- If he manages to beat Daniel Jacobs on Long Island in November, Luis Arias can put himself in line for a title bout.
NEW YORK — Seven-year-old Luis Arias arrived at the United Community Center in Milwaukee seeking a sport to ignite his athletic ambition. Conventional starts like basketball and baseball—of which he had already played the latter—hit him in the face upon showing up.
Arias, now 27, wanted to be struck by something else. He desired to dive into a contact sport right away. Tough sledding for a guy who described his mother, Blanca, as “super strict” and protective when he was younger.
“That’s actually an understatement,” Arias said, laughing. As a kid, Arias had to beg for approval just to play outside with friends.
His mother accompanied him on his search nonetheless. Staffers at the community center quickly informed the two that Arias was too young to play football. The sting of rejection fleeted almost instantly; it didn’t take long for Arias to notice kids of various ages in the boxing gym upstairs.
“Mom, maybe we could try that,” Arias remembers saying as he pointed their way. Reluctantly, Blanca led him up. She had ties to boxing; Arias’s father boxed before he gave it up to look after Blanca during her pregnancy. Through her husband, she knew the head trainer at UCC, Israel Acosta, a former amateur boxer who has now coached hundreds of aspiring young fighters. Arias became one of them. Not immediately, but almost.
“How old is he?” Acosta asked.
“Seven,” Blanca replied.
“Bring him in on Monday and see if he has it,” Acosta said.
Twenty years later, Arias still has it.
He’s 18-0 with nine knockouts in his professional career. A slew of amateur accolades preceded Arias’s current standing, including a pair of United States Amateur Championships in the middleweight division in 2008 and 2010. On Nov. 11, Arias puts his perfect pro record on the line against Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KO’s) at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
Jacobs, 30, is coming off a 12-round loss to middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KO’s) last March. Jacobs hopes for another shot at a title belt against either Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KO’s) after those two clash in a rematch of their Sept. 16 draw.
Arias intends to spoil that plan.
“I know I’m going to come in and beat Daniel Jacobs,” Arias said. “My plan is to knock him out. But if he runs and decides to survive, then I’ll be chasing him for 12 rounds. But I’m coming in 100% confident to knock him out.”
A triumph over Jacobs would make Arias, who remains unknown to an extent in the boxing community, the top challenger in the middleweight division. And that’s right where he wants to be.
“Even though winning this fight is going to put me amongst the best, it’s not going to make me a world champion,” Arias said. “So after this, I start calling out bigger names. I want the big fights. I want to prove to the world that I am the best. Daniel Jacobs is the first test.”
Arias fought his first 10 bouts under Mayweather Promotions. He even sparred Floyd before Mayweather took on Miguel Cotto on May 5, 2012. Arias stuck around with The Money Team until 2014 when Mayweather suddenly dropped him from the squad.
Lost and searching for security, Arias called up former middleweight boxing champion John David Jackson, who compiled 36-4 professional record during his fighting days.
“I told him, ‘Hey, I’m undefeated right now. I don’t have a promoter. I don’t have a manager. But I’m going to get there. Could you train me?’
“John, in his nicest way, was like, ‘I gotta see how you work first. You can’t just train with a top-notch trainer and not know how to fight.”’
When Jackson, 54, saw Arias for the first time, it didn’t take long to notice his talent—a similar situation to when Acosta watched Arias some 20 years ago at the community center in Milwaukee. Jackson has spent the last three years training Arias to claim his first title belt.
“He has all the tools and all the capabilities of becoming a world champion,” Jackson said. “He’s a good boxer. Great puncher. He can box and punch with plenty of combinations. If he can’t out box you, he can out punch you. And if he can’t out punch you, he can out box you. That’s what makes him a really unique fighter. He’s not one-dimensional.”
Jackson secured his first middleweight world title in his 18th fight against Lupe Aquino in 1988. If Arias knocks out Jacobs, as he and Jackson predict, then he’ll have a chance to obtain his initial championship in his 20th fixture.
Arias believes he’s two years behind schedule; he wanted a title belt at age 25, which happens to be the same age Jackson acquired his. Even though Jackson beat him to the punch, he can relate to some of the obstacles that have delayed Arias’s career.
“I was going through problems with my manager and my promoter,” Jackson said. “It kind of put me on the shelf. I understand what he went through during that time period when he was inactive. He saw all these amateurs that he knew climbing that ladder when he was stuck in the same spot. Knowing his story and being with him, it would do me a world of good for him to finally get that championship, because he deserves it. I tell him, ‘I want you to feel what I felt when I won my first world title.’ It’s a tremendous feeling. Something you work for your whole life. Once you get it, you can’t stop.”
Though a title won’t come on Nov. 11 if Arias triumphs over Jacobs, he’ll be one step closer. And that’s all he’s working for.
“At the end of the day, I just want to fight the best and be able to say I beat the best,” Arias said. “Or at the least, I went to war with the best. I belong among them. My goal is to be a Hall of Famer, and I will be.”