.
Following the dominant performance over Gonzalez, it seemed that the loss to Cabrera wasn't more than just a lousy night for Pierce, and the victory train would resume its course. Things were looking promising for Team Pierce. Elijah had signed a contract with DiBella Entertainment, and following his next fight, Pierce would make his television debut. However, the win over Gonzalez was short-lived when Elijah squared off against the Uganda native Sulaiman Segawa (12-2 entering) on Sept. 28, 2019. “I dropped a majority decision in my homecoming fight after I got signed,” he explained. “I was supposed to have a homecoming fight, and then I would fight on TV a month or two after that. It was supposed to be my coming out party, and I ended up fumbling my party.” And just like that, Pierce was back to square one. After losing to Segawa, Pierce left DiBella Entertainment and would be away from boxing for almost two years.
𝗠𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗰 𝗩𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗼 𝗢𝘂𝘁 𝗡𝗼𝘄!
𝗟𝗶𝗸𝗲 , 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 , 𝗦𝘂𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲!
— 𝕰𝖑𝖎𝖏𝖆𝖍 𝕻𝖎𝖊𝖗𝖈𝖊 (@wxxxlfie) September 6, 2019
As my editor Michael Woods, says, “boxing is the theater of the unexpected.” (ED NOTE: Jake, bless you, I must give attribution to the creator, Larry Merchant.) While that is true due to the myriad of unforeseen outcomes that regularly make our jaws drop, sometimes the game of life has a say in how things play out inside the ring.
“I don't want to make excuses; that's not who I am. I don't call them losses, those lessons they did a lot for me,” said Pierce when I asked him to describe what contributed to those losses. Elijah continued: “Those losses made me more disciplined. I became a stronger fighter with a better IQ. I am more aware of boxing and the seriousness that comes along with it. A lot of people need to understand the obstacles we fighters face day in and day out. It's categorized as the toughest sport in the world for a reason because there is so much that comes along with it. And when you're not mentally sound, you can't expect to be sound in the ring.
“People write us off, man, without really knowing or giving us the benefit of the doubt. As you said, many people look at my two losses and think I'm trash. I came from the same era as Shakur Stevenson. I was at the trials with Shakur. I was with guys like Ruben Villa, Abraham Nova, and all those guys who are mentioned on TV. Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington and I fought twice, I beat him, and he beat me. There are a lot of notable names that I fought and have been in the ring with and have been on the same level as them.”
Divorce, the birth of a child, poor management, injuries, and even war are life experiences that can affect a boxer's performance inside the ring. Unfortunately, even some of boxing's greatest fighters aren't immune to these challenges. Pierce wasn't any different. During those two losses, Pierce juggled a divorce, had lousy management, and even left his father for a while as he tried to figure out his life and career.
However, that part of his life is in his rearview mirror. After almost a two-year hiatus, Elijah Pierce returned to the ring on March 27th, 2021. In a tune-up fight, Pierce demolished his opponent within two rounds. Suddenly, the Pierce victory train is on the move again and barreling through opponents. Pierce has won all seven of his comeback fights by knockout.
His team outside the ring facilitates Elijah's newfound success inside the ring. He has a solid group of trainers, including his father, Alain Felipe, and Aaron Salamone. Additionally, Elijah signed with Jeter Promotions and is managed by a team comprised of Trivon Petrov and his stepfather Jessie Tanksley.
“Now, that is probably the most invigorating and rewarding feeling about all this,” said Pierce to NYFights regarding his win streak. “After that second loss, I was at Ground Zero again. I was completely down. I even considered quitting boxing. I didn't know what I was going to do. I just got divorced. I was going through it, man. I still had my daughter to take care of, and I didn't know what my future held. I had to muster enough strength and courage to pick myself back up, continue to manifest this dream, and continue striving and keep going.”
Having overcome the early obstacles in his career and life, this Elijah Pierce is confident and ready to take on anyone. He's even adopted a predatory approach to hunting down opponents and hopefully fighting for a world title one day. Elijah's moniker is “WXXXLF.” For him, it defines who he has been during his second coming. “Anything I've ever wanted, I've always been persistent,” he said. “I get what I want. I don't like to take no for an answer. The “XXX” represents my unpredictability. You never know what you're going to get when you step in the ring with Elijah Pierce. I can box, bang with you, and sharp shoot you. There are many facets of my game that people haven't necessarily seen yet, and I'm just waiting for the big opportunity to showcase myself.”
— 𝕰𝖑𝖎𝖏𝖆𝖍 𝕻𝖎𝖊𝖗𝖈𝖊 (@wxxxlfie) October 17, 2022
On November 19th, 2022, Elijah Peirce returned to Oklahoma to fight for his hometown fans. He picked up his 16thvictory and is scheduled to fight two bouts in the next three months. For Pierce, the next goal is a shot at a world title.
“Now I'm looking to go to the next level. We are looking to continue to expand. I have a strong team. I feel like there isn't anyone in the super bantamweight division that is going to be able to handle me. I'm too sharp skill-wise. I have the power, footwork, and technique. All combined to make a world champion, and that is what I'm looking to do in the immediate future,” said Pierce confidently.
Elijah is willing to take on any boxer in the super bantamweight division, he said, and he didn't mince any words regarding his place among the top fighters. “I just went through different trials, everybody doesn't have the same road to getting there. I'm not going to let no-fucking-body stop me from getting there. Especially nobody in that weight class. I believe I'm just too much of a threat in that weight class. I'm a multi-dimensional fighter, I'm not a one-trick pony. I'm a world-class fighter, and I deserve to be treated as such,” he asserted.
Pierce continued, “I'm ready for whoever, especially at 122 pounds. They can give me the top dog, they can give anyone in the top ten or top five, it doesn't matter to me. But, at the end of the day, they will all meet the same fate because this is destined. I've been through the trenches. I've been through the darkness, and I overcame it. I feel like that's one of the most powerful things about me; you know you're in the ring with somebody who's already been tested. Not only tested in the ring but tested by life. So, you must be able to go to a certain place. I don't think that a lot of fighters out there, especially the protected ones, will be able to go to the same place that I'm willing to go in a fight.”
The nucleus of the wolf is its family, and the pack is most successful when they are together. For the Pierce family, boxing is a family affair. Elijah's mother, father, and stepfather have been with him every step of this 20-year journey. I met the Pierces when Elijah was around eleven years old. Andy Pierce, an army veteran, was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was returning from a combat tour in Iraq and was made aware of a boxing “smoker” that Coach Pierce oversaw at the base.
I went to one of the workouts and asked Andy if I could be part of the coaching team. After determining that I knew how to coach, Andy gave me my first coaching job as his assistant. I saw first-hand how Andy trained Elijah. He was meticulous, focused on footwork and the fundamentals, and was tough.
With Elijah's natural talent and innate will to fight, I knew then that Elijah Pierce would be tough for anyone. Elijah is a multi-dimensional fighter who is eerily at peace when he is fighting. The wolf is a natural hunter who defends its territory from all intruders. The tribulations Pierce experienced early in his career forged a predator-like mentality. He views every boxer in the super bantamweight division as prey standing in his way of a world title. If a wolf's territory is in the wild, then Elijah's territory is the ring, and every opponent that steps in the ring with him is at risk of meeting a grim fate.