Zachary Ochoa Still Zungry, Craving Action
Zachary Ochoa can’t give much in the way of details, except to say he’s in camp right now with Vasiliy Lomachenko, who has a fight May 20 against Devin Haney.
I’ve known Ochoa, a 30 year old Brooklyn, NY native, for a good little bit. He fought on the April 27, 2013 card at Barclays Center, topped by Danny Garcia v Zab Judah.
He was then a 3-0 prospect, wickedly pumped to be showing his stuff at the arena, along with then 3-0 Marcus Browne, an ascendent Eddie Gomez (13-0), a rebounding Luis Collazo (32-5), Danny Jacobs (24-1) on the come up, Peter Quillin (28-0) near peak powers.
Then 42-7 Zab Judah at 35 years old wanted to burnish his legacy, and he gave Garcia a stern test. The judges saw Garcia, age 25, the young gun, deserve the nod. Scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 114-112 for Garcia, a junior welterweight title-holder.
Role call: Garcia is still campaigning. He’s 35 and has admitted to depression woes, but says he still wants to excel, now at 154 pounds. Browne, age 32, last fought in December 2021. Jacobs is 36, and has fought four times in 4 1/2 years. Peter Quillin, now 39, hung up the mitts after a 2019 loss to Alfredo Angulo. Collazo, age 41, fought and lost Wednesday night. He announced his retirement in the ring.
Ochoa still has miles to go on the journey, there’s zero thinking about giving up fighting.
Really, it was business as usual for boxing, this April 27, 2013 card. It had wide eyed prospects, keyed up with boundless optimism. Heady triumphs, meatier purses, increased acclaim, those things were to come, in the minds of lots of young talent on that card.
And you had your established names coming to their physical peak, getting solid pushes by promoters and programmers.
But of course, you had your “B sides,” fighters a bit past prime, or not blessed with a top grade skill set. Some of them buoyant with ideas of underdog triumphs, others hiding a recognition that their of-late career downtrend might well continue on a negative track.
Zachary Ochoa doesn’t have time for much reminiscing about that time frame, when him and me chatted about the future early this week. But, I still remember that I was impressed, with his intensity, how it mixed with a certain humility. Ochoa from 2013 possessed confidence, and he was properly cocky, really, being that he’d attained a certain level of acclaim as an amateur and young pro, signing on with Golden Boy Promotions.
I was curious where is head is at now, ten years later.
The Path To Now
Ochoa, or “Zungry,” had gone to 4-0 at Barclays with a UD4 over Calvin Smith. He fought three more times at Barclays, and kept chipping away. Four fights, four wins in 2015. 3-0 in 2016. And then a step up fight, which didn’t go his way.
On March 11, 2017 Ochoa went in with 12-0 Yves Ulysse at Turning Stone in Verona, NY, underneath a David Lemieux-Curtis Stevens topped event. In round seven, Ulysse turned it up and stopped Ochoa, with his corner suggesting he not get off the stool for round eight of a scheduled ten.
Ochoa kept at it, bounced back with two wins in 2017. He beat Oscar Barajas and Daulis Prescott in 2018. No fights in 2019, as he pondered his place in the game, wondered where he stood as a prospect. He got a W at Barclays Center on March 7, 2020, right before Covid made worldwide mayhem.
Opportunity knocked on Feb. 20, 2021, with a slot on an Adrien Broner card in CT, versus 22-2 Argentine Juan Jose Velasco. The judges weighed in, and Ochoa got the short end of a split decision after ten rounds. But him and new trainer Stephen Edwards were clicking, they had a strong dynamic, with Edwards being impressed with the work ethic of Zachary Ochoa.
The Brooklyn kid—OK, he wasn’t so much a “kid” by now—agitated for bouts. On April 16, 2022, Ochoa got the B side opportunity slot opposite Brandun Lee, a favored prospect at 24-0. The scrap ran in support of a Errol Spence-Yordenis Ugas main event in Texas. Ochoa gave a solid account of himself, but had now taken his third loss as a pro.
Ah, but he didn’t wallow into a pity party, and start planning an exit from the arena. Him and Edwards stayed tight, and stepfather Brian Jaffe, a Brooklyn guy married to Zach’s mum, kept on being his most ardent backer.
Inactivity Hurts Fighters
It’s not a secret to hardcore fight fans that boxers aren’t fighting as much as they used to. Superstars fight once, maybe twice a year. And while it may seem like there’s this excess bounty of product, that’s because streaming has made it so more fights are available to watch, overall.
But compared to back in the day, no, in most cities, there are fewer pro cards being made than there were 30, 20, even ten years ago.
