PATERSON, NJ- Ezekiel Suarez has boxing in his blood. A third-generation fighter, the 60-pound 7th grader at Don Bosco Tech has worked his way to a 10-2 record, and is hoping to get ranked in USA Boxing fighting in the intermediate division at a national tournament in Salt Lake City this week. If his genes are any indication, expect him to make a name for himself.
Oscar Suarez, Jr., Ezekiel’s father, a Paterson mechanic, was an amateur boxer for much of his life. His grandfather, Oscar Suarez, Sr., is considered by many to be boxing royalty. After an impressive amateur career, he became a legendary boxing coach, training a long list of successful fighters including two former world champions in Acelino “Popo” Freitas and “Prince” Naseem Hamed.
Famous not only for his talent, but also his compassion, Oscar Sr. was known to stop fights early if he felt his fighters were in danger, earning him the ire of many a bloodthirsty fan. Tragically, he passed away in 2008 at the age of 47. Posthumously inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010, Oscar Suarez, Sr. lives on through a family through a family that honors him every day.
Though he’s only been fighting professionally for about a year, Ezekiel has been training with his father since he was 5-years old. “I was skeptical because boxing is a rough sport for these kids,” says Oscar, who has seen all his life how brutal the sport can be. “I said let’s try baseball first, but he said ‘No, I’m gonna box.’” Reluctantly, Oscar once again found himself following in his father’s footsteps, coaching his own son to become a boxer.
These days, he and his son train every day either at the gym or in their Paterson home. “I have to work every day. The grind don’t stop,” laughs Ezekiel.
The hard work goes well beyond fighting. “He has a regimen, and school is the priority,” says his father. Ezekiel does his homework following his three-and-a-half hour training session every day after school. While many kids might struggle with this kind of grueling work schedule, Ezekiel has kept himself on the honor roll even after he began boxing competitively.
“I love to work hard,” he says. The trick, Ezekiel believes, is to just keep going. “If I get tired I push harder.”
His dedication manifests in the ring, where Ezekiel has proven himself to be a fast, technical fighter. “He’s a pressure boxer, and he has a lot of technique,” says Oscar. This skilled approach has earned him the nickname “Easy,” a reference to the late rapper Eazy-E. It has also helped him avoid taking some of the harder punches thrown at him.
Many parents would be terrified to watch their child fight, but Oscar trusts the work he and Ezekiel have put in to keep him safe. “We practice his technique and skill daily. He has the fundamentals to box and slip a punch,” he says. “I’m actually excited to watch him go into the ring.”
That doesn’t mean Ezekiel doesn’t have work to do. “I have to work on moving my head a little more, keep working on my jab, and keeping my left hand up,” he says. He likens his habit of coming out jabbing to former world champion Miguel Cotto, though his all-time favorite boxer is the smooth out-boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard.
Matches are only going to get harder as Ezekiel progresses. Moving up in competition means he may now have to fight 13 and 14 year-olds. “They’re gonna be more developed than me,” says Ezekiel.
To prepare, Oscar has been having him spar against larger and stronger partners to “get him a little more acquainted, so he can dominate a little more.” They’ve also been working on increasing his conditioning to take on the older kids.
The challenge will only ramp up further if Ezekiel hopes to achieve his dream—to be ranked in USA Boxing, and ultimately to be a gold-medalist in the 2024 Olympics. Though lofty, these goals befit the legacy of a family that doesn’t go down without a fight.
“I’m very proud, his legacy is important—it’s in his blood. He comes from a lineage of fighters,” says Oscar Jr. “He has a special talent for it.” Asked if he thinks he’s living up to his family name, Ezekiel beams. “So far I think I’m doing great.”
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