Lightweight contender Zachary Ochoa is ready, willing and able to step into the ring with any of the big names this year but will he get that shot?
As much as boxing is entertaining for those who consume it for that purpose, the fighters knowingly put themselves at risk, like football, to produce income for themselves and provide for their families. Fans often have this image in their mind more than ever that fighters are automatically made into millionaires or close to it when they sign with a promoter and/or network. That isn’t necessarily the case, and even worse, for those that choose not to have a promoter for one reason or the other, it’s even harder to get a fight.
Insert lightweight contender Zachary ‘Zungry’ Ochoa (21-3) from Brooklyn, NY, who is one of those guys that has tried to make it on his own until the right situation is presented, but that journey has been tough. He was out of the ring from October 2018 until March 2020, when he scored a unanimous decision victory over Angel Rodriguez (12-11-3) but a year later (2021) dropped a split decision to Juan Jose Velasco (24-3). Although it had been a roller coaster of a ride in the years past, the positive in all of it was the relationship built with his trainer Stephen ‘Breadman’ Edwards. One of the essential things in a fighter/trainer relationship is trust, and it looks as though they have precisely that between them.
Ochoa stayed in the gym with Edwards as they awaited a call for a fight, and when it did come, it was against super lightweight contender Brandun Lee (27-0) in April. Although the fight was a weight class north, he still took the fight as it was an opportunity to showcase his skills on an event headlined by Errol Spence Jr. Although Ochoa lost to Lee by unanimous decision, he gave the super lightweight all that he could handle. For those that may question that, Lee has struggled to look as dynamic since that fight as opponents picked up on things that Ochoa was doing right that night as a way to get the best of Lee.
Since then, it’s been crickets as the phone hasn’t rung, and he’s done everything to show that he is ready for the next challenge. He’s shown up to all of the significant events in NY and called out some of his fellow New Yorkers in and around his weight class. No one has seemed to answer the call, and his performance against Lee may have driven away potential opponents as he would be more of a challenge than a tune-up.
Ochoa’s advisor Brian Jaffe, recently went on Instagram to express his thoughts on the situation, especially since we are in an era where fighters with a little name to them are fighting once or twice a year. Jaffe said, “#OnTheRec we’ve been calling ‘em out. I better not hear a single person blame Team Zungry for being inactive when it’s our turn next. You guys talk, bitch n moan about “once a year fighter,” but where’s the campaigning for the guys who DO want to fight multiple times a year and aren’t getting those calls? We’re not done till we say so. #StayZungry”. Wow, strong words but things that are so true within the current state of boxing.
After seeing that post from Ochoa’s advisor, I was curious to know where ‘Zungry’ himself stood with all of this. Ochoa told NYF, “When it comes to me and my boxing career, I’m just staying ready for whatever call I can get. I’m not signed to anyone officially. I’m basically a free agent, but obviously, my last couple of fights have been with Al Haymon (PBC). They (PBC) are great people, do a great job, and coordinate amazing events. I appreciate every opportunity that they have given me and that they do give me. I would have loved another fight before the end of 2022, but that didn’t happen. I’m staying ready and focused on what I gotta do. I’ll fight any of the top guys at 135 (Ochoa mentioned Michel Rivera, Chris Colbert, Frank Martin, Rolando Romero and even Adrien Broner to name a few), contenders, or any of the top ten or top 15. I’m ready for it.”
There are plenty of contenders at lightweight for Ochoa, and he isn’t afraid to face any one of them. Whether that fighter is with Matchroom, Premier Boxing Champions, Top Rank, or Golden Boy Promotions, Ochoa is ready for “all the smoke,” as people say. The only question now is whether someone wants to get him in the ring with one of their contenders to see who is ready to move up within the ranks.
Oftentimes, it’s easy to write about a fighter already in the spotlight. I would argue that those grinding to reach new heights are the ones that should receive an equal amount of attention and, in this case, a solid lightweight contender who is running towards the fire and not away from it. Zachary Ochoa is ready and able to fight anyone, so who will step up to the plate and accept the challenge? In the social media age we are in now, I’m sure many will receive the message. Only time will tell whether they will delete, reply or forward that message.