Here in NYC, for example—there hasn’t been a show at Barclays Center since Oct 15, 2022. And the big room at Madison Square Garden is still searching for a draw, preferably local, to rely on. Teofimo Lopez hasn’t been able to parlay a 2020 win over Vasiliy Lomachenko to become that guys.
Present Day For Zachary Ochoa
Ochoa and me don’t talk heavily about all that when we catch up. He tells me a bit about the work he’s getting with Loma.
“I was seeing if I was going to camp with Gervonta Davis, then I got a call from Loma and his team,” Ochoa told me. “I was in his previous camp.”
OK, to help Loma get ready for Haney…does he try to look like Haney for the Ukraine pugilist-specialist? “I can’t say too much,” he apologizes. “No matter what I do, no business I do in a camp, would ever go to the public or media. Mike, I’m a contender in this sport, I look to give it my all, fighting, sparring, it’s an honor to be sparring one of the best fighters of my era!”
It follows that Ochoa is going to be fight ready, I’d think, after working with Loma in Cali. So, does Ochoa have a slot on that May 20 card? Or maybe a hold on another event which would allow him to make best use of his level of sharpness?
“I’m not really sure, I would love for that to happen, you know how it goes,” Zachary Ochoa answered. “I don’t have any fights coming up, so I’m taking advantage of his time, training hard, staying focused. A lot of guys go to camp to be a sparring partner, I come to work.”
OK, I continued. It’s hard to believe, but you are 30. Do you FEEL 30?
“I don’t,” the fighter, of Puerto Rican descent, stated.
“I had some transitions in my career, a new trainer. I’m constantly in gym, I never smoked, never drank, still. There are guys 28, or younger, already washed up, they don’t take care of their body. You saw Ugas become a champ in his 30s, he took care of his body. That’s the path I’m on.”
Inactivity has not done Ochoa favors. “I didn’t have the greatest team, I didn’t have the worst. Golden Boy moved me, moved me, then not, I wasn’t getting so many fights. I haven’t been active, not cause of me..is it because I have no manager, or I’m not signed to promotional company at this time? I’m not the only guy going through this. Me being inactive, it hurts a lot. If you don’t have a strong spirit, it can kill you. I’ve stayed head strong, I pray, I thank God I got a good support system. I wish I would be fighting more, that definitely helps. I stay ready and in shape. Whoever is in the ring with me next, it’s gonna be a good time! I want to show everyone what I’ve been working on, that I’m still focused, still hungry, still Zungry! I’m thankful for the opportunities. Hopefully I will be fighting soon, I want to prove to everybody I’m a hard worker, I’m a veteran in the sport, maybe don’t get as much respect as I should, maybe, but I do from fighters who know me. It’s been a pretty long road, and I got my tigers stripes, and I’m still here. Is the best yet to come? I’ve been feeling so great, this second half of my career has actually been great for me, it’s been great learning more about the sport. The intelligence I’ve gained is priceless, the sparring with Loma, Jermell Charlo, I’m learning with each experience. When I do get in the ring, it’s gonna be a real problem for someone!”
Who Would Ochoa Like To Battle?
OK, like who? What’s a makable match that could be presented to matchmakers?
“A NY thing would be against Chris Colbert, in NY, black v versus Puerto Rican would sell. Rolly Romero, a talkative guy, versus Zungry, coming to fight. When I fight people, people watch, “Is he still here?’’’ Isaac Cruz, I’m a fight that would push him. I’m not coming to lay down, can change the whole night, flip the script on everybody. Man, I’d love to be in the ring with anybody!
Yep, this 140-147 ‘tweener’ said he’d do a fight at 135. Ochoa was the backup fighter for the Gervonta Davis-Isaac Cruz match (12-5-2021), he weighed in and made lightweight.
“I want to fight the top guys, the contenders coming up. I want 10 and 12 rounds only, that’s why I’m here. If I can stay busy, till I get the big call, I’m just grinding in the gym, it’s all I can do.”
Zachary Ochoa shares some on how he’s changed since we chatted ten years ago. “I’ve been the guy on IG before all the other guys, I was a popular kid on social media, I was “the good kid” smiling, now I’m just turned off by those things, everything I do is for a purpose,” he said. “Now, I put my name out there, head down, keep grinding. I know off the Lee fight, maybe they don’t want to put guys in with me. If Lee couldn’t hurt me..I’m a risky fight for a lot of guys.”
Sure, it gets frustrating. Hello, no fights, no income being conjured.
Zachary Ochoa says he’s OK in that department, he has been smart with money, so he’s not been forced to detour too much from the grind, in order to allot hours to making out-of-the-ring dough to make ends meet. “You can be in a good ass fight and then find yourself on the shelf,” he observed.
No pity partying, though.
Ochoa resets the vibe: “I’m not the guy coming there to lay down, I bite down, I’m coming to win, and I’m still a force to be reckoned with.”